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A Note About the Reopening of School

From the President’s Office at Oak Hill Academy

June 26, 2020

Michael D. Groves, Ph.D.

President, Oak Hill Academy

Thank you.

Thank you to our students and families for partnering with us during these most unusual times.

Thank you for your patience as we navigate the myriad guidelines and best practices for operating a school in the era of COVID-19.

We’re four months into the Coronavirus Pandemic, and pertinent new data continues to emerge daily. Now that we’re within the two-month window for opening in the Fall, I recognize your need for a plan that’s as timely and as specific as possible.

We have processed these very important decisions by adopting 5 guiding principles — and corresponding actions — which serve as the framework for re-opening.

Principle #1

The safety of students, faculty, staff, and the Oak Hill Academy community is paramount.

Yet, even as we strive to follow all guidelines for schools (via CDC, VAIS / VCPE and VDE for Higher Education), we recognize that we cannot ensure 100% safety from Coronavirus, even in Mouth of Wilson, Virginia.

Action:

We shall take every reasonable precaution to keep our campus and community safe, requiring high levels of cooperation and commitment among all members of the OHA community (parents, students, faculty, staff, administrators— and their families). We must commit to these requirements prior to arrival on campus and throughout the entirety of the academic year.

 

    1. Faculty and staff shall be tested for COVID-19 prior to the arrival of students on campus.
    2. Students are to limit their exposure for two weeks prior to arriving on campus, by:
        • Practicing social distancing (6 feet)
        • Wearing masks in public
        • Attending/hosting no large gatherings
        • Handwashing, and not touching eyes/nose/mouth
        • Cleaning/sanitizing/disinfecting
        • Avoiding non-essential travel/exposure
    3. The number of Family members accompanying students to campus is limited to two (2).
    4. Students shall be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival to campus.

Join Us for an open Q&A session

OHA will host two Q&A sessions with parents (via Zoom); in mid-July and again in early August.

Specific times to be announced.

Principle #2

The mission and value of Oak Hill Academy is related to our boarding environment as much as to our academic program.

We are committed to promoting our community and culture to the greatest extent possible. Accordingly — and based in part on feedback from parents — we will not attempt remote/distance learning (except as an “emergency” option).

Action

We are committed to a school program for the Fall Semester (and Spring Semester, too, in this regard) with students living on campus. We are a boarding school!

Principle #3

Oak Hill Academy’s secure setting, rural surroundings, and 24/7 learning environment are ideal for the creation of a family-like “bubble” on campus.

 

Action

    1. For the first two weeks of the Fall session, we shall follow strict guidelines for social distancing, testing, screening, and the wearing of masks — for all members of our community.
    2. After a level of insulation (likely two weeks post enrollment) is secured, many on-campus restrictions for students will be modified.
    3. Faculty and staff will continue to follow heightened safety guidelines.
    4. One building shall be dedicated for use as a residential infirmary should it become necessary to isolate a student after testing or screening (the building will be prepared by our medical staff before students arrive).

Principle #4

We believe that after arrival on campus, students will be safer and better insulated from exposure to the Coronavirus by remaining at school for an extended period of time — and by limiting trips to and from campus.

Action

Our school calendar, particularly our Fall semester, has been adjusted to provide the safest possible environment for our students and community.

    1. School will begin one week early,
    2. Open weekends and fall break will be eliminated
    3. Non-emergency trips off campus will be restricted
    4. Fall semester will be completed before Thanksgiving Break*

*Administrators are continuing to develop best practices for visitors to campus and for fostering regular communication between students and families.

Upcoming Milestones

— 2020 —
August 19-21: Faculty and Staff Orientation

August 22: Returning Student Arrival

August 23: New Student Arrival

August 24: First Day of Class/Convocation

November 24: Departure for Semester Break

— 2021 —
January 11: Second Semester Classes Begin

March 6-28: Spring Break*

May 15: Graduation


*Based on current projections concerning COVID-19.

Principle #5

Because of our understanding of how and where the virus is most easily transmitted, larger on-campus gatherings and activities will be restricted.

Action

Daily morning assemblies, Sunday Worship, and “socials” will all be managed differently for the Fall Semester.

Thus, we are working diligently to develop ways to build and maintain an active community through various on- and off-campus events.  Fortunately, the possibilities for safe off-campus activities are abundant in our region (e.g., hiking, biking, canoeing, fishing, outdoor parks that offer skateboarding and Frisbee golf). And, of course, there are always opportunities for fast food “carry out”.

Fall and Winter Athletics

The Governor of Virginia announced that we enter Phase III of reopening on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. This is certainly a positive development in regard to Athletics. Although competition may be affected for the first few weeks of Fall Semester, we anticipate a full schedule for winter sports (cheerleading, wrestling, and basketball).

We continue to develop how to conduct Fall sports (volleyball and soccer), in particular regarding competition with other schools.

We Are All in This Together

Our theme for the year is “Together.” Please know we are so excited to have students back on “The Hill” this Fall. Yes, the start of our school year will be different — and, yes, we will have to be more intentional in developing our sense of community on campus.

And, we are more determined than ever before to be here: in school, learning and living together.

Looking forward to welcoming everyone here this August! It’s Oak Hill Academy’s 142nd year.

Here we go!

My best,
Michael D. Groves, Ph.D.
President

 

If you have specific questions for one of our administrators or staff, please contact:

 

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