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Coronavirus response

Miss Porter’s School continues to monitor and respond to the worldwide outbreak of Coronavirus (COVID-19). We understand that students, families, and employees have questions and concerns. On this page, you will find frequently asked questions, public health resources, and communications we have shared with the community at large. We encourage you to check this page frequently for updates.

Please email us with questions

Calendar FAQ’s

In the coming weeks, we will have more information regarding the phased-in return for students. The calendar in MyPorter’s now contains the major calendar dates for the school year, including the anticipated start and end dates for each trimester. We will remain flexible in order to adapt to the changes in the state of the pandemic.

However, as was noted in the prior letter, we expect classes to begin on September 3, and the first trimester will conclude prior to November break. The second trimester will begin on December 1, but the two and a half weeks between November Break and Winter Break will be conducted online in order to limit potential exposure to and spread of the virus. We plan to complete the second trimester in residence in January and February, with the third trimester occurring after a spring break and culminating with graduation within a week of Memorial Day.

We are moving to a modular block schedule operating on a trimester calendar, reducing the number of classes students take at any one time while still allowing them to take the same total number of courses. In addition to reducing contact between people, this will allow students and faculty to focus on fewer things at any one time, leading to a richer experience in each individual course and minimizing the impact of any disruption caused by the pandemic.

Click here for a visual comparison of a two semester vs. trimester schedule

Because we will not have the InterMission term next year, classes will likely see an increase in total minutes of class time and total minutes of engagement. Numbers are approximate, as the specific schedule is still in development.

Click here to view a table that shows contact time and engagement.

While certain math and language courses will work very well, it is true that regular practice is important in these disciplines. Thus, we are considering the possibility of running certain classes in a year-long format, particularly certain math courses. We are also exploring the possibility of offering conversational language practice throughout the year.

Lastly, courses such AIS Capstone, AIS Research Methods, and AP Studio Art (to name a few) that need to run over the course of a year and consist of a significant amount of independent work may run in a hybrid format in which the class meets 1-2 times per week over the course of the year, with independent work and collaborative small group work (where applicable) happening in between.

Click here to view sample student schedules.

While there are a number of pedagogical benefits inherent to a modular block schedule, our top priorities are health/safety and making sure that we can keep the school open. A student taking six classes at one time with an average of ten students in each class encounters 60 students. A student taking two classes with an average of ten students, encounters only 20. Multiply this over all of the students in the school, and one can see why this could make a very important difference.

Families interested in discussing the online trimester option due to anticipated travel restrictions and/or other personal reasons should contact Liz Schmitt or Sarah Quinn by July 1. Detailed information regarding the online program, including cost, will be available for families on or around July 10, and students must formally commit to their status no later than July 31, with exceptions made only in exigent circumstances. A student who elects the online option must remain in the program for the entirety of the trimester and will have the opportunity to discuss returning to day or boarding status for the second trimester.

COMMUNITY LIFE FAQ’s

New routines on campus will include the wearing of face masks, regular symptom checks, physical distancing from others, handwashing and general hygiene initiatives, disinfection processes, intermittent testing, contact tracing, and protocols for quarantine and isolation.

Additionally, in order to keep our community as healthy as possible for as long as possible, we will be asking students, faculty, and staff to limit their movements and reduce the number of people with whom they come into contact. There will be structures and protocols in place on campus that ensure this, and we will ask all students and adults to do the same when they are outside of our community. Students can also expect to experience moments when we are more restrictive with respect to movement due to increased virus load on campus and/or regionally.

What does this mean for day students?
We encourage day students to limit their movements to school and home whenever possible. While we will have a process for daily symptom checks, we also ask that students remain home if they are experiencing any symptoms of infectious illness.

What does this mean for boarding students?
While we highly encourage boarding students to remain in Farmington from their time of arrival in late August until November break, we recognize that this may not be realistic for all students or families. As a result, we will allow boarding students to depart campus on a case-by-case basis with proper permissions and a low virus load on campus and/or locally. We will also closely monitor travel restrictions from areas seeing virus surges and act accordingly. Students should limit their movements and contacts while off campus and can expect to be screened upon their return to campus.

What does this mean for events and external visitors?
We will not be hosting Family Weekend in the fall, nor will Reunion Weekend occur as scheduled. Families can expect regular communication from school in addition to virtual events, and we will seek to identify a date in the spring for families to gather on campus.

Additionally, will be limiting the number of external visitors on campus, including speakers and prospective students and families. There will be strict protocols and procedures in place for any external guests invited to campus for a limited purpose and time frame.

