Since mid-March, our administration and opening-of-school task forces have been working on all aspects of our fall reopening, and we are pleased to share Williston’s Reopening Plan, which includes our comprehensive strategy for a healthy and safe fall trimester, as well as an updated list of Frequently Asked Questions. As we make further decisions and refine our plans, we will continue to provide you with updates as quickly as possible. In the meantime, please know that we are extremely eager to welcome our returning families back to Williston this fall, and to introduce all our new families to a uniquely caring, nurturing, and inspiring community in which students grow and thrive.
To help answer any additional questions, Williston hosted a Zoom Webinar on Wednesday, August 5, where we walked through all aspects of this plan. Click here to watch the webinar.
Our Guiding Principles
- Health and safety: Our top priority is to protect the health and wellness of our students, faculty, extended family members, staff, and Easthampton community.
- Education and community: Our second priority will be to continue to deliver a world-class education and community for our students.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Massachusetts continues to be one of the safest locations in the country. It has one of the lowest rates of the virus in the United States, and western Massachusetts has an even lower population density and virus rate than the rest of the state. Our 125-acre campus provides a natural setting for outdoor activities on our two quads, our fields, and our nearby running and biking trails. That said, we are very focused on making our school and health protocols as safe and clear as possible for the fall, and to be prepared for many different scenarios as the virus evolves. Our plan is geared to safeguarding the health of students and staff with overlapping layers of protection. These will relax as the public health landscape allows (and tighten should that prove necessary).
Steps for a Safe Return to School
One essential part of our plan is to begin the year by reassembling as carefully as possible. As of August 1, Massachusetts requirements allow a negative test result in lieu of the previous 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers residing outside of most New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont), New Jersey, or New York. However, to make sure we add as many layers of protection as possible, Williston is exceeding the state requirements. We are using a three-step process, in which we strongly recommend two weeks of Safer-at-Home practices and require two negative tests prior to beginning school in person.
- Two weeks of Safer-at-Home practices
- A negative test taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival on campus
- A negative test upon arriving on campus
Please read the drop-down menus below for information on all required steps for returning to campus.
Safer-at-Home Requirements Before Return to Campus
We strongly encourage all students and faculty to follow “Safer-at-Home” protocols per local, state, and CDC guidelines for two weeks before arriving on campus. This means quarantining and taking every precaution for reducing coronavirus exposure for two weeks prior to returning to campus, and then traveling to campus without using any public transportation. Read our “Safer-at-Home” Guidelines. Following these guidelines is the safest way to minimize your risks of being infected with COVID-19 and not being able to start the school year in person.
Our Testing Procedures and Timing
All students must be tested twice before starting the school year in person—one test taken up to 72 hours prior to campus arrival and one taken upon arrival to campus. Students who do not have two negative tests may not start the school year on campus and must start the school year remotely. Once they are able to produce two negative tests within a three-to-five day period, they may return to campus. Here is more detail on our testing.
- All students will be required to provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 PCR molecular test taken up to 72 hours of their arrival to campus. Families may elect to have testing with their own primary care physician (PCP) or use one of our on-campus test days, which we’re offering for your convenience or in the event that you are unable to secure a test from your PCP. (see our On Campus Testing Calendar).
- Students unable to get a test before arriving will be tested immediately when they arrive to campus and will quarantine until a second negative test is confirmed after three to five days.
- As students arrive on campus with staggered timing (see our On Campus Testing Calendar and Staggered Return to Campus Dates, below), they will be tested again. We will test all students regularly and as needed at any time during the school year. Click here for more on our testing expectations.
Option for On-Campus Quarantine August 12-17
International and domestic boarding students who have travel needs or cannot self-isolate within driving distance will have the option of arriving on campus between August 12 and August 17 to complete the two-week self-isolation. We offer this as a service to families who do not have options for other nearby “stay at home” locations for this two-week period. If you might need this option, please contact Jenna Motyka in the Deans Office as soon as possible. Please note for those students arriving on campus between August 12 and August 16: Williston encourages all students to have a negative COVID 19 PCR Molecular test result 72 hours before departure. Given subsequent air travel, however, we will also test on arrival to campus and students will be subject to self-quarantine and subsequent testing before receiving medical clearance from Health and Wellness.
