Teachers at Phillips Academy were allowed to elect whether they would teach online, in person, or a combination of both this year, taking into account their personal situations.
"We thought it was important to give as much flexibility as possible to faculty," said Dr. Raynard Kington, who was named head of school in December 2019.
"We had different factors to consider, like how important it was to be in person, how well their curriculum lends itself to online, whether they had children at home, risk factors for themselves or their families," he added. "So we decided for this period, we would let faculty make the decision whether or not they would choose to have all online or some form of hybrid."
The academy used a phased-in process of bringing students back to campus, in which two grades are coming in at a time. Ninth- and 12th-grade boarding students moved in from Sept. 10 to 13.
All students were tested for the coronavirus before registration.
"We typically have a registration process at the beginning of every year, so we want to make sure that they have all of their required forms and paperwork in order," said Dr. Amy Patel, medical director of the Sykes Wellness Center on campus. "For this it was very much focused on ensuring that everyone got a COVID test. We did a rapid COVID test on everybody before they were able to proceed through the registration process and head to the dorms."
She added, "We waited for their results before we had them proceed."
From Sept. 13 to 27, ninth- and 12th-grade boarding students quarantined on campus and the grade level day students quarantined at home.
All classes are being held online from the first day of school, which was Sept. 14 to Oct. 16.
Tenth- and 11th-grade boarding students are expected to arrive on campus from Oct. 10 to 11, according to the academy's website, "if campus systems and health conditions allow."
The 10th- and 11th-grade boarding students will quarantine on campus, while the day students quarantine at home from Oct. 11 to 25. All classes will be held online for these grades from Oct. 19 to 23.
According to the academy's website, by Oct. 26 all students will be in online, hybrid, or in-person classes, as well as afternoon and evening activities.
The academy, which has its own internal contact tracing team, has identified two community members with the coronavirus between Aug. 23 and Oct. 2, according to the COVID-19 testing dashboard on its website. The two positive cases were identified after a total of 5,353 tests were administered during that timeframe.
"We have been testing everybody on campus weekly, starting with our adults. And once we had students on campus, we added them to our testing cohort as well," said Patel.
The tests are taking place at the Sykes Wellness Center and Patel said more staff will be brought on as more students come back to campus.
"We actually have been at this point reconfiguring our staffing. So the Sykes medical team has put extra efforts on ensuring that our testing protocols are being executed as we bring on more staff. As we bring on more students, we anticipate needing more staff," Patel said.
Kington said onboarding the first group of students was a success and students have been abiding by the social-distancing protocols.
"We are still not fully up to capacity so we will be watching closely," he said. "A lot of this is about human behavior. We are learning about the things we need to emphasize."