November 7, 2020
Tilton Families,

Thank you for your continued patience and flexibility during this extraordinary year. Tilton faculty and staff have stretched in support of students, but students and parents have stretched too. We began the year with a mantra of “Tilton: All One” and our community remains as strong and unified as it did on that first day. I write with a series of updates about the end of term, remote learning, and some adjustments we’ll make to our program and operations for the winter.

COVID IN NEW HAMPSHIRE
Across the United States, we have experienced a recent surge in COVID cases, but New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont continued to have the lowest number of cases in the nation. That being said, case counts are indeed rising rapidly, and we now see almost eight times as many daily cases in New Hampshire as we did when school opened in September. We are monitoring the situation closely. These graphs provide a good overview of the data.


FALL TO WINTER TRANSITION
We have revised our calendar for the start of Thanksgiving Break. Our final academic class for the term is now scheduled to end at 9:50am on Thursday, November 19. Students may depart from campus after their last obligation, which may be as early as November 18. (Students traveling by air have already been notified of additional options for early departure in a separate email.) When arriving to pick up students at the break, families should first report to the admissions circle to check in and then remain with vehicles outside of dormitories while students collect their items.

Packing Up
While we fully expect to resume in-person classes, on campus, in January—we think it’s wise for students to pack for vacation travel with the assumption that they will not be able to return to campus until the spring— including everything they need for remote learning such as required texts, computers, chargers, etc. We will not have the capacity to ship belongings home to students over the winter term. We feel this is a reasonable precaution in the COVID era, but again: at present we have no reason to believe we will be prevented from resuming on-campus classes in January.

Remote Learning
Classes will resume for all students, via remote learning, on Monday, November 30—and NOT on Tuesday, December 1 as previously communicated. Students should monitor their email so they are fully prepared to commence remote learning on November 30.

Campus Shutdown
Traditionally, the Tilton Campus has engaged in an energy-saving “shut down” during the final week of the year. This year we will extend this shut down period slightly, and from December 23 to January 4 all school offices and departments will be closed.


RETURNING TO CAMPUS IN JANUARY
While our community enjoys the beauty of the winter season with plenty of outdoor activity, it is natural to expect that we will be spending more time indoors. This migration indoors demands special attention in the COVID era, and in response we will adjust some campus policies in order to maximize physical and mental health during Winter Term. In this email, we offer an early preview of those changes, with the usual caveat that much could change between now and January.

Some of the changes we propose are a result of new guidance from the CDC and other authorities, but some are borne of what we’ve learned from our students this fall: there are some COVID rules and guidelines that teenagers will follow with ease—and there are other behaviors that no amount of repetition, instruction, or bribery can induce. (Ah, youth!) We’ve carefully considered these realities, and we hope you’ll support us as we make the following adjustments.

Early January Returns
Full details about our January return to campus will be released in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, we offer the following outline of our plans for the repopulation of campus in early January, some of which represents a significant change from the fall:

All students should plan to arrive on campus with a negative COVID PCR test result dated 5-7 days before arrival on campus.
  • International students may arrive as early as January 6, but all other boarding students will arrive on campus, staggered and by appointment, January 9–10.
  • Students unable to arrive on campus before January 10 will attend classes remotely until a scheduled late arrival date; currently, we anticipate these late arrival dates as January 31, February 14, and February 28.
  • Late arrival students will quarantine together, on-campus, in a designated location outside of their own dormitories for 14 days.

We will quarantine together on campus, for a 14 day Wellness Period, in cohorts by dormitory.
  • This “Wellness Period” will be used to establish a bubble of health on campus, giving us the quiet confinement needed to minimize colds, flu, and COVID on campus.
  • All students will be virtual learners during the 14-day Wellness Period—boarding students from dormitories, day students from home.
  • Dormitory cohorts will be used for all activities during the Wellness Period, including access to the dining hall, athletics facilities, and other activities.

We will test all students, weekly, for COVID. Our first test will occur after all boarders have arrived on campus, with weekly tests thereafter, throughout the entire winter term. (Day students are included in these tests.)
  • In the likely event of a positive case of COVID, COVID-positive individuals will be isolated at home, in West Knowles I, or in the Mansion. Close contacts of positive individuals will quarantine for exposure in their own dormitories.
  • Students will move to in-person classes after their second (Day 14) COVID test is returned with a negative result OR after any additional quarantine required for exposure is complete—whichever is later.

Weekly COVID Testing throughout the Winter
Based on the increased risk factors associated with the winter season, we feel that weekly COVID testing throughout the ten weeks of winter term is required. Weekly testing will help us maximize community health while delivering our program in a mostly-indoors environment—and is a requirement for us to participate in interscholastic sports. In addition, we think that weekly testing, in concert with our other COVID mitigation strategies, will allow us to provide students a little more liberty and, thereby, promote better mental health across campus. We have identified a provider who can deliver tests for $20 per student per week ($200 for the entire term), a fee we will ask families to support through their Ram accounts.

Winter Athletics
We plan to conduct interscholastic athletics in our Lakes Region League, just as we have done this fall. The first contests are scheduled for early February, and we anticipate extending the winter athletics season into late March.


CAMPUS CHANGES FOR WINTER
During the fall term, we have leaned heavily on outdoor activities as an opportunity for students to socialize. In the winter, these activities will move inside with a new strategy, supported in large part by our plans for weekly COVID testing:

  • More weekday, daytime access to quiet study spaces. We will provide additional access to locations like the Dining Hall, Knowles Lobby, and the Library as places for quiet study, socially-distant meetings, or simply for a change of scenery.
  • A greater diversity of “free, fun” weekend activities indoors. We’ll focus on a diversity of activities within a few indoor “hubs” such as the MARC, Skinner Tower, and Hamilton.
  • RamTrams. We’re hopeful that a modified, supervised approach to RamTrams will give us some limited opportunities for students to get off campus.
  • Parent Visits. We plan to facilitate scheduled, structured visits between students and parents throughout the winter term.

During the Wellness Period, and at any other times of high vigilance, access to the amenities above will be scheduled by dormitory cohort and will, of course, depend on community health conditions. In addition, we may use access to these amenities as an incentive and reward for healthy behaviors.

Spring Break
Looking at a school calendar that stretches from January to June with no vacation is as daunting to school employees as it is to students and families. While we are not yet ready to commit to a spring vacation schedule, we remain open to the idea of a short, perhaps weeklong, break if it becomes feasible—and we feel it may even be a necessity. Our ability to smoothly and safely repopulate the campus this January will greatly inform our considerations of a potential spring break.

Zoom Session
I know this update may bring up questions. All Tilton parents are invited to a virtual QnA on Monday, November 16 at 8:00 PM. During this discussion, I will provide a brief recap of the first trimester along with some details of what's to come. You can register here.

Thank You
I know we are all looking forward to the upcoming vacation, and with my own student away at school I share in your excitement at seeing the whole family back together under one roof for the holiday. Still, I know that after just a couple days of rest, our entire community will begin to yearn again for the presence of your children on campus, and we’ll look forward to New Hampshire’s beautiful winter season—and a return to the shared, joyful work of teaching and learning together.


Truly,

David Thiel
Head of School