Risk Assessment Form Upon Campus Arrival
As students arrive on campus for Test #2 (see above), they will be required to fill out a Risk Assessment Form about their activities during the previous 72-hour period. It is critically important to the safety of the school that we do not introduce COVID-19 to our campus prior to the start of school. We are relying on all students and parents to fully disclose any violations of these “Safer-at-Home” Guidelines within the last 72 hours. If students answer yes to any of the questions on the Risk Assessment Form, they will be tested, and then must quarantine in their dorm room, stay in a hotel room with their family, or stay at home with their family until the test results are back, typically 24 hours. If a student’s test result comes back positive, that student may not stay on campus and must begin the trimester remotely until they can meet the criteria for a safe return. We will also be asking all faculty and staff to fill out this form.
Closed Campus/Restrictions During First Three Weeks
In order to start the school year as safely as possible, Williston will have a closed campus for the first three weeks of the school year. During this time, all boarding students must remain on campus, and all day students must continue to practice strict Safer-at-Home guidelines. Once a student returns to in-person classes and being on campus, they must commit to engaging only in Williston-sponsored activities until that restriction is lifted by the school. That decision will be determined by the administration in coordination with state and local health department guidance after the first 3 weeks of classes. Any violation of this policy means we will expect that student to leave campus/take remote classes, and rejoin the campus only after they have been able to have a negative test, quarantine at home, then produce a second negative test 3 to 5 days later. The second test may be conducted at Williston.
Massachusetts Travel Form
As of August 1, Massachusetts requires travelers residing outside of most New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont), New Jersey, or New York to fill out a Massachusetts Travel Form prior to arrival. Fill out the Massachusetts travel form online here.
Staggered Return to Campus
Day students and boarders who live within driving distance to campus will return between August 28 and August 31 (see the schedule below). The first day of classes for the Middle and Upper School will be September 1. Please also consult our On Campus Testing Calendar as you make your plans.
Below are details about our staggered, safe arrival, and other fall dates.
(See the full year calendar here.)
- August 12-17: International and domestic boarding students with specific travel restrictions or an inability to quarantine within driving distance of school can return to campus to allow for a two-week period of quarantine.
- August 28-30: Staggered return of students to campus
- August 28: Staggered arrival for all boarding student leaders and registration for all day students. Day students will register and depart from campus.
- August 29: Staggered arrival for all new boarding students (other than those new students who arrived August 12-17 for quarantine).
- August 30: Staggered arrival for all returning boarding students (other than those returning students who arrived August 12-16 for quarantine).
- August 31: Orientation activities for all Middle and Upper School students. Details to follow.
- September 1: First day of classes
The Williston Community Compact
Williston will expect all students, faculty, and staff on campus to follow safe habits and expectations, including testing, self reporting, screening, mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, and tracing. The details of this can be found in the Williston Community Compact, which all members of our community (including parents) will agree to uphold.
Other Safety Measures
Access to Campus
Access to campus will be very limited for those who do not live or work at Williston. Vendors will only be allowed on campus if they follow protocols for wearing masks and practicing physical distancing. Deliveries for various departments and students will be centralized at different locations on campus to minimize exposure and the number of individuals involved in the delivery of goods. Williston will prohibit rental or outside use of our facilities this year—including use of our rink, pool, or field, the Bluefish Swimming Program, Easthampton community groups, summer camps. On-campus admission visits and tours may be scheduled at the discretion of the school and all current practices for masks and physical distancing will be required of interviewees. Parents or guardians wishing to visit with a child will need to make a formal request to the school’s Dean on Duty to do so and will need to show that they are COVID-free and are able to follow the school’s protocols for wearing masks and exercising physical distancing.
Our Mask Guidelines
Members of the Williston community must commit to wearing a maks in all shared community spaces, including classrooms, hallways in academic and residential buildings, residential and recreational common areas, campus pathways, and during meetings or gatherings with students, faculty, or staff.
The CDC recommends people wear cloth face coverings to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Masks are the most important barrier to help prevent respiratory droplets from spreading the virus.
Williston will provide each student with one mask at the start of school, and masks will be available for purchase at the Campus Store. Masks should be multi-layer fabric and should fit well around the mouth and nose. They should always be worn over the mouth and nose completely (not just over the mouth) and should be changed out daily or sooner if known to be contaminated. They should not be worn if wet—they should be changed out.
