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COVID-19 Information

Staying Current on COVID-19

EXcerpt from Head of School Dr. Meera Viswanathan’s message to families

August 27, 2021

I hope you all have taken time for relaxation with family and friends. Leisure time is well-deserved — and much needed — for all of us to arrive in Simsbury recharged and ready to take on the upcoming school year. Everyone here has been busy especially during the last few weeks, like the bees in our apiary, getting ready for your arrival. Our work is guided by our school’s mission, that is, to be a joyful, aspirational community where all members strive to achieve their best, even while we, as a school, work assiduously to mitigate our community members’ exposure to variants of the novel coronavirus (COVID).

Despite this latest round of challenges, we find ourselves at a much different place than last year. As of this writing, all of our faculty and staff are fully vaccinated or in the process of being fully vaccinated unless they have received a religious or medical exemption approved by the School. Our vaccination mandate for all students 12 years and older adds another layer of protection in decreasing the spread of the virus with the allowance of school-approved religious or medical exemptions. Please note that each of you who has applied for an exemption will receive a formal notification in the next few days about whether it has been approved or not.

We maintain our commitment to the latest governmental mandates, including a mask requirement for all members of our campus regardless of vaccination status as directed by Connecticut’s Governor Ned Lamont until at least September 30. Despite these remaining restrictions, I’m fully confident that this year will bring us closer to the ways that are familiar to us — classes in person in Beaver Brook and the Middle School, gatherings, sharing meals, traditions and rituals, and ceremonies. Our commitment to the health and well-being of our community continues and it stretches from Simsbury across the globe. As members of the Walker’s community, we all agree to uphold the obligation to embrace fully all who are here and to ensure that we treat each other with the highest levels of respect and dignity.

Dr. Meera Viswanathan
Head of School


Other Recent Communications

On June 14, we offered an information session on the COVID-19 vaccination with Dr. Shelley Marks ’81 who helped us to understand more fully the individual and community benefits of a vaccinated community. She also detailed some of the risks associated with emerging variants of the Coronavirus and shared the latest data on the progress that is being made with regard to the levels of vaccination among eligible groups. If you did not have a chance to join us, please visit this link for a copy of the full recording. Here also is Dr. Marks’ slide deck from her talk.

With children ages 12-17 now eligible for vaccination and children under the age of 12 likely to be eligible by or in the early fall, vaccination rates will continue to climb as more groups have access to it. Most of our peer schools (e.g. Founders League) have either mandated or are about to mandate COVID vaccinations among their students.

Hence, in the fall, we will require that all students, who are eligible, be vaccinated for COVID-19 at least two weeks prior to their arrival on campus* or provide a copy of their vaccination card in order to be on campus. As with other vaccinations, there will be reasonable accommodations offered to those who have documented religious or medical exemptions. Please share documentation from your physician with our Director of Health Services Joyce McIntyre at jmcintyre@ethelwalker.org.

For those students who arrive on campus not yet fully vaccinated but ready to be, we will require a negative PCR test within 72 hours of their arrival. As soon as possible, we will arrange for them to be vaccinated. Unvaccinated international students additionally will need to be quarantined for ten days (or whatever duration deemed necessary by the CDC) and then arrangements will be made for them to receive the vaccine.

Our aim in requiring that all students are vaccinated is to allow our community to return to all the activities that bring us joy and allow students the fullest experience of school and community life, while keeping everyone safe from infection. Events in the chapel, gatherings in our dorms, eating in Abra’s without plexiglass, and participating in team sports without physical distancing and mask wearing are all things that allow our students to be in community with one another.

*Domestic students who receive the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine should have the second shot taken two week prior to their arrival on campus. Those who take the Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) should have their single dose vaccination two weeks prior to their arrival on campus.

Opening Days

The excitement of Opening Days is upon us with our first group of students arriving on campus on Thursday, September 2. Please visit our back-to-school website for a complete list of dates and checklists including summer reading, boarding student packing lists and so much more.

  • Students should plan to arrive on their designated day. Please visit the schedule on this page for details on your student’s arrival date.
  • Students traveling internationally can begin arriving on campus on Thursday, September 2. If international students plan to arrive prior to their assigned registration date, please email Mallory Pasquariello at mpasquariello@ethelwalker.org.
  • Students will be engaged in programming throughout their time on campus during Opening Days. Programming for families will be offered each day.

  • Students are allowed to have family members join them on campus for Opening Days within the following guidelines:
    • All students and guests, including anyone aged three and over, those fully vaccinated and those required to quarantine, must provide documentation of a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of arriving on campus. All students arriving on campus for the new 2021-2022 school year must present a negative PCR regardless of vaccination status and regardless of having attended Walker’s summer programs including the conditioning camp which begins on August 30. Please keep in mind that in some areas, appointments to receive PCR tests are becoming more difficult to obtain, so we urge you to make your appointments soon. Below you will find a clear timeline for testing to ensure results are received in time for check-in.
      • If you or your student are arriving on:
        September 2: PCR test on 8/30/21
        September 3: PCR test on 8/31/21
        September 4: PCR test on 9/1/21
        September 6: PCR test on 9/3/21
        September 7: PCR test on 9/4/21
    • A copy of your vaccination card or documentation of a PCR test, taken within 72 hours of your arrival to campus, must be uploaded prior to your arrival on campus. Please check your email for the form.
    • Masks must be worn when in buildings; no masks are required when outdoors.
    • Residential students may have no more than two guests enter dorms during move-in.
  • Families should visit this RSVP page to indicate which events they plan to attend during opening days.

