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Returning to School Update - January 2021

Dear Northwood Students and Families: Happy New Year from Northwood School! The first week of classes in 2021 went well, and we had students joining our remote classes from their homes in five continents. We are looking forward to welcoming students back to our campus soon. I am writing today to review what happens if a student’s pre-arrival test is positive, to remind students to sign the renewed (and online) Community Pledge, to share a small adjustment to our testing program, to preview life at Northwood during and after quarantine, and to remind you of the anticipated testing and quarantine schedule.  

1. Recent Positive Tests

 Since the start of break in November, we have heard about a number of students who have tested positive for COVID-19. All have been off campus and, thankfully, so far they have recovered with mild-to-moderate symptoms. One such positive case was diagnosed yesterday after a group of students played in a hockey tournament in Indiana. The most recent positive case brings up an important question: what happens if I test positive or am required to quarantine shortly before I am scheduled to return to campus? In these cases, the most important thing is to attend to your personal health and the public health by fully complying with government mandates to isolate or quarantine. When those orders expire, please be tested again, and if that test is negative you may return to campus, provided you are coming from New York State or a bordering state. Students coming from non-contiguous states or outside the U.S., must comply with the New York State travel advisory quarantine. There are too many details for this update, but if this applies to you, we’ll be sure to get you the information you need.

2. Community Pledge

All students and employees started the school year in August by signing a Community Pledge to protect ourselves, others, and our community from the spread of the virus. For the second term, we have made a few revisions and some additions. We revised and clarified some language around mask wearing and social distancing that should address questions that came up in the fall. We have also added a section for day students and employees.

3. “Rapid Test” Permitted for Pre-Arrival Testing

All students, including day students, are required to start the term with a recent negative coronavirus test that was administered no more than three days before the student's arrival at Northwood (Jan 15 for Jan 18 arrival) and start of the on-campus quarantine. We prefer the most reliable test, which is the PCR test, which is widely available at local clinics and at home via services like Vault Health. If you anticipate difficulty getting a timely PCR test, we will accept an antigen test (sometimes called a "rapid test") for the pre-arrival test. We prefer the PCR test because it is much better at detecting presence of COVID-19 disease when the person tested is asymptomatic, but we must have a recent negative test upon arrival at school, so we will allow an antigen/rapid test if that is your only option to receive a timely test. Do not return to campus without a recent negative test; you will not be allowed to move into your dorm room without one. This is a change from my earlier message, which said only a PCR test will be accepted. 

4. What to Expect During and After Quarantine

We expect quarantine to be a little easier for students this time around because students know what to expect and because it is eight days shorter than it was in August. Here is more information on what to expect during and after quarantine.

5. Another overview of the testing and quarantine schedule:

Monday, January 18, 2021: All boarding students return with recent (administered no earlier than January 15) negative tests. Day students must send their results to on or before this day. The pre-arrival test must be administered no earlier than January 15.

January 18-21: Mandatory four-day post-arrival quarantine. Second-trimester classes, which began remotely on January 5, will continue remotely until the conclusion of the quarantine. Students and employees will wear masks at all times, except when eating or bathing or in their dorm room. Meals will be delivered to students’ dormitory rooms. There will be no co-curricular training during quarantine. Exercise or outdoor time permitted in cohort only.

Day students will quarantine at home following these guidelines:  

  • Remain at home for the entire quarantine; leave only to be tested or for essential visits to medical providers.
  • Practice good personal hygiene, including regular hand-washing.
  • Monitor symptoms daily using guidelines provided by the school.
  • Stay away from campus until the conclusion of quarantine (except for the test clinic).

January 21: Testing clinic. All boarding students are tested by cohort on campus by Northwood Health Center staff. Day students and employees will be tested separately from boarding students.

January 21-23: Quarantine while awaiting test results. Same quarantine conditions as above.

January 23: Anticipated return of test results from lab. If all tests are negative, the quarantine is lifted. Day students may return to campus, co-curricular activities may begin, and in-person classes will commence the following week.

If one or more of these onboarding tests is positive, it is likely that all members of that cohort and other close contacts of the positive case will be required to quarantine at home for or with their emergency contact for up to two weeks and the positive case(s) will need to isolate at home or with their emergency contact.

Subsequent testing will be on the following schedule:

January 28: Assurance test 2

February 4: Assurance test 3

Weekly after that: surveillance testing

We look forward to having everyone back on campus.

Best regards,

John Spear Assistant Head for School Life

PS: students, don’t forget to sign the pledge!