We ask that students bring multiple masks so that the masks can be worn and changed daily. For more information on masks, see this CDC webpage.
Our Cleaning Protocols
We’ve increased the amount and frequency of cleaning and invested in new equipment designed to remove bacteria and germs.
- All dorm bathrooms will be cleaned three times a day. Showers will be cleaned using the Kaivac cleaning system. All dormitory common rooms will be cleaned daily using a Victory Gun sprayer.
- All other campus bathrooms will be cleaned two times a day.
- Locker Rooms will be fully cleaned each day using Kaivac cleaning system. The Fitness Center at the Sabina Cain Family Athletic Center will be cleaned after each use with a Victory Gun sprayer.
- All classrooms will be cleaned every night using a Victory Gun sprayer, and after each class by teachers. At the end of each class, teachers and students will use disposable disinfectant towelettes to wipe any surface they individually touched during the class period.
- Birch Dining Common will be cleaned after each meal, using a Victory Gun sprayer. It will also be cleaned during meals by staff, as diners leave tables.
- In the Health and Wellness Services building, the bathrooms will be cleaned multiple times a day and the entire building will be treated using a Victory Gun sprayer daily.
Adjustments to Facilities
We have spent the summer making many physical adjustments to the campus to ensure greater safety. Changes include:
- Plexiglas shields in multiple locations, including at the Cage in the Sabina Cain Family Athletic Center, Clapp Memorial Library, the Stu-Bop and Campus Store in Reed Campus Center, Schoolhouse front desk, Birch Dining Common tables, and science labs in Scott Hall
- Reduced numbers of desks in classrooms for greater social distancing
- Use of additional large spaces on campus for teaching to reduce density
- Opening of additional dormitory spaces to increase the number of single dorm rooms to reduce density
- Signs posted on campus to reiterate messages of social distancing, mask wearing, and other principles of the Williston Compact
- Distinct entrances and exits to buildings and arrows to direct traffic within buildings
- Many increased locations for hand sanitizer dispensers across campus
- Additional picnic tables have been added to allow for outside dining
- Tents will be used at locations on campus to allow more activities to occur outdoors.
Updates for Campus Safety
Take a video tour through the many safety and cleanliness updates Williston had made throughout campus.
Dormitory life is one of the hallmarks of the Williston Northampton School experience, but it also creates unique challenges in a pandemic. Working together and following new safety protocols, we are confident that we can preserve the rewards that come from residential living. To create more single dorm rooms and reduce student density in residence halls, we are expanding our available dorm room space through construction of the new Emily McFadon Vincent House and the reopening of other residential spaces, such as Hathaway House and Conant House, that were slated to close. We will have a variety of singles and doubles and will work with families to accommodate their preference to the best of our ability.
- Masks must always be worn in hallways and common rooms.
- Students will be limited to their own floors in dormitories.
- Visitors to dormitories will be limited. No students other than dorm residents are allowed inside, and only two family members are allowed in the dorm at any one time during move-in. Parents and guardians must schedule any visits in advance.
- Lights-out times will be staggered to allow for bathroom use that follows CDC guidelines.
- Numerous hand-washing and sanitizing stations will be positioned throughout dorms.
- High-touch points will be cleaned regularly.
- Students will not be allowed to visit other students’ rooms. This will be adjusted to the current campus activity level if the community experiences no outbreaks on campus.
- Common areas and kitchen spaces will have limited initial use.
- Boarding students are able to bring a compact refrigerator to school this year. Boarders will be unable to use the common room refrigerators as they have in the past.
- Dormitories will be open over all breaks during the year so that students who need to do so will be able to remain on campus through all school breaks for travel limitations and restrictions and safety considerations.
- Because we will be sanitizing rooms more frequently, we are asking students to limit the number of items that they are bringing to campus and storing in their rooms. They may not bring any additional furniture into their dorm room, except for a personal desk chair. They may also bring a box fan.
The Birch Dining Commons and Reed Student Center have been reconfigured to minimize density. Community members will follow new guidelines for all meals.
- Breakfast will be for boarders and faculty only. No day students or other guests.
