North Country School was able to stay safe and healthy through the Fall Term and Wintersession, but it will take a renewed commitment and focus to get through the Winter Term. While the recent news about vaccines is encouraging, we still have a long climb in front of us before we can return to a sense of normalcy. We must remain steadfast this winter and rely on the guidelines, protocols, and practices that enabled us to navigate this fall safely. 

We must all do our part to ensure that our community can return to campus safely, and we ask for your cooperation and support in a number of areas: 

  • These CDC guidelines on winter holidays provide a way to safely navigate the holiday season. We have asked our faculty and staff to observe these guidelines and hope that all members of our community will do so in the interest of community safety. 
  • North Country School will require a negative test result in order to return to campus. Please make arrangements to have your student tested at home no earlier than 12/28/2020. Please note, we have extended the testing window from three days to seven days to accommodate those unable to get test results in such a short period of time. After taking the COVID-19 test and until students arrive on campus, students should be quarantining and spending time only with immediate family. 
  • Please be careful and use good judgement when making travel plans to return to campus: the best way to get to North Country School is a direct drive with only immediate family. If this is not possible, limit interactions with others, wear masks, practice social distancing, and avoid unnecessary stops.
    • Please do not arrive on campus if your child or anyone traveling with your child is not feeling well or is experiencing symptoms. We will be screening upon arrival and anyone with a fever or observable symptoms cannot be allowed on campus. 
    • Please prepare your child to return to North Country School’s regular routine, practices, and protocols with a new sense of purpose. Given the state of the pandemic, we will all need to make a special effort to keep us safe and on campus. 

We look forward to welcoming boarding students back to campus on January 3 and day students back to campus on January 11. Please see the updated dates and details below.

Return from Winter Break Calendar

STUDENT PROTOCOL

This summer, the North Country School staff and faculty built this reopening plan with an unwavering commitment to community and personal safety, an adherence to New York State and Center for Disease Control guidelines, and a loyalty to North Country School and its traditions and culture. This plan is the confluence of these three guiding principles. We look forward to a safe and fulfilling school year.

Planning for the current school year has reminded us of something we already knew: that nature and the outdoors are where we learn the best. This year, the outdoors is also the safest place to be, so we will be opening seven covered outdoor classrooms this school year. We will be using them as much as possible.

Important Dates

On July 27 and August 7, the NYSED and Governor Cuomo, respectively, detailed their expectations for boarding schools reopening this fall. They were both explicit in mandating that all students arriving internationally and from states on the travel advisory list must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Community safety has been and continues to be our goal. In order to give the quarantining students and the staff supporting them the space and time this on-campus quarantine requires, we look forward to welcoming the remaining boarding students back on September 13th and the day students back on September 14th. For compliance and for safety reasons, we have adjusted the calendar. Please see below for an updated schedule of arrival dates.

  • September 2: International students, Domestic students who are traveling by airplane, and domestic students on New York State’s travel advisory list arrive. Per NYS executive order by Governor Cuomo, these students are required to quarantine on campus.
  • September 13: Remaining boarding students arrive to campus for a staggered move-in. Dean of Students Bryan Johansmeyer will be reaching out to these families with details on arrival times and protocols. Please see the arrival day section for a clearer picture of what this will look like.
  • September 14: Day students arrive for registration and orientation. Dean of Students Bryan Johansmeyer will be in touch with specific times and protocols for each family.
  • September 14-16: Orientation
  • September 17: First day of classes

Considerations

The overriding consideration for the NCS class schedule is to limit the number of contacts for students and faculty members throughout each day. Limiting each student’s contacts will be achieved by dividing the school into two distinct family groups so that all students and faculty interact with students in that family group to the greatest extent possible, both during the academic day as well as in co-curricular activities. Students are further broken down into grade level cohorts and have classes with individuals in their cohorts as much as possible. In order to support the goal of limiting contacts with students outside of a student’s grade level, the following support structures have been put into place: scheduling of passing time and recess at different times, assignment of classrooms specific to each grade level, the setup of classrooms for social distancing, and the development of outdoor classroom teaching spaces in which social distancing and excellent ventilation are easily achieved.

