June 25, 2020 — It’s official: Students will be back on campus for the fall. They’ll return to NMH dorms and classrooms that will operate differently than in the past because of COVID-19, but they’ll be happily welcomed, said Head of School Brian Hargrove, by faculty and staff full of “the community spirit that is the hallmark of the NMH experience.”
Hargrove announced the school’s plan for the 2020–21 school year to students and families this week. Currently, the plan is for students to begin classes on Aug. 31, returning to campus in phases, as they typically do, beginning on Aug. 25. The biggest change for the year is in the school’s academic calendar: three trimesters instead of the traditional two semesters, which builds in flexibility for the school — as well as individual students — to pivot between in-person classes and remote or distance learning if necessary. Faculty also have designed a new initiative, the NMH Lab Program, to support international students who may be unable to travel to NMH in time to start the year.
Social routines and practices will shift as well, following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state and local governments, and independent experts the school has consulted. Everyone on campus will observe physical distancing, wear face coverings in classrooms and most indoor spaces, and participate in cleaning public spaces after each use — such as disinfecting a chair and desk in a classroom when a class period ends. “There is no way to eliminate all risk of COVID-19 exposure on campus, but our ability to provide a wonderful — though different — NMH experience depends on our shared commitment to one another’s health,” Hargrove said. Students and employees will be screened and tested regularly, as necessary, and the school is preparing spaces on campus in addition to the health center where students can be quarantined comfortably.
One plus for NMH in this age of coronavirus is the school’s rural setting. According to Massachusetts health department statistics, the county where NMH is situated has one of the lowest numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the region, and no NMH employee or campus resident has yet tested positive for the disease. Physical access to campus is easily limited. This year, travel to and from campus will be curtailed and closely monitored, and anyone arriving on campus will be screened at the main — and now only — entrance.
“Protecting our community and minimizing our exposure to COVID-19 is critical,” Hargrove said. “I know I’m not alone in wishing for a return to pre-COVID-19 practices, but I also know that NMH students, families, and employees recognize the need to make adjustments and sacrifices, and will do what it takes to return safely to campus this fall and have an engaging, productive year.”
Find details about NMH’s back-to-school plan here, and check the site frequently, as new information will be added on a regular basis.