- Lunch has been expanded to span three periods during the day and two different locations—the Dining Commons and a food trailer on the Reed Terrace.
- To reduce density at dinner, we will have two different eating times, with assigned locations for students and faculty. Dinner will also be for boarders only, unless day students have a specific commitment in the evening.
- Middle Schoolers will have lunch brought to the Whitaker-Bement Center and will not eat any meals in the Dining Commons.
- We have installed plexiglass shields on all table in the Dining Commons, and have added additional picnic tables and eating spaces outdoors.
- There will be no full-school, in person assemblies this fall. Large assembles and class meetings will happen virtually. All assemblies will be held in separate locations with advisors and their advisor groups.
- Advisory meetings will be in person whenever possible. Students who are unable to come to campus will be expected to remain in consistent contact with their advisor through email and Zoom.
- There will be no weekend travel of any kind for the first three weekends of the year.
- We will institute new, more limited, guidelines for food delivery to campus.
- We will issue new guidelines for students going into town.
When school re-opens in September, we expect that most students will return to in-person classes on campus, but that some students will need to participate in our classes remotely. Williston will therefore modify our learning model into a blended one for the 2020-21 academic year, combining the best of traditional classroom learning with the best of digital-course delivery. Our approach will be to de-densify in-person learning spaces to maintain both safe distancing, and robust, engaged learning. Face-to-face time will be used to connect, listen, and promote conversation and community. Students who will be engaging in class activities from a distance will be integrated into the face-to-face environment through collaborative technologies such as Zoom and OneNote.
We have modified our daily schedule to address a variety of new priorities. We have developed an innovative new rotation to our class schedule to ensure that all students, either in person or online, can maximize their synchronous engagement with teachers and peers. You will notice that all blocks, A through G, meet for two 45-minute and four 75-minute periods each cycle (or six blocks per cycle). These blocks have been balanced between morning and afternoon (EST) to ensure that students in different times zones still have equitable access to synchronous activities. This new schedule also includes fewer transitions and contact groups each day, increased time between classes to implement cleaning and passing protocols, and a re-structured lunch period to allow for smaller groups to access dining services. We have also made the decision to continue to offer yearlong courses, because this offers the strongest pedagogical structure for academic continuity, particularly in courses that build from year to year, such as math and language.
This summer, Williston faculty are receiving extra training and are practicing new classroom strategies that will allow all students—in person and remote—to engage with the teacher and with one another. For example, teachers will use OneNote as their white board, so that all students can see the teacher’s notes as they are updated live. Teachers will also include students in the classroom on Zoom calls when group work is used. Other class periods will be recorded (as appropriate to the content and activities of the meeting) and shared with students at a distance. We are confident that our technological ecosystem and our faculty’s longstanding experience with Microsoft Surfaces in the classroom will offer a rigorous and supportive learning environment for all students, and we very much look forward to welcoming students back to school, whether they join us on campus, or learn remotely at home.
Other Classroom Protocols
- All classrooms have been prepared for physical distancing with roughly 6 feet of space separating all individuals, and from the teacher to the nearest student.
- We have opened up new classroom areas for larger meeting spaces, for example, on the main gym floor and wrestling room of the Sabina Cain Family Athletic Center and in the Dodge Room, dance studio, and Grubbs Gallery in Reed Student Center.
- We have introduced new cleaning protocols for classrooms with deep cleaning each evening, but also increased passing time (15 minutes) between classes to accommodate cleaning between each class and to allow an orderly transition from one class to another, with social distancing guidelines in place.
- All students and teachers must wear masks during classes, and in hallways and other interior spaces as they travel between classes.
Attendance & Engagement
The school will continue to value full engagement from our students, all of whom, whether participating in person or remotely, will be asked to fulfill the school’s expectations regarding attendance. Attendance expectations for remote students are as follows:
- Online students are required to attend all synchronous classes that meet between the hours beginning at 7am and ending at 11:15pm in their local time zone.
- Online students are required to review materials provided by teachers for classes that are outside of the time zone requirement. This could include watching recordings of class (if applicable), homework assignments, or other asynchronous engagement as determined by the teacher.
