LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR OF SCHOOL
Greetings from North Country School. Since the last time classes met on campus, the North Country has been hibernating. A beautiful yet long Adirondack spring slowly stepped aside for what has been a restorative summer, one that has us looking forward to a day when our students return to campus. In the North Country, hibernating was a natural response to the turmoil swirling beyond the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, and doing so has made this area one of the safest places in the country. I write today to share the good news that we will welcome back all students in the fall for a full year of programming. We will distance together at North Country School.
We intend to provide all of our students with a socially responsible, yet essentially social, learning experience. This past spring has reminded us that schooling is a fundamentally social experience, and we feel that healthy, guided socialization between adults and peers is critical to the development of adolescents capable of withstanding the types of academic, emotional, and existential challenges our students faced this year.
The North Country itself is a safe place to be during the COVID crisis. This is due, in part, to our geographic location, but more importantly, to the diligence and compliance of local communities. Regional safety allows us to feel comfortable welcoming students back but also obliges us to take precautions in resuming everyday life at school. Therefore, we will institute new measures to reconfigure our most basic operations in residential, community, and academic life in order to proceed with the tradition-laden, place-based, and hands-on programming that we need now more than ever.
This page outlines how we plan to provide the North Country School experience for the 2020-2021 academic year. The plan outlined in the following pages represents the consensus of a volunteer faculty committee, to whom I am indebted for helping me onboard during a most uncertain time. What follows is an at-a-glance look at our basic strategy, a revised 2020-2021 academic calendar, and essential questions to help you navigate your return to campus. As we have all come to realize during these past few months, situations change rapidly, so we are ready to pivot to another model should the need arise.
The essence of our plan is to operate as we always have: as a family. We will divide houses into family units where students can live and relax unmasked with their peers while simultaneously taking precautions with distancing, masking, and handwashing in communal indoor spaces outside the "home." This is what we mean by “distance together": we will be together, yet distanced for safety.
When moments of joy can be found amidst national and global turmoil, my family and I are finding them at North Country School. We are fortunate to join such an extraordinary community. I look forward to introducing myself to all of you when we return to campus this fall.
Matthew P. Smith, Director of School
WHAT NCS IS ASKING STUDENTS TO DO
what ncs is doing for students
2020-2021 revised calendar
HOW WILL DAY STUDENTS INTEGRATE INTO THE COMMUNITY THIS YEAR?
This Return to Campus plan applies in equal measure to day students. We recognize that day students are an important part of the NCS community, so we built this plan to include day students whenever possible. We intend to offer full academic and co-curricular programming to day students, and we have rearranged the academic day to accommodate day students in classes, outtime, and barn chores. At this time, the only change to the day student routine is that we cannot offer breakfast in the dining room, and we will attempt to include day students in weekend programming whenever possible. Day students will be expected to complete an at-home health scan each morning and can expect a highly scripted experience each morning upon arrival to campus. Day students will arrive in a designated location and at a designated time for a daily temperature scan; any students with a fever above 100.4 will be asked to return home for observation. We will be providing thorough details closer to the start of the school year that will further clarify what the day student experience will be like this year.
WHAT IS WINTER SESSION? HOW DOES IT WORK?
Winter Session is a planned pivot to online instruction from November 30th through December 16th. To limit travel after Thanksgiving break begins, all students will learn remotely. If international students cannot travel home during this time period, they have the option to remain on campus through December 16th. Conditions permitting, we will offer in-person visual and performing arts programming in the afternoons for on campus and day students.
WHAT IS THE PROTOCOL IF A COMMUNITY MEMBER ON CAMPUS Experiences Symptoms or TESTS POSITIVE?
The organization of the houses, the class schedule, the dining schedule, and the co-curricular programming has been structured in a way so that students will be interacting with a smaller, consistent group of community members throughout the day. In a given day, community members will be closely interacting with no more than 20-25 people. This will allow us to easily contact trace exposure. If a community member experiences symptoms or tests positive, that community member will head to a space designated for suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases for observation and treatment. Anyone within the same family unit as that suspected or confirmed case would stay home and continue to take classes remotely until receiving a negative COVID-19 test and undergoing a period of observation. Once each member of the family unit is cleared, that group can return to the in-person curriculum. The school is partnering with Adirondack Medical Center to ensure our community members have immediate access to health care and to ensure that our safety planning is effective and evolving.
Do students need to self-isolate before arriving at North Country School in the fall?
Yes; we ask all students to limit their contact to close family members for two weeks prior to their return to campus. This means practicing hand hygiene, wearing a mask in public, and socially distancing outside the home. In accordance with CDC guidance, international students must self-isolate for 14 days in the United States upon arrival. To streamline entry, we invite our international students to North Country School’s campus for these initial 14 days.
Will students, faculty, and staff be tested for COVID-19 before school begins?
Yes; we will enact broad testing. We ask students to get tested 4–7 days prior to arrival and to self-isolate after testing. If a community member tests positive, we would ask that that community member stay home for 14 days of self-isolation, a negative test result, and a medical clearance through Adirondack Medical Center. If a community member tests positive for COVID-19 while on campus , that community member will be placed in a designated house for COVID-19 observation. The NCS staff and faculty will be tested prior to the start of school. We will enact periodic testing throughout the fall.
How will drop off and re-entry work?
We will stagger arrivals onto campus. We will communicate an individualized return to campus plan for each student. All parties involved in moving will be asked to distance, wear masks, and sanitize hands often. The below was updated on July 23rd to reflect the most up-to-date planning.
