Interim Reopening Plan

As we prepare for the 2020-21 academic year at Westtown, we are working to build flexibility into our program and operations so that we can adapt to changing conditions, and support our students and community no matter what comes. This Interim Reopening Plan is based on guidance from the state of Pennsylvania and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other scientific authorities and education partners. Our response to the pandemic has been, and will continue to be, tailored to the unique needs of our community. Our intention is to moderate the risk of contagion, while providing stability and support to our students as they learn and grow. These plans will be further developed over the summer as more is learned about COVID-19. Our policies and practices will remain fluid and flexible throughout the year, as conditions in our area change.

Westtown Distance Learning

  • Education, student support, Meeting for Worship, and community connections provided remotely through Westtown Distance Learning (WDL).
  • Events, gatherings, and trips cancelled or postponed.
  • Dining Room and Kitchen closed, except for boarding students remaining on campus and supervising adults.
  • Long-distance boarders, and others by permission of the US Principal, welcome to remain on dorm while learning through WDL and through school holidays and vacations.
  • Boarders will be provided with snacks and three meals a day as well as on-campus programming.
  • Campus closed except for essential employees, boarding students remaining on dorm, other campus residents, and by permission of the Head of School.
  • Masks or face coverings required in or near buildings (except when inside one's own residence).
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols employed.
  • Strategies and systems for contact tracing in place, in the event of a known infection in our community.

Westtown Flexible Learning

  • Learning and teaching on campus, with physical distancing, smaller cohorts of students and teachers, zoned building usage, and modified daily and yearly schedules.
  • Asynchronous lessons provided for students who need or choose to learn remotely, along with some opportunities to engage with classroom instruction.
  • Co-curriculars, community events, and other activities modified, limited, or curtailed as necessary. Meeting for Worship will take place with modifications. Room/building occupancy limited, with creative use of our 600 acre campus in order to maximize physical distancing. Trips evaluated and limited or canceled according to travel restrictions and known risks.
  • Modified meal program (all fall semester), Work Program suspended in the Dining Room and Kitchen, and meals prepared and served with enhanced safety precautions.
  • Campus open to students and employees only. Parent conferences and meetings by phone or web conference. Visitors only by permission of the Head of School.
  • Daily symptom and exposure screening, in partnership with day student families.
  • Westtown families and community members asked to avoid non-essential travel and other activities that may increase the risk of exposure in the school community.
  • Masks or face coverings required, with limited exceptions based on age, activity, and location.
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols and community expectations for handwashing and cleaning of surfaces.
  • Boarding students live in smaller cohorts of approximately 30 students or fewer. Boarders will be provided with snacks and three meals a day as well as programming on- or off-campus. Boarders are welcome to stay on dorm through school holidays and vacations.
  • Strategies and systems for contact tracing in place, in the event of a known infection in our community.

Westtown On-Campus Learning

  • Our full program proceeds on campus, with lesser restrictions.
  • Asynchronous materials will be provided for students with a doctor's note requiring study at home on account of seriously increased risk of severe illness.
  • Co-curriculars, Meeting for Worship, community events and other activities proceed with modifications. Trips evaluated according to known risks before proceeding.
  • Modified meal program (all fall semester) continues; Westtown's Dining Room and Kitchen fully re-open and Work Program resume.
  • Campus open to parents and other visitors. All community members must follow school guidelines before coming to campus.
  • Masks and face coverings continue to be required, with limited exceptions based on age, activity, and location.
  • Continuation of enhanced cleaning protocols and community expectations for handwashing and cleaning of surfaces.
  • Boarding students continue to live in smaller cohorts of approximately 30 students or fewer, with lessened restrictions on dorm life. Boarders will be provided with snacks and three meals a day and full programming. Boarders are welcome to stay on dorm through school holidays and vacations.
  • Strategies and systems for contact tracing remain in place, in the event of a known infection in our community.

Return to Traditional Westtown Learning

  • The spread of COVID-19 no longer a concern.
  • All activities on campus return to normal.

Health and Safety Practices

Measures will include:

Westtown School is committed to the health and safety of our students, employees, and other community members. Our customary health and safety practices have been enhanced in response to COVID-19, in order to support our community, mitigate risk, and maintain an environment conducive to learning. The policies and practices you see here will be supplemented and adapted as we learn more relevant information. For example, our testing policy is yet to be determined, and will be based on the availability, accuracy, and turnaround time of tests.