Daily Schedule

The daily schedule has been altered considerably for the current school year. In most years, the goal is to come together as a community as much as possible. This year’s schedule is predicated on reducing the number of students passing through the hallways at the same time and on reducing the number of students in the dining room at the same time. While the number of classes for any particular student has not changed, the 8th- and 9th-grade students have an extra class in the morning so they can eat lunch after the 4th-7th grade students.

Outdoor Classrooms

A variety of covered outdoor classroom spaces have been developed for the fall term. The goal of these classroom spaces is to provide students with a place to work in which they have more than enough social distancing space and exceptional ventilation to safely remove their masks during the academic day. We see this as a critical piece in contributing to the emotional well being of the students and faculty members.

Our Dining Services
North Country School’s dining services have been altered to reduce the number of diners in the dining room at one time, and to adhere to New York State and CDC guidance on food service. The features of our new dining services include:

  • Two HEPA 14 Airpura units in the dining room, scrubbing and exchanging air every 15 minutes
  • Staggered lunch times
  • 6+ foot spacing for chairs and tables
  • Plexiglass dividers between diners
  • Signage to ensure proper distancing and flow
  • Handwashing stations designated for each cohort and sanitizing stations outside of the dining room
  • Plexiglass dividers at point of service
  • Single server plating; elimination of buffet/salad bar tables, coffee/tea cart, and all shared items
  • Grab and go lunches for co-curricular activities
  • Individualized snack packs for students
  • Food service for students in isolation or quarantine
  • Time built into the schedule for cleaning and sanitizing between lunch groups
  • School health professionals and the head of Dining Services will ensure food safety and food allergy concerns are addressed in any setting food is served, be it onsite in the dining room or elsewhere.

Philosophy

North Country School focused on layering protocols for the upcoming school year to protect the health of the community. It is our hope that these layered protocols will allow students to be together on campus for an entire school year. North Country School reimagined the daily schedule to organize students, teachers, and houseparents in a way in which there is minimal contact and crossover between other groups and spaces. Each family group (cohort) will have its own dedicated space: the Pavilion for 4th graders, the second floor of the East End for 5th/6th graders, the Plumeria Room and the Basswood Room for 7th graders, the first floor of the West End for the 8th graders, and the second floor of the West End for the 9th graders. Some highlights of the 2020 Fall Schedule are listed below.

  • Staggered start to the academic day so family groups have reduced interaction when they leave the dining room
  • Students take classes in dedicated classrooms in order to limit crossover
  • Staggered start to breakfast and dinner so there are a reduced number of students in the locker rooms and waiting in line for the meal
  • Locker rooms located in various locations in order to reduce congestion
  • Outtime and Workjobs to start the year by family group
  • Separate lunch times for the different family groups in order to reduce the number of students in the dining room and to reduce opportunities for potential crossover
  • Ample time provided between lunches to ensure cleaning of the dining room
  • Core academic teachers are dedicated to their family group as much as possible
Health Scanning
Per NYSED guidelines, all students, staff, faculty, and campus visitors must perform a self-health scan at the beginning of each school day. Before leaving home and commuting to North Country School, all day students must submit a health screening form. This screening will confirm that the student and all members of the family are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms. Day students will arrive on campus and drive to the pathway in front of the Wally PAC for a temperature scan performed by the school nurses. After that temperature scan, day students can enter the academic buildings and begin their day.

Campus Access
To start the year, day students are welcome on campus Monday through Friday. The school will assess this policy throughout the fall and adjust when it is deemed feasible and safe. Please see below for specific details on the daily schedule as they stand right now.

  • Day students arrive between 8:00-8:20 each morning
  • Day students will be in classes from 8:20-3:05
  • Day students participate in outtime from 3:15-4:45
  • Day students participate in barn chores and work jobs from 4:45-5:15
  • Day students depart for the day at 5:15
  • On Wednesdays, day students would depart campus after classes end at 3:05

Transportation

Ideally, parents or guardians would drive their student(s) to campus. If that is logistically not possible, we recommend that any carpooling families ensure that all members of every family represented are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, that masks are worn by all in the car, and that windows are open whenever possible. Day students will arrive on campus and drive to the pathway in front of the Wally PAC for a temperature scan performed by the school nurses. After that temperature scan, day students can enter the academic buildings and begin their day.

