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Opening of School Fall 2020


We look forward to welcoming all students back to campus this fall and to supporting a remote experience for those who may be unable to return for the start of the academic year. We invite you to explore some of the commonly asked questions below for more details about our opening of school plan. As conditions related to COVID-19 continue to evolve, so too will our planning; and we will keep families updated throughout the summer.

Join us for a live town hall webinar on Thursday, July 2, at 7 p.m. EDT, during which we will discuss our plan and answer your questions. Invitations to register for the webinar, along with a form to submit questions in advance, will be sent via email to all students and parents/guardians.


Principal Rawson's letter on planning for fall 2020
Sent: June 30, 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

Health and Safety
Will students be tested for COVID-19 prior to arriving on campus? Will there also be on-campus testing?

Yes. Students will undergo a self-collected test prior to returning to campus and then will be tested by health center staff at two separate intervals after arriving on campus. More information about that process will be sent to families later this summer. Current best practices do not support continued mass testing beyond these measures, but we will follow the best advice of our experts and adjust our plans as needed. In addition, students will complete daily symptom and exposure screening questions and a temperature check.

What happens if my student tests positive for COVID-19 prior to the opening of school?

Any student who tests positive for the COVID-19 virus within 14 days of the opening of school will be put in touch with the medical director to develop an appropriate plan prior to coming to campus. While home, students will be able to participate in online instruction until they are able to come to campus.

Will students be expected to quarantine for 14 days prior to arriving on campus?

We will ask students to abide by state guidelines which currently request that all persons staying in New Hampshire for an extended period of time self-quarantine for a two-week period prior to travel.

Will employees be tested for COVID-19?

All employees will be tested before the start of the fall term and will follow the same daily symptom and exposure screening and temperature checks as our students.

What happens if a student tests positive for COVID-19 on campus?

Any student diagnosed with COVID-19 will be cared for by our medical staff at the Lamont Health and Wellness Center. If emergency evaluation is necessary, they will be transported to the local hospital for treatment. Anyone who is able will be encouraged to recover at home. Following any COVID-19 diagnosis, the health team will immediately start the process of contact tracing to identify and quarantine all known close contacts of a person who tests positive. Positive cases will be reported to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, and the on-campus medical team will work in conjunction with DHHS to follow state guidelines for isolation and quarantine.

Will students be provided with masks, and if so, what type of mask?

Yes, students will be provided with two cloth masks that have two fabric layers and a filter layer in between. These masks can be washed and worn for 30 washes. Students, of course, are welcome and encouraged to bring similar masks of their own.

How do physical distancing and the wearing of masks protect students?

SARS-CoV-2, or the new coronavirus, is a virus that lives in a person’s respiratory tract. It can be spread directly from human to human through respiratory droplets that are expelled from an infected individual through coughing, sneezing, talking or singing. Cloth masks block the wearer from transmitting their droplets to others. They are not as effective at preventing respiratory droplets from entering a wearer’s nose or mouth. Physical distancing keeps individuals far enough apart that respiratory droplets cannot easily travel from one individual to the next.

How will you educate students about new health and safety protocols?

Training and education are important components of our plan for limiting exposure to this virus. All community members will learn what is expected of them in order to maintain a safe community. It is likely that this will take place both prior to their coming to campus through a combination of webinars and Q&A forums, and then upon arrival to campus with in-person sessions.

If a student needs to quarantine, where will that happen?

Students who need to quarantine will be asked to spend this 14-day time period either at home, with a family member off campus, or under the supervision of the medical staff in a designated quarantine site on campus.

Will the school have a contact-tracing protocol?

Yes. We are training multiple members of our health staff to perform contact tracing. In addition, we are incorporating digital technology from phone applications to help us complete a thorough contact-tracing analysis when possible. We will partner closely with our state public health officials as well. 

With online learning, will classes be synchronous?

Students will meet with their teachers and their classmates synchronously at least two times each week, either as a full class or in smaller groups. Teachers may use two other weekly meetings as they see fit, for either synchronous meetings or asynchronous work. Recognizing that synchronous engagement may be challenging for some students while learning off-campus, we are developing a variety of approaches for meeting their individual needs. One such approach is to develop an asynchronous version of an existing course to be offered as an option to students who are off campus.

What will the daily schedule look like in the fall?

