Hello from the President’s Office at Oak Hill Academy.
One unexpected benefit of a career in education is the sense of a fresh start I receive with each new academic year. Perhaps this is more accurate for the upcoming school year than at any other time in my 25+ years in education. The unforgettable year of 2020—with all of its unknowns and hurdles—is now in the rearview mirror!
In this regard, Oak Hill Academy is anticipating a much more normal year on The Hill for 2021-2022.
I’ll cut to the chase. What is our position in regard to our students receiving the COVID vaccine?
We recognize that some folks have different perspectives on vaccines than others, and OHA is not requiring that students receive vaccinations for COVID prior to returning to school this fall. However, we strongly encourage that students be vaccinated. The availability of the vaccine is abundant for anyone aged 12 and above.
Last year we opened school during the height of the pandemic and vaccines were not available. Please be advised that this year the school is not taking the same mitigation measures we did for 2020-2021. Among the many differences: testing for COVID will not be routine and will only be administered if students are exhibiting COVID-like symptoms, masks will be required in very few (if any) settings, campus will be open to visitors, students will be traveling to and from campus for open weekends and holiday breaks, students will be participating in athletic competitions absent COVID testing, faculty and staff and their families will be dining in the OHA Café with students, students will be participating in community events and off campus trips. To a large extent, many of these “normal” activities are possible because our country is in a better position in regard to the spread of COVID and because the majority of our adults (and hopefully the majority of our students) will have received the vaccine.
Of course Oak Hill Academy will always prioritize the health and safety of our students and community; yes, we will always follow the recommendations of the CDC; and, we want everyone to be aware that are we not seeking to recreate the OHA COVID-free bubble we maintained last year.
As OHA administrators begin to iron out the details of the 2021-2022 school year (specifically in regard to COVID) it does appear as if it will be necessary for our administrators and medical team to be apprised of which students have received the vaccine. The reason for this necessary distinction involves the protocol as currently established by the CDC. For example, if a student has been vaccinated and is exposed to COVID (at an away soccer match, for example), that student will not be required to depart campus for quarantine. On the other hand, if a student has not received the vaccine and is exposed to COVID, it will be necessary for the student to be quarantined and (likely) leave campus.
Moreover, we are also aware that a few voluntary activities may be available only to those students who have received the vaccine (e.g., participation in a tutoring program at a local elementary school, visiting a nursing home, etc.). Rest assured we will make such distinctions with care and discretion.
We are so hopeful for a “normal” year to return to OHA this Fall and encourage everyone to consider the individual and community-wide benefits of our students having received the vaccination. If you have any questions and wish to discuss further feel free to reach out to me or to our Dean of Students (and, COVID Task Force Chair), Mr. Aaron Butt firstname.lastname@example.org.
I look forward to partnering with you for 2021-2022.
Michael D. Groves