Co-curricular and weekends

It was the planning committee’s goal to include day students in as much curricular and co-curricular programming as possible. The school has adjusted the daily schedule to ensure that day students could be a part of lunches, outtimes, barn chores, and work jobs. To start the year, day students are not able to come to campus during the weekends. The school will assess this policy throughout the school year and adjust when it is deemed feasible and safe.

Out-times

To start the year off, students will sign up for Out-times as they usually do during lunch. Out-time activities will be offered by family group, at least to start the year. Students can have masks off at the discretion of the supervising faculty member, as long as the activity is outside and social distancing is able to be maintained. For indoor activities, masks must be worn at all times.

Friday Nights

To start off the year, we are not planning on having day students participate in Friday night activities. The pickup time for day students on Friday afternoon will be at the end of chores (5:15 p.m.) For boarding students, there will be activities available. Activities can be in the houses, campus buildings, or outside. Only students who live in a house can be in that house. Activities in the main building can be for students in a family unit, and students must have masks on and socially distanced for the activity. Activities that are outside can be for any boarding students as long as appropriate social distancing is maintained. Masks can be taken off for outside activities at the discretion of the supervising faculty member.

Saturday Trips

To start the year, the only trips that will be allowed to leave campus in vehicles will be trips that are made up of participants from a specific house. Students and faculty members must wear masks at all times while in school vehicles. Trips can also happen amongst the larger boarding population, but those trips may not leave campus in vehicles. Students on outdoor trips may have their masks off at the discretion of the supervising staff member. Trips that end up indoors must have their masks on at all times, except during meals.

Daily Screening

Partnerships with Providers

Personal Protection Equipment

North Country School’s containment effort rests upon layered protocols. We have done the following to ensure our students and staff are protected this year by Personal Protection Equipment (PPE):

  • For a community of fewer than 120 members, NCS purchased over 1,100 facial coverings for students and staff, and asked students and staff to start the school year with 15-20 facial coverings of their own to ensure that anyone who forgets a mask can have a spare
  • Purchased 10 face shields for transportation and school nurses
  • Purchased CDC compliant sanitizing and disinfecting supplies and coordinated regular restocking with supplier
  • Ordered gowns, gloves, and no-touch thermometers for school nurses
  • Ordered hand sanitizing stations for each indoor space on campus

Sanitizing and Disinfecting

North Country School’s containment effort rests upon layered protocols for cleanliness, hygiene, protection, and distance. The first layer of services provided by North Country School involves:

  • Frequent professional sanitization of high-touch services by an external cleaning contractor
  • Frequent use of hand-sanitizer by all community members
  • Placement of hand sanitizer in all public spaces, hallways, entry/exit points, classrooms, and residences
  • Antibacterial soaps in all dispensers
  • Student sanitization of desks and chairs after each use

De-densification:

  • Hallways – staggered class entry/exit
  • Dining services – staggered dining room usage
  • Classrooms – 7 foot desk diameter
  • Residence halls – 50% capacity
  • Upgraded ventilation of existing air filtration systems using MERV-13 filters
  • Air scrubbers to clean and turn over air in classrooms, dining room, and residential spaces
  • Limiting academic space to students and teachers and restricting non-teaching faculty cohorts

COVID-19 Testing

While testing is just one of the layered protocols in place to monitor the health of our community, it is one that will help us establish a baseline community health as we begin the year. By testing our students twice—once before arrival and once after arrival—we reduce the risk of false negative test results and can measure individual health for a 14-21 day window of time during onboarding.

In June when we developed the COVID testing protocol, the nation seemed to have a more readily available and promising testing capacity. However, national circumstances have changed, and tests and results are scarce and delayed. We would still like our students to get tested as close to returning to campus as possible, but we recognize that may be difficult to accomplish. Therefore, we have developed two options for ensuring our students come to campus with a clean bill of health.

Option One: we ask students to have a negative COVID test within 10-14 days of arrival. Between the test date and arrival date, we ask that students adhere to state and federal guidelines and take necessary precautions to protect the safety of the community (facial coverings in public, reducing contact to family members, physically distancing, etc.).

Option Two: If you live in an area in which you cannot be tested and cannot receive test results within 10-14 days prior to arrival, we ask that you complete this personal health scan each day for 14 days prior to arrival. We would also like students to adhere to state and federal guidelines and take necessary precautions to protect the safety of the community (facial coverings in public, reducing contact to family members, physically distancing, etc.).

