Dear Gould Students, Families and Employees,
I hope you had a great winter break, and enjoyed meaningful and restful time with your family and friends. Those of us who remained in place enjoyed a restful and beautiful holiday week, with fresh snow, mild temperatures, and downtime with family and close friends. However, we are very eager to see everyone return and for our school buildings and residence halls to swell again with students and teachers ready for a great winter term.
Looking ahead to the repopulation of students to campus early next week, I have some very important information to share with you regarding COVID precautions and Gould’s plan to continue to keep the community safe. As we transition back from winter break, we will keep relying on the three pillars that have protected our community this year: Vaccines, testing, and masking.
PLEASE READ THROUGH THIS MESSAGE CAREFULLY, as it contains important information, regarding our recommitment to our COVID mitigation strategies for the next few weeks and months.
Despite the beautiful fresh snow here in Bethel, Maine, we are still coping with a relentless global pandemic and very high rate of COVID transmission here in Maine and Oxford County. In addition, the rapidly emerging and highly transmissible Omicron variant is well on our radar. We are committed to doing that which allows us to be together in this amazing community and setting, pursuing passions for learning and life both in and out of the classroom. We commit to each other, to the health and wellness of our friends and family, and to the love of people and place.
Return to campus plan
We encourage all students and employees to take a COVID test before returning to campus on January 3, 2022. We realize that testing is not easily accessible, and this test is not mandatory to return to campus. However, if you suspect you have been in a high-risk environment, exposed to COVID, or if you are experiencing ANY COVID-like symptoms we strongly encourage you to seek out either a PCR or rapid COVID test prior to arriving at Gould. This is particularly recommended for those students who are flying back to Bethel, ME. Please remember, if you test positive here on campus, you will need to go home, therefore it would be best to test BEFORE you travel back to Gould.
- Twice-weekly pooled testing will resume at Gould on January 3rd.
- On Monday, January 3, 2022, the following actions will be required by all people on campus:
All Day Students:
Report to the Gould Health Center before 12pm for testing.
Those who are able are strongly encouraged to return to campus by 2pm on this day and are asked to report directly to the Health Center for testing prior to entering the dorm.
All Unvaccinated Students and Employees:
In addition to pooled testing, a rapid antigen test must be completed before entering any campus building. Antigen tests will be available at the Health Center after 8am.
- Required to test. More details to follow regarding the test location and time.
Family Members / Visitors:
- Not allowed in campus buildings when students return to campus.
- The entire Gould community will participate in pooled testing again on Thursday, January 6, 2022.
There will be universal indoor masking for all Gould students and employees upon return to campus. Boarding students may remove their masks in their dorm rooms. This policy will stay in effect until we have two consecutive negative pooled tests.
- The dining hall will be de-densified for the first two weeks of school, limiting the number of people to three per table and encouraging the use of to-go meal boxes.
If you have tested positive for COVID since leaving campus in December, please contact the Health Center for guidance.
Reminders: What to do if you test positive for COVID-19 or are an unvaccinated close contact
I would like to take this opportunity to remind students, families and employees that anyone who tests positive for COVID must leave campus immediately. If a boarding student needs to be picked up, a nurse will notify the student and family immediately and we expect that a family member/guardian will come to campus the same day to pick up the student, or an alternate plan is arranged by the family with the school. This is also a reminder that if an unvaccinated person is a close contact, they must quarantine off campus for 10 days. We appreciate your cooperation and support in this situation.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, I would like to address COVID vaccines and boosters. We believe that our community has been successful with COVID this year because of our incredibly high vaccination rates among students, families and employees. The CDC is currently recommending a third shot to ensure maximum immunity. If you have not already done so, and you are aged 16 years or older, please get your vaccine booster as soon as possible.
We would also like to announce at this time that it will be mandatory for all students and employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID for the 2022-2023 school year. Gould’s vaccine requirements and definition of “fully vaccinated” will be based on the latest CDC guidelines and recommendations, as we anticipate they will evolve over time. This may relate to boosters, frequency or timing of vaccinations.
If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact my office, Ms. Joanna Brown, the Director of Health Services, or your student’s advisor.
Wishing you a very happy and healthy New Year.