  • Westtown’s Health Center is always prepared to support our students’ wellness needs. Dedicated nurses in each division will be readily available, as well as our on-call doctors. The school will provide robust on-campus support for students faced with the need to isolate or quarantine, including longer-term support for boarding students.
  • Masks or face shields will be required on the Westtown campus, with signage to support this community-wide requirement. Some exceptions to our face covering requirement may apply, based on a student’s age, activity, and/or location on campus.
  • Symptom and exposure screening: The school will conduct daily symptom and exposure screenings of community members. We will ask parents/guardians of day students to partner with us in these efforts.
  • Cleaning and hygiene protocols: We will continue enhanced cleaning, especially of high-touch surfaces. Community expectations regarding hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces before and after use will be emphasized, and all students as well as employees will learn to participate in these collective efforts.
  • HVAC System Operation: Using guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the CDC, and the Building Operators and Managers Association (BOMA), we will implement strategies to increase the fresh air flow, ventilation, and air exchange in campus buildings. These strategies could include operating ventilation systems 24/7, upgrading filters, increasing outside air flow, and adding UV systems and exhaust fans where appropriate. These strategies exceed ASHRAEs standard operating requirements.
  • Contact tracing: We will implement strategies and systems for contact tracing in the event of a known infection in our community.

Physical Distancing, Cohorts, and Zones

Measures will include:

Across campus, we will seek to mitigate risk by implementing a combination of physical distancing strategies, smaller cohorts of students and teachers, and zoned building usage. As we consider the range of guidelines and recommendations offered by the CDC and other authorities, it is clear that there is no one-size-fits-all or fail safe approach to risk mitigation. We will base our approach on scientific guidance and adapt our practices based on a variety of factors including our school’s culture and values, student ages, the nature of our activities, and the configuration of our facilities.

Public health authorities' recommendations about physical distancing vary: the CDC recommend six feet and the Worth Health Organization recommends three. Wherever possible, we will maximize the distance between individuals on campus. Maintaining six feet at all times will be challenging for many students, and will not always be possible in some of our spaces, but we will teach our students to observe and practice as much physical distancing as possible. While a combination of strategies will be employed across campus, Lower and Middle School students can expect a more rigorous emphasis on cohorts and zones, while Upper School students can expect a more rigorous emphasis on physical distancing.
  • Physical distancing: We will repurpose spaces throughout campus and reconfigure schedules so that smaller groups of students will find themselves in larger spaces, to spread out students in classes and other activities.
  • Small cohorts and building zones: Students in Lower and Middle School will be grouped into small cohorts by grade and will generally remain in zones within buildings to minimize the number of close contacts between individuals.
  • Boarding cohorts: We will partition our Main Building dorms so that all boarding students, including those in Guerster House and Balderston House, will live with a residential cohort of no more than thirty students.
  • Division separation: Our divisions — Lower, Middle, and Upper School — will generally live and learn in separate buildings, with minimal overlap except where cohorts and individuals are able to maintain an appropriate distance.
  • Group activities: We will limit or modify group gatherings, limit occupancy in certain rooms or buildings, and maximize use of our 600 acre campus, in order to allow for physical distancing while still providing as full a range of program activities and community-building. Our beloved practice of Meeting for Worship will continue, albeit in a modified format.

Travel, Quarantine, and other Family Expectations

Measures will include:

Community at Westtown depends on a robust partnership between the school and all of our students’ families. At this challenging time, we will ask all families to do their part to ensure community health. We will provide recommendations, guidance, and support for our families prior to coming to campus and throughout the school year.
  • Symptom and exposure screening: Before coming to campus, we will ask parents/guardians of all students to engage in symptom and exposure screening. We will implement daily symptom and exposure screening for boarding students and we will ask day students' families to partner with us in symptom and exposure screening before each academic day begins.
  • Visitors: At the start of the year and at times of significant infection rates in our area, Westtown families should expect that our campus may be open only to students and employees. At such times, when dropping off and picking up their children, parents/guardians will be asked not to exit their cars; likewise, family and friends dropping off items for boarding students must also stay in their cars. Conferences and other meetings will take place via phone or web conference.
  • Day students will only be allowed on campus outside the academic day on a limited basis.
  • Testing: When reliable testing becomes available, we expect to ask families to engage in testing from time to time, to promptly communicate the results to the school, and to comply with our requirements about coming to campus.
  • Refrain from non-essential travel: Starting August 1 and for the duration of the pandemic, we strongly encourage all Westtown families to refrain from non-essential travel, non-essential use of mass transportation, and participation in other activities where physical distancing is not possible. Whenever such activities are unavoidable, we will ask Westtown families to communicate promptly with the school so that we can partner with you in determining whether quarantine on- or off-campus is necessary.
  • Quarantine following overseas travel: Please note that the CDC currently requires all individuals coming to the United States from another country to quarantine for 14 days after entry into this country. Westtown will work to support our families in complying with this policy, by helping boarding students who need to quarantine on our campus, as well as providing online learning resources for all students until they can be present in our classrooms.