Philosophy and Approach

North Country School is more than an academic institution: it is a community, and in our community, we take care of one another. This school year will be different than any other, and, undoubtedly, students and staff alike will begin this year with a mix of trepidation and excitement.

At NCS, we believe mental health is a part of general health and wellness. Therefore, counseling will continue to be an integral part of our programming for middle schoolers. The counselor, with assistance from administrators, faculty advisors, and the school’s nurses, will assess and support students and staff throughout the year.

We imagine that a long, forced separation from school will generate a variety of emotions. Veteran students will return to a campus that feels different than the one they left in March. Newly enrolled students will experience a host of emotions as they embark on a completely new educational experience in the Adirondacks. We recognize that all emotions are likely to be heightened given the uncertainties the pandemic has thrust upon us. With this in mind, we look forward to supporting all students and staff members when they return this September.

Move-in Day

We will stagger arrivals onto campus. We will communicate an individualized return to campus plan for each student. All parties involved in moving will be asked to distance, wear masks, and sanitize hands often.

  • Each family will be assigned a time slot in which they can deliver the student and their belongings to the house. These designated times are inflexible for safety purposes.
  • One parent/guardian will be allowed to the front of the building to help unload each student.
  • An iPad will be provided if they would like to Zoom/Skype with the child and the dorm parent as they complete junk on the bunk.
  • A house parent and the student will complete junk on the bunk in their room. Then the student can say their goodbyes with the family member outside of the house.

Schedule

  • 9 am: Arrival of first students and parents at houses
  • >One family per house (We will assign families a move-in time slot)
  • 9:45 am: Second Round
  • 10:30 am: Third Round
  • 11:15 am: Fourth Round
  • Noon: Fifth Round
  • 12:45 pm: Sixth Round
  • 1:30 pm: Seventh Round

Visitors

  • To begin the year we will not be allowing off-campus visitors. This policy will be reassessed regularly, taking into account the prevalence of COVID-19 in our surrounding communities and the greater world.
  • If you must take your child off campus for any reason, we will work with you to establish a plan to do so. Please give notice to the Dean of Students with as much notice as possible or at least one week prior to the date of departure. We will again assess the prevalence of COVID-19 in our surrounding community and the destination to which the student is traveling. If boarding students return home they are to quarantine for 14 days and must return with a negative test.

Healthy Buildings

North Country School’s containment effort rests upon layered protocols. We have focused our campus safety planning on healthy buildings and proper ventilation and air filtration. We have done the following to ensure community safety in our buildings:

  • All airhandling buildings have been equipped with MERV-13 filters
  • We will have HEPA 14 rated Airpura and Breathsmart air filtration units in dining, classroom, and residential spaces that will scrub the air in these spaces once every 15 minutes
  • We have created negative air flow for all our spaces not equipped with air filtration units or air handling systems
  • We have constructed seven covered, outdoor classroom spaces with open sides for outdoor learning
North Country School’s residential life is a special part of the NCS experience, and it is our intention to come as close as possible to creating what we have done in the past.

  • Before arriving on campus, please pay careful attention to the packing list. We have added a few items such as masks and water bottles that are going to be important to bring this year. Additionally, please be aware of how many belongings you bring. With the possibility of quarantining a house or needing to pack up and leave school quickly, we want to be efficient with these actions and too many personal belongings will make that difficult.
  • Students will be housed according to their family groups. These house units will be split as follows: Level I,II, and III will be together. Level IV will be together and Level V will be together. These houses will be staffed as often as possible by faculty who will be primarily working with the students of those family/house units.
  • Much of the House Norms will be the same as they have been prior to COVID-19. Cell phone policy, snack policy, and technology in the house policy will all be the same as last year prior to Spring Break.
  • Mornings will look different this year. Each student will be required to wear a clean mask each day. Faculty will assist students in ensuring they are wearing a clean mask each day and properly placing their soiled mask into their designated laundry receptacle. Before leaving for breakfast, students will also be required to fill out a questionnaire regarding their health and any symptoms they may have.
  • Chores will only be done in the afternoon this fall. This will give students more time in the morning to clean their spaces, do laundry, or help clean the house.
  • Evenings will look much the same as they have in the past. Students will attend study hall or have reading period. They will then have time to wind down and prepare to go to bed.