- International students, Domestic students who are traveling by airplane, and domestic students on New York State's travel advisory list are encouraged to be on campus by September 2nd for testing and observation.
- All students within a day’s drive to campus, day students included, should plan on being at North Country School on September 8th for testing, move-in, and orientation. It is our hope that all students practice safe hand hygiene, social distancing, and mask wearing at least two weeks prior to their respective arrival date.
How will students learn about what's expected of them on campus this fall?
We will front-load as much information as possible to students about the different ways in which health and safety protocols will be implemented this year. Educational information will be reinforced during the return to campus observation period that will be staggered for different groups of students. We expect that education will continue in houses, grade level meetings, and wider community announcements over the course of the fall.
How will students be expected to modify their behavior on campus to minimize risk of infection to themselves and others?
Students will be expected to follow three basic principles at school: physical distancing, mask wearing, and handwashing. Nearly all aspects of our program have been modified in some way to enhance the health and safety of our students. In short, students can expect changes to the dining system, the use of indoor spaces, the daily schedule, and the ways in which community members interact with each other. More information will be forthcoming about these changes as the summer progresses.
Will students be able to clean their masks on campus? How will masks be laundered?
Yes; students should come to campus with 10–14 clearly labeled cloth masks. They will wear a new cloth mask each day, and the school’s laundry service will ensure they are properly cleaned each week.
Will house rooms have single or double occupancy?
Based on our desire to create a feeling of community within the houses, we do not plan on making adjustments to our housing model. We will continue to place students in doubles in accordance with CDC guidelines. That being said, we plan on spreading our boarding students out so that each of the houses is below capacity.
How will students move about campus?
We have structured our community into family units. Each house will operate as a family unit. Inside the house, students can socialize and move about unmasked. When they leave the house, students will wear a mask, physically distance, and observe hand hygiene practices. Students will only be allowed in their own houses. Houseparents will wear masks when they are in common house spaces. Organizing the community in this way will allow the school to easily contact trace should the need arise.
Will spaces be ventilated to mitigate the spread of COVID-19?
Yes; we are installing MERV-13 air filtration systems in the buildings with air handling systems and creating negative air pressure in spaces where the children spend most of their academic and meal time. Each classroom and dining space will have a HEPA air filtration system with a MERV rating of 13 or higher that maintains humidity levels between 40-60%. This will ensure that our community members will be living and learning in healthy buildings.
How will students dine on campus?
Our updated school day schedule will reduce the number of students in the dining room at one time by offering three different lunches throughout the day. This will allow us to have two community members eating at a table with a plexiglass divider, significantly de-densifying the dining room during lunch. A single server will plate meals for students, and everyone in the dining room will have the space needed to maintain six feet of distancing during food service, seating, and clearing.
How will classrooms be organized?
Classrooms will be organized using CDC social distancing guidelines. Small class sizes will continue to be a hallmark of our academic programming next year. All students seated at desks will be separated by a 7-foot diameter. We will be maximizing outdoor learning spaces this fall.
What cleaning protocols will be in place?
We will sanitize and clean our academic and residential spaces after each use throughout the course of the day. The new academic schedule will allow time between seatings, which we will use to sanitize the tables and plexiglass dividers in the dining room. A professional cleaning crew will come through campus twice a day to clean common areas.
What laundry services are available?
Students will have access to washers and dryers in the houses for their clothing. Students will have a designated day to do their laundry in the house. Weekly bedding and towel laundering will be provided by our housekeeping team. Student masks will also be laundered by the housekeeping staff. The new daily schedule will provide time during the mornings and afternoons when students can clean their spaces and do their laundry. Houseparents will schedule and oversee this process.
Can parents visit their child on campus or take them home for weekends?
We are asking all students to minimize visits this fall. Any parental visits to campus need to be coordinated with Bryan Johansmeyer, Dean of Students. Any travel off campus this fall will likely involve some form of observation and COVID-19 testing upon return to campus. This policy will be reassessed on a regular basis and will consider numerous variables. The fall calendar will not include a Family Weekend. Instead, we will be planning frequent ways for families to connect virtually with school events throughout the fall.
What if there are travel restrictions that prevent a student from getting to campus?
North Country School is carefully tracking policies that could impact our students. We are preparing to accommodate students who cannot return right at the beginning of the year with remote instruction until they can join us for in-person instruction. This year, we will have the agility to offer a hybrid academic model to our students that features on-line and in-person instruction.
What if New York State imposes another Stay At Home order?
We have the ability to quickly pivot our academic program to accommodate remote learning off-campus for students at home, a closed campus populated with students, or both at the same time. In the event of Stay at Home orders, we will be able to accommodate our day students, students who choose to learn at home, and students who remain on campus with restricted access to the public. Our goal is to provide safe, continuous academic programming for all students.
How will students travel from the airport to campus with physical distancing recommendations in place? Will airport shuttles be provided?
We plan to support our students with ground transportation needs, and we are in the process of developing individualized plans for travelers. We will have more information later this summer.
what IF i have still have questions?
We will host Zoom sessions for families on Tuesday, July 21. The international student session is at 7:00 AM EST. The domestic student session is at 7:00 PM EST. Please see the Zoom invitation link below. If you have a question between now and then, please reach out to Matthew Smith, Director of School (firstname.lastname@example.org).
informational q&a Zoom for families
International Families Zoom Meeting ID: 978 9871 1732; International Families Zoom Meeting Password: 1h63k39
Domestic Families Zoom Meeting ID: 957 5257 7965; Domestic Families Zoom Meeting Password: 9uu534