Residential Program

Measures will include:

For boarding students, our goal in 2020-21 is to maintain the vibrancy and life-changing growth experience of living with other students while moderating risk. At times, boarding students may experience a somewhat modified residential program next year. We will build in as much flexibility as possible in order to respond to changing conditions.

Please note that for the 2020-21 school year only, all Upper School families may choose whether to board or not. Local boarding families may choose for their children to attend Westtown as day students. Boarding families who live too far away to commute as day students may choose to keep their children at home, and asynchronous lessons and other online support will afford them the opportunity to keep up with their classmates. Families will make decisions about boarding on a semester basis. The Fall Semester decision deadline is July 1, 2020, and the Spring Semester deadline is November 15, 2020.

Families and students electing to board in 2020-21 are asked to bring an open mind, to understand that flexibility will be key, and to work with us as we adapt to changing conditions throughout the year. At times when infection rates are very low, boarding life will feel very familiar. At times when we are open and operating on campus but the risk is elevated, additional restrictions will be implemented and rigorously maintained by Upper School deans and teachers for the health and safety of our boarding students and our entire community. The examples given here reflect just one of many sets of possibilities.

  • Staggered arrival: Boarding students should expect to sign up for staggered arrival times on campus in August. Families will be able to help move their students into the dorm, although the number of family members permitted on campus may be restricted. Details will be provided by the Upper School Deans’ Office in July.
  • Roommates: In general, boarders should expect to live in double rooms as usual, and returning students may choose their roommates according to our usual criteria and process. Masks will not be required when roommates are in their own room.
  • Smaller boarding cohorts: Our Main Building dorms will be subdivided into smaller cohorts, such that none of our dorm spaces (including Balderston and Guerster) will house more than approximately 30 students. Each cohort will provide an on-campus family experience for boarding students, and will function much like a family in response to pandemic conditions. For example, we expect that masks will not be required when residents are in their own cohort on dorm.
  • Furniture in each room may be more limited than usual, with restrictions on what large items students may bring to campus, to allow for greater space and flexibility on dorm. Further details will be provided by the Deans’ Office this summer.
  • Year-long residency option: All year, we welcome and will support the continued presence of long-distance boarding students (and other boarding students by permission of the Upper School Principal). These students may stay on dorm during school holidays and vacations, as well as during any full or partial campus closures when the school needs to implement Westtown Distance Learning.
  • Weekends and evenings on campus: We are eager for boarders to experience the full benefit of Westtown’s residential programming. However, when we are seeing increased infection rates in our area, students may have fewer opportunities to leave campus than usual. During such times, we will offer boarders enhanced on-campus programming and community-building activities on evenings and weekends, instead of trips off campus. Families should expect that at times of increased infection in our area, the ability for boarding students to come and go from our campus - even to and from one's home - may be limited (except for medical appointments and other urgent needs).
  • Visitors: Our visiting policy will be flexible, allowing us to adapt to changing conditions for the sake of residents’ safety. As stated previously, for much of the year, Westtown families should expect that campus — including our dorms — will be open only to students and employees. At the start of the year and during times of significant infection rates in our area, we may disallow off-campus visitors or day student visitors to our dorms, and boarders may not be allowed to visit dorms other than their own or to be in any dorm room except their own.

Thank you, friends, for your patience and flexibility during this difficult time. If you have questions about this Interim Reopening Plan, please contact your child’s division principal or the Upper School Deans’ Office. We are grateful for your partnership!

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