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Area boarding schools plan to reopen in person, isolate campus

  • Dublin School will reopen for in-person instruction this fall, implementing the ‘island method’ to keep students and staff safe. Staff photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 7/31/2020 10:40:31 AM

Dublin School and High Mowing School, two of the area’s boarding schools, plan to open in person after all faculty and students quarantine, and have laid out their plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout the semester. 

“It really feels like we’re reinventing the school for this year,” Head of School Brad Bates said in Dublin. The school is attempting an “island method” of quarantine, where students remain on campus through the whole semester. High Mowing School in Wilton announced their fall plans last Thursday. The school will open in-person but is offering a remote, asynchronous option for students unable to attend either because of illness or a vulnerable family member, Head of School Geraldine Kline said. As of last week, there were no takers on remote learning at either school save for some Dublin School international students who plan to arrive on campus mid-fall after being unable to secure an earlier flight, Bates said.

About a third of High Mowing School families had been waiting to hear the fall plans before deciding whether to return or not and it was too soon to determine the effect COVID-19 had on enrollment, she said. The pandemic appeared to contribute to Dublin School’s record levels of day student enrollment, Bates said. “A lot of local families are knocking at the door, and that’s great,” he said. There are a couple beds open for boarding students after a few decided not to return after last year, he said.

Both schools have day students and boarding students, some currently living in other countries. Boarders are being asked to test for COVID-19 before traveling back to school, where they will quarantine on campus for two weeks. Some of High Mowing School’s international students are having a hard time securing visas, Kline said, but all expect to arrive by the start of the semester. Five boarding students were already quarantining on Dublin School’s campus last week, with food being delivered to their rooms, Bates said.

In both schools, boarding students will have family-style cohorts with whom they can relax physical distancing and mask wearing protocol, perhaps a single dorm floor of students, Bates and Kline said. Students are expected to physically distance and wear masks when interacting with teachers and students outside their own cohort. In Dublin, day students will not be permitted in dormitories and will have designated areas for studying, eating, and hanging out on campus, at least for the start of the semester, Bates said.

High Mowing School has a history of using their grounds for horticulture, games, and drawing, Kline said, and is developing outdoor classroom space where students would not have to wear masks. Student compliance is a concern, she said. Families of students have expressed a wide range of personal perspectives on COVID-19 prevention and it will be important for middle and high school students to understand why they’re expected to follow physical distancing protocol, “and that it’s not up for debate,” she said, adding that younger elementary school students are typically better at accepting the lead of the teacher.

Dublin School is ordering Adirondack chairs and taking advantage of its 500 acre campus for outdoor classes, Bates said. The campus continues construction on a new dining hall that affords a less crowded common area, he said. COVID-proofing the campus with a major construction project going on is “kind of insane,” he said, but the goal is to take advantage of the geographically isolated campus and small student body to protect the school and surrounding community.

Faculty and day students in both schools are being asked to stay in-state and implement vigorous home screening for COVID-19 symptoms, Kline and Bates said. Competitive sports are canceled for the fall at Dublin School, as is Thanksgiving break in favor of several long weekends throughout the semester, in an effort to keep the school community in the area until the semester ends on Dec. 11, Bates said. There are 20 rooms designated for COVID-positive students on campus, he said, and faculty are being asked to maintain a bubble of personal space during classes to keep themselves safe. High Mowing School will be holding an informational session on Aug. 4 and is asking families to commit for the semester by Aug. 10.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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