Spring Campus Return
This winter has been difficult, but spring is almost here.
Dear Parents and Guardians,
The calendar has already turned to February, and we have just under four weeks left in the winter term. Campus has been eerily quiet, and while we miss your kids tremendously, we count ourselves lucky that our program is free of the Covid-induced disruptions that some of our peer schools have faced. Our rash of Covid cases has subsided, and the data that we hoped would change has begun to do just that. And so we can now turn our thoughts to the spring.
The Good News
It is our plan to repopulate campus over three days, beginning on March 19. All students will participate in remote classes on March 22 and March 23. We expect in-person classes to begin on March 24. We made this decision following conversations with Dr. Nancy Austin, our medical director, Sarah Ligmann, the director of our health center, and Sue Starkey, the director of the Connecticut Northeast District Department of Health (NDDH). While there remains some concern about new viral strains that are manifesting across the country and the globe, the best evidence suggests that it will be safe to repopulate campus and resume in-person classes.
Dr. Austin’s medical opinion has evolved and she supports a spring return for several specific reasons. First, careful analysis of the data and trends tells us that the numbers are headed in the right direction. Daily new cases, the infection rate, and the positive test rate in Windham County have all declined after a mid- to late-January surge. Second, a major concern we had in December — that our nursing staff could get sick and would be unable to support our community — has been significantly mitigated, as all of our nurses have received the Covid-19 vaccine. Third, as you will see below, we have been able to improve our testing capacity, which will allow for more frequent testing and enhanced community surveillance. Finally, we anticipate that the change in seasons and warmer weather will offer considerably more opportunities to access outdoor spaces and escape the confines of the indoor world.
We continue to expect that the situation will improve over time, though Dr. Austin and the School's administration will continue to look at trends and data to ensure that a safe return to campus remains possible.
This spring, we will host three arrival days — March 19, 20, and 21. Unlike the fall, we do not plan to offer any additional specific re-entry points for the spring term. If there are exceptional mitigating circumstances that will preclude you from making one of the March entry points mentioned above, but you would still like to return to campus this spring, please contact Don Gibbs, assistant head of school, to discuss your particular situation. Seniors who choose to remain at a distance for the spring term will still be allowed to join their classmates for commencement on campus, should they wish to do so.
As a reminder, our current Covid travel policy prohibits students from taking campus leaves right now; once on campus, boarding students must remain on campus throughout the spring term. Day students must similarly restrict their travels and may not participate in sports or activity programs outside of school. Exceptions will be made for unforeseen situations, such as a death in the family, but the School is unable to accommodate travel home and offer a pathway for re-entry.
On March 1, we will provide detailed instructions on how boarding families can make an appointment for move-in. These appointments will be made on a first-come, first-served basis. As in the fall, we will use our Pick-A-Time system and restrict the number of people returning to campus during any two-hour time period.
For the vast majority of our boarders, we expect spring arrival to be a straightforward process. However, for international students trying to navigate a complicated travel landscape, we realize getting here could pose a significant challenge. If you have any questions or concerns about returning to campus this spring, please contact Don Gibbs to discuss your options.
Similar to our summer testing and re-entry protocol, students must complete a pre-arrival Covid test taken three to seven days prior to arriving on campus. Either a Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) or an antigen test is acceptable. You must present proof of a negative test before your student arrives on campus. To submit your child’s negative test result, please email email@example.com.
Upon arrival, students will receive a rapid antigen test (a 15-minute screening process) and a PCR test, which takes between 36 and 48 hours to come back. Students receiving a negative, on-campus antigen test result will be allowed to enter the dorms. While students await the on-campus PCR test results, they will be quarantined in their dorm rooms, with limited access to campus. On-campus testing for day students will take place on Sunday, March 21, between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
With the onboarding complete, we will conduct regular PCR surveillance testing for a subset of our campus population on a weekly basis throughout the spring term. Additionally, it is our intention to use weekly antigen testing to support our athletic program with the hope of permitting varsity-level interscholastic competition this spring, conditions permitting.
Before your child can return to campus in the spring, there are several additional steps you will need to take:
Quiet Period: In the lead-up to your arrival date, we will once again ask you to observe a ten-day quiet period, during which time we urge you and your family to greatly limit travel and face-to-face contact with people outside the household.
Flu Vaccine: The flu vaccine is a requirement for all students, as well as a condition of employment for all Pomfret employees. If you are one of the handful of families that has not already submitted proof of vaccine, a representative from our health center will be reaching out to you shortly.
Emergency Contact: All boarding students are required to designate an emergency contact who lives within a three-hour drive of campus.
To help us plan for your child’s safe return, please log in to your Sundial account and click on the banner at the top of your screen to complete the Spring 2021 – Return to Campus Questionnaire. This form, required for all students, is due no later than Friday, February 12. Please note that only a parent/guardian can complete this form.
This winter has been difficult, but spring is almost here. Happily, we can now focus on a return to in-person learning, resumption of some of our wonderful traditions, and the simple joys of being better together.
Tim Richards P ’15
Head of School