Dear Students and Families,
I hope you are all enjoying winter break—relaxing and taking care to stay healthy and safe. We are eager to welcome our community back to campus and reopen school in the safest manner possible.
Given the course of the pandemic and the highly transmissible Omicron variant, we have decided to modify our plans slightly by providing additional COVID testing and conducting all classes over Zoom during the first week (January 4 – 7). We considered a number of alternatives, including a delayed reopening and a staggered return for students. Our decision was guided by the prioritization of community health and safety, the latest data, CDC recommendations, and our interest in minimizing remote learning because we know that our students do best when in the classroom.
Please read this latest information and watch your email this weekend for further details and any updates:
Testing and Vaccines
As previously communicated, we ask that all students produce a negative COVID test before returning to campus (PCR within 72 hours or rapid antigen within 24 hours). In addition, we will be testing all students once they arrive on campus.
Boarding students: Students who test positive in the days before January 3 should stay home and contact their cluster dean and the Sykes Wellness Center. Those who test positive following a rapid antigen test administered upon arrival will not be permitted in their dorm; they must leave campus with or be picked up by a parent or guardian as soon as possible. For those who do not have a family member or designated adult with whom they can stay, we will also have a small number of on-campus accommodations.
PCR testing will take place on Jan. 3, 6 and 10 (January 6 and 10 - saliva samples due at 9 a.m. to dorm, GW, Paresky, or Sykes collection boxes). Students will also be given a second rapid antigen test on January 4.
Meals will be “grab and go” from Paresky Commons beginning with dinner on January 3 through January 10. We hope to resume in-person dining on January 11.
Day students: Testing will proceed as planned. Saliva samples are due by 9 a.m. to GW, Paresky, or Sykes collection boxes on January 4, 6 and 10. During this first week back, when classes and commitments for all students will be online, day students should stay home except to deliver saliva samples or receive a booster shot (see below). They will be able to join all in-person programming alongside their boarding peers on January 10.
ALL students: We will hold our second on-campus booster clinic January 5. All eligible students are welcome. An email reminder will come from the Sykes Wellness team this weekend.
Please remember: if you would like to remain on campus, you must submit saliva samples on time. This is an essential step for keeping our community safe. If you do not meet this expectation, you risk your place on campus.
All winter athletic programming will resume on January 10. Our first winter 2022 interscholastic competitions will be January 12. Consistent with Massachusetts and Connecticut high school interscholastic policies, we will require masking for athletes (competing and practicing), as well as game officials. This policy does not apply to wrestlers and swimmers when they are actively competing, but all other athletes, coaches and officials in those venues must wear a mask at all times.
Until further notice, there will be no spectators/fans at home athletic contests, and only personnel approved by the athletic department will be allowed in venues during competition. Families should check with visiting schools prior to arriving for away competitions, as many schools will enforce the same indoor spectator policy as ours.
Community Engagement will run as soon as it is safe to do so and in compliance with off-campus programs and our partners’ latest COVID protocols. Students involved in programming this term will receive more information on January 3 or 4.
Until further notice, we will also conduct All-School Meetings and other large gatherings via Zoom.
While it is frustrating and disheartening that the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, we must remind ourselves that we are in a much better position than we were last year at this time thanks to our community’s high rates of vaccination. I believe that we will create a healthy and safe campus by making these minor adjustments to our reentry plans.
We must also prepare for potential scenarios that could include a widespread COVID outbreak. This means planning for increased staffing and additional space to care for students, as well as possibly asking families who live within driving distance to take their child home. Starting January with enhanced testing and remote classes for all students will give us additional layers of protection that I hope will be beneficial to all.
Please continue to act with care for yourself and loved ones as you ring in the new year this weekend. I urge you to refrain from attending large parties and gatherings. Let’s all celebrate responsibly—do everything we can to minimize exposures—and give our community the best possible chance to reopen school safely. Our collective vigilance is more important than ever.
Raynard Kington, MD, PhD, P’24
Head of School