As some students may be unable to join us on campus or may choose to learn from home, the daily schedule will accommodate students in various time zones. There will be a break in the academic day from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. (Eastern time) for athletics, music ensembles, theater rehearsals and dinner, as well as some other in-person activities. Since the schedule stretches into the evening, students will have many free periods during which they can do schoolwork, connect with instructors, exercise and interact with friends (following appropriate safety measures). The schedule will include times for advising, dorm meetings, faculty office hours, and community-building experiences. Additionally, the schedule will include dedicated time for robust, community-wide anti-racist programming to support our commitment to making our school and community actively and effectively anti-racist.

Will any classes this fall be in-person?

A faculty working group is exploring options for in-person learning opportunities to be provided as health and safety conditions allow. These include small and larger group meetings at Harkness tables equipped with plexiglass barriers, meetings in oversized spaces, and de-densified labs and field trips. All in-person instruction will follow physical distancing requirements and other safety protocols.

Will classes in the fall be graded or pass/fail?

Last spring, all courses were graded on a pass/fail system due to the quick adjustment students had to make to online learning. This fall, the Academy will be grading all courses using our normal grading scale. As has been our approach for many years, our incoming ninth graders will continue to be graded with pass/fail for the fall term.

How will students be housed in dorms?

Following the advice of medical experts, we will house students in singles, two- and three-room doubles, and larger one-room doubles. The smallest one-room doubles will be converted to single rooms. All doubles will be equipped with a HEPA air filter. We are in the process of adding dormitory capacity to reduce density in existing dorms.

How will dormitory units work?

We will divide larger dormitories into several dorm units, which will help us limit the number of close contacts that each student has on campus. Dorm units will vary in size, with the largest being 17 students. In all dormitories, dorm units will share dedicated bathrooms, usually on a particular floor. Dorm units will plan activities together and create small communities within each dormitory.

Will students need to wear masks and practice physical distancing in their dorm?

Yes. At the start of the school year, a student’s room will be the boundary indicating where masks are needed or not needed. Students will still be able to interact within the dorm following physical-distancing and mask-wearing protocols. Dormitories will also have access to large spaces for full dorm activities and meetings. After the start of the year and the completion of all required COVID-19 testing, we expect students within dorm units will be able to interact without masks in some settings. Students will be required to wear masks in the dormitory whenever an adult is present.

Can students visit students in other dorm units or in another dorm?

Within their dorm, students will be able to interact with students outside their dorm unit as long as they follow safety protocols. To minimize risk, students will not be allowed to visit in other dorms until such time as health and safety conditions allow. There will be plenty of spaces on campus where students can gather with friends while following all safety protocols.

What cleaning protocols will be used in the dormitories?

Our custodial teams will clean all common spaces in the dorms twice daily, following CDC guidelines on disinfecting. Students will also have supplies on hand to disinfect common spaces quickly, including quick-drying disinfectants that do not require the wiping down of surfaces. Of course, frequent hand-washing will remain a cornerstone of safety across campus, including in dormitories.

Day Students
When will day students be allowed on campus?

Day students will be able to return to campus on the same schedule as their boarding counterparts. Day student leaders will begin training on campus on Monday, September 7. Other upper and senior day students will be allowed on campus on Wednesday, September 9. Prep and lower day students will be allowed on campus on October 3.

Will day students follow the same testing protocols related to COVID-19?

Yes, under current guidance, day students will follow the same testing protocols as boarding students. Day students will also be asked to undergo daily symptom and exposure checks and temperature screens. In addition, we will ask any day student who is ill to stay at home.

Where can day students do online classes if they don’t want to do them from home?

Each day student will have a library carrel for study and participation in remote classes. We will remove some carrels from circulation to de-densify each section of the library. There will be additional spaces on campus available to all students for socializing, studying and participation in classes.

Will day students be affiliated with dormitories?

Yes, but like many parts of our lives these days, being a day student affiliate will not look the same. The goals, however, are quite similar. In order to decrease the risk of the possible transmission of COVID-19, we will only allow students to enter a dormitory if they live there. However, day student affiliates will still be seen as part of the dorm community. They will be included in remote dorm events and meetings and when in-person events can be held in larger venues.

Campus Life
How will you enforce new health and safety protocols in common areas?

