middle schoolers and a teacher talking outsideArthur Morgan School is very excited to announce that we will be offering an in-person day and boarding program for the 2020 -2021 school year. Using CDC guidelines and recommendations from NAIS, TABS, and other academic institutions, AMS staff collaborated with local health professionals to develop a COVID-19 response plan that balances the school’s mission with mitigating physical risk to our staff, students, and their families.

Here are the changes AMS is making this year to help ensure our students’ social, emotional and physical well being. For more information about AMS’s COVID-19 response plan, please contact us at info@arthurmorganschool.org or call us at 828-675-4262.

A School Outdoors

To best protect our students and staff, AMS plans to move much of its programming outside. Morning Sing, classes, meals, advisor meetings, and All School Meeting will all occur outdoors whenever possible. Staff are erecting temporary structures and using tarps to provide protection in inclement weather. If the temperature gets too cold or certain activities like afternoon chores, require students to be indoors, then students and staff will use preventative measures (outlined below) to lower the risk of infection.

Prevention Measures

To help prevent students and staff from infection, we are asking our community to follow these guidelines:

  • Everyone will stay outside as much as possible.  Students and staff should all dress accordingly and be prepared to be outside even during inclement and cold weather.
  • If the weather is too cold to be outside, classes or activities can be held in large indoor spaces like Green Cay or the dining room so that students and staff can spread out.
  • Everyone should remain six feet apart from one another as much as possible and always wear a mask (even outside) if physical distancing is not possible.
  • Students and staff will wear masks whenever they are inside.
  • Additional hand washing stations will be created and hand sanitizer will be readily available.
  • All food should be consumed outdoors even in cold and inclement weather. In extreme cold, students will spread themselves out around campus and eat lunch in smaller groups so they can spread out.
  • Staff will administer temperature checks every morning at school.Anyone with a fever will be sent home immediately until they receive testing and are cleared to return by a medical professional.
  • Anyone starting to exhibit typical COVID-19 symptoms will be administered a temperature check and sent home if they have a fever.

Exceptions with Boarding Students

student outside climbing trees

All AMS staff and students living on campus will be considered part of the same familial unit. We will quarantine and test everyone when they first enter campus. Once they receive a negative test result, they can join what we are calling the AMS Residential Bubble. If someone leaves AMS and its surrounding counties, or goes home for any period of time, they will be quarantined and tested again before re-entering the bubble.

To prevent cliques forming between the day and boarding students, everyone will use the prevention methods listed above whenever day students are on campus. When day students leave for the day, staff and boarding students will be able to use less restrictive prevention methods. They include:

  • not wearing masks inside buildings, and 
  • being less than six feet apart from one another.

Day Family Prevention Recommendations

Even using all the prevention techniques and physical distancing norms listed above, we know our campus will not be risk free. Therefore, we are also making preventative recommendations to all day families to help mitigate the risk to our community:

  • limit in-person contacts with people outside their family whenever possible;
  • wear a mask and maintain 6 feet of physical distance in any non-familial context (exercising extra caution around shared spaces and surfaces whenever distancing isn’t possible);
  • immediately isolate anyone in your immediate residence that is symptomatic, seek testing, and keep the school updated;
  • hold spaces that students are in to a high sanitary standard;
  • restrict travel out of the house and especially outside the county; and 
  • stay outdoors, to the extent possible, during any gatherings outside of the home.

While AMS isn’t going to enforce these recommendation we will stress their importance and the positive effect they will have on keeping everyone in community safe and healthy.

Calendar Changes

student outside with pot on headThe AMS school year will for the most part follow its traditional schedule.  Like most years, we will start just before Labor Day and end on Memorial Day weekend.  We will have a week long break for Thanksgiving, a month break spanning December and January, and a two week Spring Break in late March. For more information check out the school’s calendar.

 However we do need to make some changes. They include:

  • We will be offering three days of remote learning starting Wednesday August 26th. While boarding students are being quarantined on AMS’s campus, all students will receive assessment work that will prepare math teachers and LA teachers for what they can expect from students this year.
  • No long weekends home.
  • Three Days and Six Days trips will not be happening this year. We will decide on Eight days trips as the year continues.
  • Other weekend activities like sleepovers, work days, and Bring It Back Alive will still occur, however may look somewhat different so that preventative measures can be used.
  • Staff will make a decision about whether we will hold our annual Thanksgiving celebration by the start of October.
  • In the three weeks, between Thanksgiving break and the December break, students will not return to campus, but participate in remote learning.
  • 18 Day Field Trips will happen in some form although they will most likely look very different. Students and staff may form pods that can travel to a single or limited number of destinations. We are committed to keeping this experience intact, however we will hold off making logistical decisions until December.