  • Yes, all students who are eligible for the vaccination are required to be vaccinated unless they have applied for and received a medical or religious exemption. This vaccination mandate was communicated with families in a letter from Head of School Dr. Meera Viswanathan on June 20, 2021.
  • For students who are currently too young to receive the vaccination, they are expected to commence the vaccination process once it is available for their age group or seek a medical or religious exemption.

  • All students traveling internationally who are unvaccinated must quarantine for five days upon arrival to the U.S. or provide documentation of quarantine in the U.S. for five days prior to coming to campus. PCR testing for students who quarantine on campus will occur on day five of their quarantine. Students who provide proof of a five-day quarantine off campus will need to arrive on campus with a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of their arrival.
  • All students traveling internationally who are vaccinated are not required to quarantine. As with all incoming families and students, they must provide a copy of a negative PCR test result taken within 72 hours of their arrival on campus.
  • International students who arrive on campus who do not have a World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccination will be required to become vaccinated in the U.S. Upon their arrival, they will have to abide by the protocols for students who are considered unvaccinated. The School will assist families in getting their students vaccinated once they have completed the quarantine period.

  • All faculty and staff are required to be vaccinated unless they have asked for and received a medical or religious exemption. Regardless of vaccination status, they too will need to provide documentation of a negative PCR test taken at least 72 hours prior to their arrival on campus beginning on September 1; this includes those who have been working on campus throughout the summer.

  • Yes, family members of dorm faculty will be required to be fully vaccinated unless they request and receive a medical or religious exemption. Dorm faculty family members who are fully vaccinated are considered part of the dorm “family pod” (see below).

Opening Days 2020

Student Life

All students who are unvaccinated must test weekly. We are currently exploring the possibility of this testing being done on campus on a weekly basis until all students who are eligible are fully vaccinated. Once all of these students are fully vaccinated, families will have to conduct weekly testing on their own.

  • Classroom Buildings: Walker’s will abide by all state and federal guidelines regarding mask wearing in buildings. Masks are not required for activities outdoors. As of August 16, masks are required in schools in Connecticut until at least September 30 per Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont regardless of vaccination status.
  • Dorms: Boarding students will not be required to wear masks in dormitories after the first full week of classes. As of September 15, all students in a particular dorm who are fully vaccinated and part of the dorm family pod are able to move about the dorm without masks, including eating with others in common spaces.
  • Boarding students who have vaccination exemptions will be required to wear masks at all times in the dorms unless they are in their own room with roommates or suitemates with the door closed or conducting personal hygiene. Students who are unvaccinated will be assigned a specific bathroom that they must use during their time in the dorm.

  • The School is developing a color-coded system to communicate easily on the status of health and safety protocols that are currently in effect on campus. The red, orange, yellow and green levels will be communicated on a weekly basis in Walker’s Weekly as part of the week’s COVID update as well as on posters throughout campus.

  • Families whose primary residence is more than 300 miles from campus must have an emergency contact on file with the School. Families meeting this criteria received a letter from Assistant Head of School for Student Life Elisa Del Valle and Director of International Recruitment Suzanne Buenaventura with details on services that families may purchase for their student and how to report the name and contact information of the emergency contact to the School. Please contact Suzanne at sbuenaventura@ethelwalker.org with any additional questions.

 

Dining

Dining will occur in Abra’s, the Common Room and the Living Room with plexiglass dividers; students can also choose to dine outdoors in a new outdoor eating area under a tent where plexiglass is not required.

There will be one lunch block per day so all students will have a chance to enjoy lunch with friends. There will be ample spaces for all members of the community to eat either indoors or outdoors depending on their preference.

Advisor lunch has been moved to Fridays and advisory groups will be encouraged to eat together outdoors when possible. When it is not possible, advisory group members will eat lunch indoors and then gather afterwards for a check-in with the full group.

The Learning Environment

The learning environment at Walker’s will continue to be an energized experience for all students both in our traditional classrooms and in the outdoor classrooms on campus. For indoor classrooms, student desks will be spaced three feet apart per CDC guidelines with students and instructors required to wear masks. Outdoor classrooms will also have desks spaced three feet apart; students and instructors will not be required to wear masks in outdoor classrooms. One-way hallways will be eliminated and movement in spaces such as Diddle’s, our school store, the library and social spaces, will be less restrictive albeit with three feet of distancing where possible.

Outdoor classroom

Sports and Co-Curriculars

This year’s fall season will be an exciting one with a full slate of games, meets and shows for our athletic and riding teams. Walker’s participates in the Founders League; all schools in the league have committed to ensuring that their athletes are either fully vaccinated or have a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours of play. Masks will be worn for indoor sports for both practices and games with no mask requirement for outdoor sports. Spectators are expected to be three feet apart while on the sidelines. Plans are underway for the protocols for indoor spectators and will be shared with families shortly.

Field Hockey

Contact Information and Other Resources

General Concerns

Dr. Meera Viswanathan
Head of School
mviswanathan@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4210

STUDENT LIFE

Elisa Del Valle
Assistant Head of School for Student Life/Director of Social Justice and Inclusion
edelvalle@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4287

Health Center

Joyce McIntyre
Director of Health Services
jmcintyre@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4289

Academic Administration

Harrison Shure
Assistant Head of School and Dean of Academics
hshure@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4212

Technology/Distance Learning

Sarah Edson
Dean of Faculty and Dean of Academic Technology and Innovation
sedson@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4233

Athletics

Kati Eggert
Athletic Director
keggert@ethelwalker.org
+1-860-408-4290