Since the health and safety protocols outside of an individual student’s dormitory room are consistent across campus, it will be easier to explain and enforce those protocols through reminders, conversations and signage. Bringing our oldest students back to campus first also allows them to be first adopters and role models of the new protocols. If a student has particular difficulty meeting these expectations, we will work with them within our normal processes to address the concern. All students and adults will have a shared responsibility for the health and safety of our community. Our health and safety protocols are the means by which we will care for each other, and we will count on our students to take this responsibility seriously.

Will student clubs and activities still happen?

Yes. Clubs will offer a combination of in-person and virtual experiences so that membership and participation is available to all students, whether they are on campus or at home.

Will students be allowed to go into downtown Exeter? What about going to locations beyond the town of Exeter?

After students have completed all  COVID-19 testing, they will be permitted to go into downtown Exeter, wearing a mask and complying with physical distancing requirements. Requests for visits to locations beyond the town of Exeter will be decided on a case-by-case basis, depending on the visit’s purpose and local transmission rates. Visits home will be permitted, of course.

Will visitors be allowed on campus?

For now, and until such time as conditions permit visitors, the Academy is closed to non-community members.

How will the Academy handle move-in days?

Our staggered arrival schedule will reduce congestion on arrival days. We will also extend the times for possible arrivals on move-in days so we will have fewer arriving at the same times. Whenever possible, we ask that only one adult accompany each arriving student. All students and those who accompany them must be asymptomatic when they arrive and will be screened at registration for symptoms or particular risk factors or COVID-19. We will ask that all arriving students and their family members wear masks and practice physical distancing while on campus. Time in student rooms and dorms will need to be limited, and family members will be asked to depart campus promptly.

When will a decision be made about interscholastic competitions?

This decision will be made at some point later in the summer and it will be based on conversations with directors of athletics within the NEPSAC and Eight Schools groups and guidance from the state of New Hampshire and the CDC. We want to support our students’ passions within the confines we are given.

If interscholastic competition is not available, what type of athletic experience should student-athletes expect?

If the pandemic does not allow for interscholastic competition, our students can still expect a very positive experience. We want our student-athletes to develop their mind and body with minimal disruption to their sport of passion. We will focus on skill development, strength and conditioning, and nutrition and sport psychology. For athletes hoping to pursue their sport in college, we will look to set up sport-specific showcases toward the end of the fall. We will invite college coaches (safely) to watch in person and/or stream the sessions for their viewing. For students attending virtually off campus, we will provide them with sport-specific training drills, and all workouts on campus will be shared. Training may be streamed to those unable to attend. Showcases will continue each season until we get back to interscholastic competition. We feel one of the greatest benefits is the chance for our teams to come back together with their teammates and friends.

Will the athletic facilities be open for student recreational use?

Yes. For the safety of the community, we are working on a plan for facility usage, flow of traffic, and implementation of CDC-guided cleaning and hygiene practices. We will follow best-practice recommendations from professional organizations as well as federal and NH state guidelines.

Enrollment and Tuition
What does Family Choice mean?

We understand that not all families will be able to join us in-person this fall so we are providing some flexibility in enrollment this year. Boarding students who are unable to come to campus at the start of the term or elect to study remotely from home will be allowed to do so and will have their tuition adjusted to that of a day student.

What if I can’t come to campus at the start of the school year but expect to be able to come later in the term?

Students who start the year remotely and then would like to come to campus the following term will be able to do so. Students who would like to return to campus mid-term may make this request with the Dean of Students Office, who will determine if a mid-term return is feasible. Students who test positive for COVID-19 prior to leaving home will be permitted to come to campus when physically well, as discussed under Health and Safety.

International Students
If I am unable to come to campus due to travel restrictions or difficulty obtaining the appropriate visa, how can I still be part of Exeter?

Any student who is unable to or decides not to return to campus will remain engaged virtually with academic, dormitory and extracurricular opportunities. Remote instruction will be the backbone of our program. Dorm faculty and student leaders will host activities online for the full dorm community, as will clubs, affinity groups and other organizations.

Will international students be required to quarantine prior to arrival on campus?

We will ask international students to abide by state guidelines which currently request that all persons staying in New Hampshire for an extended period of time self-quarantine for a two-week period prior to travel. The same requirement applies to domestic students.

Additional Questions?

We understand you may have questions that we haven’t answered here. Please email us at askExeter@exeter.edu, and we will respond to your inquiry as soon as possible.