July 13, 2021, Letter from Head of School Robert Hill on Reopening

Dear New and Returning Williston Families,

Summer greetings from Williston! As I write this update, I can’t help but marvel at how much has changed in the past year. Last summer, all of us faced a level of uncertainty that was as unique in our experience as it was worldwide in its scope. Thankfully, this summer, we are excitedly planning for a more normal school year, with construction projects underway around nearly every corner on campus—new turf on Sawyer Field, a complex of 10 new tennis courts at Galbraith, an updated entryway to Memorial Hall, and many other important infrastructure projects. And so it is with optimism and excitement that I share the following initial information about the year ahead. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, it is possible, and even likely, that some of our plans for 2021-22 may evolve, so please continue to check our 2021-22 School Year FAQ page for updates.

• Given the compelling evidence about the safety and efficacy of all three COVID-19 vaccines, Williston will require all students to be fully vaccinated by August 23. This means that a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, must be administered by this day. (All Williston faculty and employees are already fully vaccinated.) If we do not already have a student’s vaccination documentation on file from last spring, you will be prompted to upload it when filling out your Magnus Health forms.

• If your child is unable to get vaccinated before returning (for example, due to vaccine restrictions in your area or country), Health & Wellness will work with your child to ensure a safe return to campus, through a process that includes testing, quarantining if needed, access to vaccinations, and wearing masks  when outside of their dorm rooms until they are fully vaccinated. If your child will be arriving on campus unvaccinated, it is essential that you notify Health & Wellness Director Amber Mish immediately, so we can schedule vaccines and testing, and keep both your child and the community safe.

Students who are not vaccinated due to a documented religious or medical exemption will be required to wear masks over the nose and mouth when they are outside of their dorm rooms (including during sports practices and competitions, classes, and in town) and will be required to take part in weekly COVID-19 tests. It is important to note that unvaccinated students may have more limited ability to participate in certain aspects of campus life. For example, we have already have indications from other school athletic departments that they will only allow their players to compete against Williston players who are fully vaccinated. We will continue to explore this subject, but want to be transparent about the additional rules that may apply for unvaccinated students. If you anticipate applying for a documented medical or religious exemption, it is essential that you email Director of Health and Wellness Amber Mish by July 23.

Reentry Process
Williston’s reentry process may continue to change, based on local or CDC recommendations, but at this time, here is our plan.
• To ensure that we start the school year as safely as possible, all students—regardless of vaccination status—will receive a rapid antigen test on the day they arrive on campus.
• The school will also administer a PCR test to the entire school community once all students have arrived on campus.
• All international travelers must have a negative PCR prior to boarding their flight.
• As noted above, those who arrive on campus unvaccinated must remain masked while outside of their dorm rooms, and should expect to be regularly tested with a rapid antigen test until they are fully vaccinated.

We continue to have conversations about athletic competitions with our peer schools—all of whom are also figuring out their protocols. We anticipate that we will have a traditional fall schedule of games at all levels against peer schools that have similar vaccination policies in place, and will send further updates as the school year draws closer. As noted above, unvaccinated students may have more limited ability to participate in interscholastic competitions.

Weekend and Other Permissions

After the first weekend of the school year (and negative PCR tests), we anticipate that fully-vaccinated boarding students may have weekend permissions for outside sports leagues, college visits, or trips home. Unvaccinated students may have more limited ability to participate in off-campus travel. Fully-vaccinated day students may also participate in outside activities, and will be able to resume normal campus activities, such as use of the library, eating dinner on campus, and so on.

Any visitors to campus, including parents, must have proof of vaccination with them (vaccine card, photocopy, or photograph on your phone). Depending on the situation, you may be asked to provide this information. For visitors, including parents, who are not vaccinated, we ask that you wear a mask indoors and outdoors, and limit your time indoors in dormitories or other school buildings. In addition, unvaccinated visitors may also be required to take an on-campus antigen test.

Finally, I ask again that parents and guardians be especially attentive to health documents and the timely return of all school-related forms so that our deans and nurses can plan for the arrival of families. Last year, the Williston community rallied to operate safely amid the COVID-19 environment. We ask for the same level of commitment and cooperation as we anticipate a year full of joy, accomplishments, and friendship for all at the school.

Wishing you a wonderful summer,

Robert W. Hill III P’15, ’19
Head of School