The school will return to using its typical numeric grading system, which will include the publishing of interim grade reports and the recording of formal numerical grades at the conclusion of each trimester. The Academic Office will consider any special circumstances that might arise, related either to the coronavirus, or to particular issues of attendance or academic performance that might emerge as a result of the remote learning system. Families with concerns about their personal circumstances and the grading structure should contact Greg Tuleja in the Academic Office. The office also retains its usual ability to shift students to a Pass/Fail system if they are unable to meet the outlined attendance requirements, either in person or online.
Remote Learning Technology
All students will be provided a Microsoft Surface that can be used to remotely access all class materials through Zoom, OneNote, OneDrive, and Veracross. Surfaces will be shipped to students who are not able to join us in early September. E-book options will be offered where available from the publisher.
ATHLETICS AND AFTERNOON PROGRAM
One of the hallmarks of Williston’s education is the breadth of opportunities students have in the afternoon, from theater to dance to robotics to athletics. Although it is too soon to know the specifics of this fall’s athletic program, Director of Athletics Mark Conroy continues to work closely with both our coaching staff and fellow independent school athletic directors to plan for the season ahead and think about how we can create safe opportunities for interscholastic play. While we know this fall’s afternoon programs may look different than past years’, we are committed to providing a robust combination of challenge, development, and college exposure that has characterized our athletic program. We are working closely with our traditional NEPSAC opponents and thinking creatively about how we might be able to create opportunities for competition. Rest assured that if other schools are competing against one another this fall, Williston will as well.
Athletic and Afternoon Protocols
Until we have further updates, here are some details about the fall:
- There will be no preseason prior to classes starting this fall.
- The Afternoon Program will begin for all students on the first day of school, September 1.
- For the competitive athletic program, we will follow a phased approach, with practices the first five weeks of the fall with safeguards specific to each sport. If possible, contests will start at the earliest the week of October 5.
- The current interscholastic plan is to partner with a small cohort of local prep schools for a six- to seven-week varsity competitive season from Oct. 5 until November 14 or 21. To minimize exposure, when possible, two schools will compete in as many sports as possible in the same week. Schools are establishing a common set of guidelines to follow to include locker room use, spectator policy, sanitation, etc.
- The daily Afternoon Program schedule is being designed to respond to recommendations that will reduce the density in on campus spaces such as the locker rooms, training rooms, and the fitness center.
- Lower level sports will look to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of a fall sport experience with a variety of other activities to vary the experience and keep it fresh and stimulating for all! We will continue to prioritize providing a program that fosters all the tenets of our program: building strong connections with peers and faculty, vigorous exercise, and using athletics as an opportunity to teach.
- Strength training will remain a hallmark of the program’s success, and we will adhere carefully to recommendations for sanitation and capacity in spaces.
- In other Afternoon Program activities, to include the fine and performing arts, the hurdles for safely continuing school programs are less daunting, though we will follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local government guidelines.
2020-21 ACADEMIC YEAR CALENDAR
Note: From August 12 to 17, dorms are open for domestic and international boarding students needing self-isolation. Please complete your arrival form in Veracross and communicate with Jenna Motyka in the Dean of Students Office regarding airport transfers.
28 F | Student leaders arrive & day students register
29 SA | New boarding students arrive
30 SU | Returning boarding students arrive
31 M | Upper and Middle School Orientations/Details to follow
1 TU | Trimester 1 classes begin
14 W | PSAT for grades 10 & 11/special 9th & 12th grade programing
2 M | Trimester 1 Assessments begin
10 TU | Trimester 2 classes begin
20 F | Thanksgiving Break begins at noon
1 TU | Trimester 2 classes resume/remote learning through December 18
18 F | Winter Vacation begins
4 M | Winter Vacation ends; boarding students return by 7 p.m.
5 TU | Trimester 2 classes resume
1 M | Trimester 2 Assessments begin
5 F | Spring Vacation Begins at noon
22 M | Spring Vacation ends; boarding students return by 7 p.m.
23 TU | Trimester 3 classes begin
23/24 F/SA | Spring Family Weekend
21 F | Academic Awards, 2 p.m.; Baccalaureate, 7:30 p.m.
22 SA | Commencement, 9:30 a.m.
24 M | Trimester 3 Assessments begin
28 F | Trimester 3 ends at noon
29 SA | Dorms close
Williston’s senior administrative staff are monitoring several key, reliable sources of information about COVID-19:
Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC):