Aug. 13, 2020 — Yes, this year is going to be different. There’s no debate about that.
But there’s also an abundance of love and excitement in the air as the NMH community prepares to launch an academic year during a pandemic and adapt to all the new ways in which the school will operate during the coming weeks and months. “We are so eager to get going,” Head of School Brian Hargrove said this week in meetings with NMH employees and families.
Technically, it’s already going: Ninety students, mostly international, have arrived at NMH to begin a two-week quarantine before classes start on Aug. 31. “The level of joy and gratitude these kids are showing is amazing,” Hargrove reported.
They are also getting an advance look at some of the safety measures NMH has put in place to keep the coronavirus at bay for everyone on campus. Plexiglass dividers have been installed between bathroom sinks in every dorm, between serving lines and on tables in Alumni Hall, and in dozens of other locations on campus. Classrooms have been rearranged to provide more space for physical distancing and new cameras and technology have been installed to allow students to participate in classes virtually if they cannot attend in person (if, for example, they get sick or are in quarantine).
The O’Connor Health and Wellness Center has been reconfigured to host students in separate wings, depending on whether they are sick with everyday ailments or with the coronavirus — and the building is now outfitted with a negative-pressure air system, which ensures that infectious germs don’t spread via the heating and ventilation system. Coronavirus-testing schedules are going on the school’s calendar, with all students and on-campus employees gearing up to be nose-swabbed multiple times as the school year begins. And of course, new signs — featuring the message “Well. Together.” — are everywhere, reminding people to stay 6 feet apart, wear masks, and wash their hands.
“If there is a school positioned to succeed in the face of this pandemic, it is NMH,” Hargrove said.
“This is not a Zoom meeting or a hypothetical trial anymore,” added Dr. Sara Rourke ’94 P’23, NMH’s director of medicine. “We are easing back into school life together.”
See photos of health and safety measures now in place.