Daily Schedule

To help facilitate many of our preventative measures, we are making the following changes to the daily schedule: 

  • An earlier start time of 8:15 a.m. so that we can administer the daily temperature checks.
  • Internships and Core Classes will occur in the first academic time slot allowing students the opportunity to be active in the colder portions of the day
  • Day students will not be permitted to stay for Free Time or After School Activities unless they are participating in a special activity like the Thanksgiving play or  Soccer practice.
  • Nights out will only occur on campus either with other boarding houses or at down at school staff houses.

Student Culture

middle schooler pointing and ripsticking

We recognize the potential for students to experience additional emotional stress this year. While we want them to be aware of their and everyone else’s safety, we don’t want them to feel the need to police each other and constantly feel anxious of possible infection. We also don’t want them to feel stigmatized if they ever show symptoms or pose a higher risk.

Therefore this year, we will dedicate the first few weeks of school to orienting students to the new normal. We will hold meetings and offer trainings on how to employ and kindly remind one another of our preventative techniques. Our goal is to create a culture in which everyone feels safe and on the same team. As we get practiced at it, we hope the preventative techniques will become a part of our everyday practices.

Assessing Our Plan

As we all now know, the one definite during this uncertain time is that everything will keep changing. New information about COVID-19 comes out almost daily and we are staying informed. We will continually monitor the situation and make changes to the program as necessary. Factors that will help us determine program changes include:

  • federal, state, and local regulations and guidance in regards to in-person school openings (we will consider both the opening plans of public schools and similar small, residential programs);
  • whether testing is sufficiently prevalent and accessible;
  • whether the local prevalence of coronavirus remains low; and 
  • if local hospitals have the capacity to respond to medical needs.

Infection Plan

Even with the best intentions and preventative techniques, the possibility of infection is still very real.  If a member of the community starts showing symptoms, we will use the following procedures.

If a Day Student Starts Showing Symptoms:

  • They will be sent home immediately to be in the care of their parents.
  • We will request they follow the protocols listed below as closely as possible.

If a Staff Member or Boarding Student Starts Exhibiting Symptoms:

  • We will call healthcare professionals and screen symptoms, determining whether isolation and/or testing are recommended. If testing is recommended, they will get tested as soon as possible. We will isolate them while waiting for results.If isolating is recommended, they will:
    • stay home and isolate in their personal room (meals will be brought to the room and dishes disinfected afterwards);
    • use individually designated bathroom;
    • have lots of outside time if able to (with staff sponsor for students);
    • restrict all in-person interactions to outdoors, physically distanced, and using a mask (cleaned after each use);
    • have any commonly touched surfaces of house (handles, counters, tables, etc.) disinfected after use;
    • screen with healthcare professional if symptoms persist or increase; and
    • return to school if symptoms abate and approval from a health professional.
  • If three or more staff members are all showing symptoms simultaneously and are recommended to isolate at home, AMS may offer an altered program during the day to accommodate these staff absences. We will prioritize giving students and staff time to rest and recuperate before returning to school.

If a Student is Positively Diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • parents will be notified and required to come and pick up their student within 24 hours;
  • until departure, students will stay home and isolate in their personal room.  Meals will be brought to room and dishes disinfected afterwards;
  • student will use individually designated bathroom;
  • there will be no in-person interactions at this time;
  • all commonly touched surfaces of house (handles, counters, tables, etc.) will be disinfected; and 
  • after departing, a negative test result will be required to return to campus.

middle schooler petting a dog outside

If a Staff Member is Positively Diagnosed with COVID-19:

  • if possible, they will be provided with off-campus housing where they can self-isolate.  Food will be provided as needed;
  • if not possible, they will stay home and isolate in personal room.  Meals will be brought to room and dishes disinfected afterwards;
  • staff housed alone will abide by the same isolation protocol, but in their personal house rather than room.  Food will be provided as needed.
  • they will use individually designated bathroom;
  • there will be no in-person interactions at this time;
  • all commonly touched surfaces of house (handles, counters, tables, etc.) will be disinfected; and 
  • after isolating until symptoms abate, a negative test result will be required to return to school life.

If a staff member or student tests positive ALL students and staff will seek testing as soon as possible. While waiting for results, staff and parents will monitor the community for any developing symptoms. All commonly touched surfaces of the house (handles, counters, tables, etc.) will be disinfected.

If three or more people in the AMS community receive a positive test result, the school will most likely cease in-person meetings for a period of time, subject to the recommendations of healthcare professionals.

In It Together

We want to thank all the health professionals, parents, and school administrators that helped us formulate AMS’s COVID-19 plan. We are excited that we can open and facilitate a program as close to normal as we are offering. While we expect the next year to be a little bumpy and require plenty of flexibility and compassion to ourselves and others, we are are also confident that AMS will continue to provide the same engaging and inspiring experience so many of our alumni still cherish. It will take an entire community to make it work and we are in it together.