The Green Mountain Valley School (GMVS) welcomed the senior class of 2021 back to its Fayston campus on August 31 as student athletes gear up for a year unlike any other. The 12th-grade students comprised the first group returning in a phased reopening plan. Eighth- and ninth-grade students followed on Wednesday, September 2, and 10th- and 11th-grade on Friday, September 4. Prior to arrival, all students were required to follow Vermont state travel guidelines, including quarantining and providing proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within seven days of arrival.
Between this week’s arrival and the start of classes on Monday, September 8, students are involved in a busy schedule of orientation activities aimed at preparing for the year to come and the unique circumstances of this year. Of utmost importance, students are being educated on the importance of following new protocols in place to maintain a healthy community. Head of school Tracy Keller is energized by the buzz of student activity on campus and maintains a positive outlook for the year ahead. “We are thrilled to welcome students back to in-person operations. We have prioritized the health and safety of our students, staff and Mad River Valley community, and we are confident that we have developed a plan that will support our students’ academic endeavors and athletic ambitions through this unprecedented time.”
Since early spring, GMVS has collaborated with the leading boarding schools and ski academies throughout New England that regularly share public health, educational, athletic and wellness resources. Additional expertise and guidance from the state of Vermont and local health officials shaped the development of a stringent return to school plan and COVID-19 campus protocols that are aimed at maintaining the health and safety of all students, staff and the greater Mad River Valley Community.
In the return to school plan, GMVS has detailed a four-tiered approach that will guide operations through the fluid landscape of attending a boarding school during a pandemic. Starting in tier II, GMVS will operate a four-day in-person, one-day remote schedule, where enhanced physical distancing and required mask wearing will be the daily norm. Boarding students will not be allowed off campus, and nonessential visitors, including visits from parents, are not allowed on campus. The school will conduct daily screenings for COVID-19 symptoms, temperature checks and weekly COVID testing of students and staff.
Students are finding a wealth of new rules and restrictions which are aimed at minimizing contact among different cohorts of students to minimize the risk of potential transmission or spread. They are also finding that eating meals outside is refreshing, playing spikeball can be competitively fun and movies on the new outdoor inflatable screen will be something to look forward to. Keller notes, “Campus life will look and feel different this fall, but our flexibility and resiliency, paired with a robust plan for operations, will guide us through the year ahead.”