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Fall 2021 Semester Plan

Dear NMH community,

With slightly more than a week left in the spring term, I want to express my gratitude for your partnership at every step this year. From our initial planning in the spring of 2020 through the summer, you said again and again, “We are with you, Northfield Mount Hermon.” As we welcomed students to campus and moved forward, your commitment did not waver as you worked with us to deliver NMH’s program safely. The result: Our students have benefited from an extraordinary educational experience on campus throughout this academic year and, for some, in their homes as part of our Lab Program. 

Soon we will turn our attention to next year. We have already developed a COVID-19-informed plan, with the expectation that we will be contending with the virus and its impact here and in communities around the world. However, the good news is that the widespread distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, the availability and lower cost of testing, and the many safeguards we have established across campus will allow us to deliver our program as we restore many operational norms that we value so much at NMH.

To help your family prepare for next year, I would like to offer an update on our current planning, which is grounded in the principles that informed our work this year. We will focus on community safety with the understanding that we must remain flexible as we respond to changing circumstances.

Vaccination Requirements for Students 

  • NMH will require all vaccine-eligible students to be vaccinated. The safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines are well-established, and mass vaccination is a central part of our commitment to a safe campus environment. Exceptions will only be provided only in accordance with federal and state guidelines.
     
  • Students should plan on being fully vaccinated (i.e., allowing for two weeks after the last dose of the vaccine) before they return to campus for the fall semester. We are only accepting vaccines authorized and approved under the Emergency Use Act (Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). If additional vaccines are approved for use in the United States, we will expand our policy as appropriate.
     
  • We understand that some students may not have access to approved vaccines until late summer. In these special cases, students must secure at least the first dose of an approved vaccine in the U.S. before coming to campus. If needed, NMH will host these students for an on-campus travel quarantine two weeks before their required return to campus for registration and orientation. If you believe your student may require this support, please notify the O’Connor Health and Wellness Center.
     
  • In addition to COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines will be mandatory for students. NMH will hold on-campus flu vaccine clinics during the fall semester, and O’Connor staff will share more information with students and families after school begins. 
     
  • NMH is also strongly encouraging all its employees to get vaccinated both for personal safety and the safety of the NMH community. 
     

Additional Safety Requirements 

NMH will continue to observe, as appropriate, the protocols that have helped keep our community safe for the past year. Specific expectations will be updated based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and will be shared over the summer.

  • Students should anticipate the continuation of norms such as daily health screenings, periodic COVID-19 testing, masks, and physical distancing. Large gatherings may still be limited or modified. 
     
  • NMH’s Student Handbook and Social Contract will be updated during the summer to outline specific safety protocols and expectations for student conduct. All students should remain familiar with these standards.  
     

The Academic Year  

  • We are planning to return to a two-semester calendar, which more fully aligns with our College Model Academic Program (CMAP). The trimester program we adopted in 2020–21 provided flexibility and allowed students to move more easily between on-campus and distance-learning options while preserving as much of our core academic program as possible. 
     
  • Barring any significant new developments with the pandemic, we expect to begin the fall semester on time, with move-in beginning August 27 (date subject to change if circumstances require a shift; information about Orientation and Registration will be sent early in the summer). We also plan to observe fall, winter, and spring long weekends, a Thanksgiving break, an extended winter break, and a spring break.  
     
  • We are planning to deliver class instruction in person. We will continue the NMH Lab program for the first semester to support students who are delayed in returning to campus as a result of visa or travel delays; they will return to campus at midterm. 
     
  • If circumstances require NMH to shift for safety reasons, faculty will be prepared to deliver synchronous distance learning. Otherwise, the synchronous mode will not be offered next year. 
     

Housing and Dining 

  • Dining inside Alumni Hall will more closely resemble pre-pandemic seating configurations, although some physical distancing and other health considerations will remain. 
     
  • We expect that access to dorm rooms will remain limited to dormitory residents and assigned day students. We will continue to evaluate dorm visitation guidelines as we plan for and launch the year. 
     
  • We will continue to follow established health guidelines and best practices in our student residences and dining facilities, and will update our policies as needed. 

 
Extra and CoCurricular Activities

With improved access to rapid testing and a vaccinated student population, we anticipate that we will be able to resume many of the activities that were negatively impacted by COVID-19 safety measures. 

  • For performing arts and athletics, we will rely on guidance from state and local agencies, as well as independent associations. Music and dance activities will resume without masking and physical distancing among vaccinated students. For interscholastic sports, we will work closely with our leagues to determine how athletes and coaches can participate safely. We will seek to build a robust schedule while holding to our established safety protocols.
     
  • We will not offer any international student travel programs next year. We are examining how to resume these offerings in 2022–23. We will continue to evaluate local and regional travel options, including day trips to local venues that have long been part of our student activities offerings.
     

Campus Visitation and Open Weekends

We anticipate opening campus again to family members and other visitors with advance registration. Specific expectations will be shared later in the summer based on CDC, state, and federal guidance. 

  • We expect to welcome visitors to attend performances, sporting events, and activities associated with Family Days. 
     
  • We also expect to allow students to depart campus on weekends. Specific timeframes and expectations for departures and returns will be shared over the summer and in the revised Student Handbook.
     

Day Student Programming

Day students and their families are an integral part of the NMH community. While specific guidelines for day students are being reviewed and updated, we do anticipate an easing of some of the COVID-19-related restrictions. Specific day-student expectations will be shared in the Student Handbook. 

  • Day students will still be required to check in whenever they are on campus with REACH (our online/mobile check-in system) and other tools. We expect to welcome day students back to their assigned dormitories, with designated locker spaces for their use.
     

Final Thoughts on Next Year’s Plans 

As we close the 2020–21 year, we have a great deal to celebrate. I am tremendously proud of our students and employees for their resilience and their shared commitment to community safety. Through their good work, and your support at every turn, we have accomplished what we set out to do, delivering an extraordinary education to our students both on campus and through the Lab Program. 

Next year will bring a new set of challenges. I am certain it will also offer us extraordinary opportunities to leverage what we have learned this year, to lean into our shared work, to support one another, and to set a course that will, once again, provide our students with an exceptional education. I look forward to seeing you on campus during the upcoming academic year!

Sincerely,

Brian H. Hargrove
Head of School