In order to reduce the number of contacts any one student has in a given day, we are shifting to grade-level housing. This will also allow for more grade-level programming and community building. State guidelines permit roommates and communal bathroom use, so we will rely on a model of “family units” in dormitories. The benefit of family units is that while in the dorm, students can interact with members of their family unit in designated areas without having to adhere to physical distancing guidelines, creating a sense of home. Additionally, if a student were to contract COVID-19, the family unit model allows us to trace contacts and quarantine and test more readily. Many of our dorms, due to their small size, will have a single family unit. Larger dorms will have up to three family units.

Junior Advisors will continue to play an active role in residential life while adhering to physical distancing guidelines when visiting their assigned dorms. Inter-dorm socializing for all other students will not be permitted in order to limit contacts.

To allow for more physical distancing, we will be relocating the day student space to the Pool and Squash Building. This is where day student drop-off and pick-up will occur, and there is ample space for day students to store their belongings and socialize in a physically distant way both inside and outside. The locker room and bathroom facilities also allow for more physical distancing and better hygiene protocols.

The Senior Day Student Room in Humphrey will not be accessible to senior day students in 2020-2021. Instead, we will be exploring outdoor space near Senior Dorms that allows seniors to socialize while maintaining physical distancing.

The Founders League and NEPSAC will be making a decision regarding the competitive fall athletic season in mid-July. Regardless of whether or not there will be interscholastic competition, we do anticipate having teams practice in a physically distant manner. Director of Athletics Avi Dubnov is also planning to implement various fitness opportunities, including yoga, high intensity interval training, and strength and conditioning. Likewise, the Arts Department is actively making plans to offer dance, theater, and music in ways that adhere to physical distancing guidelines.

HEALTH & SAFETY FAQ’s

Quarantine
On June 24, 2020, the governors of the tri-state area jointly announced a travel advisory, which requires a 14-day quarantine for visitors from states whose infection rates meet certain thresholds indicating significant community spread. As a result, students may be asked to quarantine for 14-days prior to arrival on campus — limiting close contact to family members only. Ideally, students traveling from a distance will quarantine in the Farmington area, but if that is not possible, they may quarantine at home before traveling to Porter’s and limit contact with others during travel, wearing masks and practicing physical distancing and hand hygiene. We will continue to monitor and update this policy based on local and state guidance.

Testing
Based on current guidance from the state, we anticipate requiring that all students be tested for COVID-19 preceding their return to campus in late August. We will have more detailed information regarding the process as the summer progresses. Once the school year begins, additional testing may be required at various intervals based on recommendations from federal, state, and local health guidelines.

Health Monitoring
All students and adults in the community will undergo a daily symptom-check process. This will include a series of questions regarding symptoms and contacts and may also include additional health measures. Anyone experiencing symptoms or who has had contact with someone who is positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to resume normal activity at school until they are cleared to do so.

Safety Measures
All community members will be required to wear facemasks on campus. The sole exception will be for boarders when they are in their dorm family units. Additional exceptions may be made as appropriate and recommended by local and state health authorities. Community members will also be required to practice physical distancing and limit their movements. Members of the Porter’s staff are undergoing contact tracing training, and we are working with the local health department on contact tracing measures.

Colgate Wellness Center
The Colgate Wellness Center is undergoing a renovation that will include touchless sinks and doors, isolation rooms with separate ductless air conditioning units and fresh air makeup ventilation systems, and storage for PPE to ensure the safety of our staff. The space will also be altered in order to isolate students with symptoms of infectious illness from other patients. Additionally, the Counseling Office will be moved to an alternative location for the year in order to limit the volume of students entering the facility.

The Communicable Disease Exclusion Policy and requirement for a guardian within a reasonable distance from campus is a longstanding policy at Porter’s and many institutions. The infirmary facility and staffing is designed for short-term overnight care, typically lasting no longer than 24-48 hours. In the past, our communicable disease policy has required that all students leave within 24 hours of a confirmed diagnosis of influenza, norovirus, or any other communicable disease at the discretion of our Medical Director. We have now added COVID-19 to the list of communicable diseases that would require a period of exclusion from campus and a defined recuperation period off-campus, either in the care of the parent/guardian or a designated local guardian. International families and those living at a significant distance domestically are welcome to reach out to Liz Schmitt, Sarah Quinn, and Shiang Sobieski to discuss their particular circumstances and to develop a plan that adheres to this policy.

EVENT CHANGES & CANCELLATIONS

Event Changes & Cancellations

In order to mitigate risk of exposure to COVID-19, we will not be hosting Family Weekend in the fall as planned.

Coronavirus Response: Plans for reopening in 2020-2021