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Update: Return to School in January

To the Northwood Community:

As 2020 winds down and our community celebrates this holiday season, Northwood’s faculty and staff are preparing for students returning to campus in January.  I write today with an update on our plans for the second and third trimesters.

In the last several weeks, there have been significant changes to state and federal quarantine guidelines that affect how we will onboard our students next month. These changes, combined with the recent spike in the virus in our region, nationally and worldwide, have led us to the decision to postpone student arrival by two weeks and make a few other changes. Updates to our plan, along with key dates, details, and deadlines for you, are listed below. 

In brief, the changes are as follows:

  1. Bringing boarding students back on Monday, January 18, two weeks later than originally scheduled. Because the CDC and New York public health authorities have shortened the length of quarantine, students who arrive with a recent negative test should be out of quarantine in 6 days instead of 14.
  2. Because of the shortened onboarding quarantine, we have added our traditional two-week spring break.
  3. The addition of the spring break to our calendar will necessitate extending the school year to the first week of June, our traditional conclusion of the school year.

Commencement dates for the classes of 2020 (Thursday, May 20) and 2021 (Saturday, May 22) are currently unchanged. While we are hopeful large outdoor gatherings like our traditional commencement ceremony will be permitted in late May, we may be required to alter the format and/or the date. We will consult with seniors and their families if it appears the date and/or format will need to change. 

Academics and School Calendar

Second-trimester classes begin remotely for all students on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. All classes will be synchronous (students and teachers engaged in learning and instruction at the same time) via Microsoft Teams. We will be on our winter schedule at that time, which means classes will be traditional (morning and early afternoon) on Monday and Friday and in the afternoon until dinner on Tuesday-Thursday. We are still working on the precise timing of the daily class schedule and will share that with students when it is available.

All class sessions will be added to students’ Team schedules in the coming weeks. We know that it may be impractical for some students to attend classes synchronously because of time zone differences or other reasons. Classes will be recorded and students who cannot attend synchronously will be able to attend asynchronously. As it was in the fall, students are either synchronous or asynchronous: they are not permitted to switch between the two types of instruction on a whim.

The second trimester will conclude on Friday, March 12, and the third trimester will begin on Monday, March 15. We will have a spring break from Friday, March 26 until Monday, April 12. Commencement ceremonies for the classes of 2020 and 2021 will be on May 20 and 22, respectively, as originally scheduled. Students in grades 9-11 will conclude the third trimester on Friday, June 4. An updated school calendar has been posted on our web site.  

Pre-arrival Testing

For the health and safety of the campus community, all students will be required to take a PCR test no more than three days before returning to school for the second trimester and submit negative results prior to arrival. Please be aware that because antigen tests are not nearly as effective at detecting SARS-CoV-2 as PCR tests, antigen tests are not permitted as pre-arrival, assurance, or surveillance tests.

We understand that it may be difficult to get tested in some locations or that there may be significant delays in receiving results. Our students have had satisfactory results with the Vault Health at-home test, which can be ordered ahead of time, administered, and returned via UPS Next Day Air in the morning three days before returning to Northwood. Students and families should also expect a standard health screening, including a temperature check, upon their arrival to school, and anyone failing the screening will be refused entry to the campus. 

Returning to Campus and Quarantine

All boarding students, regardless of where they travel from, will return to campus on Monday, January 18 and follow the same arrival guidelines. Students from states that are not contiguous to New York or from any CDC Level 2 or 3 nation must complete the New York State Travel form prior to entering New York State.

Monday, January 18, 2021: All boarding students return with recent (administered no earlier than January 15) negative tests. As we did in the fall, students will sign up for arrival slots to return to the dorm. They will be tested shortly after arriving and move into their dorm rooms. Boarding students without a recent negative PCR test will not be permitted into the dormitory. 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 begin 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. Boarding students may return to campus, co-curricular activities may begin, and in-person classes will commence the following Monday. If one or more tests are positive, it’s likely that all members of that cohort and other close contacts of the positive case will be required to quarantine 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 

Special Considerations for International Students We know our international students have limited options for dates to return to school because of the numerous travel restrictions imposed by the United States and many other countries. International students who need to arrive before January 18 may return to campus earlier with a PCR test no more than three days old and begin their quarantine in their dorm room, but they will need to continue to quarantine until the rest of the school completes its quarantine on January 23. There will be no additional cost for this service and no change to their academic program. International students who need to arrive after January 18 must quarantine off-campus and continue their classes remotely. Mr. David McCauley, Northwood’s Director of International Students, will assist students arriving late with their quarantine, which will be done off-site and may require additional costs. We must emphasize to all students arriving before or after January 18 how important it is for the school to know precisely when you will arrive at campus. Please inform Mr. McCauley ( of your travel itinerary as soon as possible.

What to Expect After Students Return to School

It is hard to know exactly what to expect for the winter and spring at Northwood. We will continue to be patient, flexible and humble as we plan the school’s response to the global pandemic. We will prioritize the health and safety of our students and employees and do everything we can to continue in-person instruction. The development, distribution and implementation of effective COVID-19 vaccines is promising, yet our medical advisors tell us that the vaccine is not likely to result in the school going “back to normal” this academic year. Instead, we expect students will be returning to campus at or near the apex of the pandemic in the United States. Despite the fact that the Adirondacks, our region of New York State, will probably continue to be one of the safest places in New York and the nation, we will likely return to greater community spread and more public health restrictions than at any time in the pandemic.

Students should expect to wear a mask most of the time when indoors, except when on their dorm hall, and when eating, bathing, or exercising. Visits to town will be prohibited.

We expect the Olympic Region athletic facilities, including hockey rinks, Whiteface Mountain, and the ski jumps, to remain open for our use, but we have seen similar facilities shut down in other states and know that spikes in cases, especially outbreaks linked to specific venues, can result in temporary closures, and we will be prepared for that possibility. We expect Snowsports athletes will train and compete at Whiteface and the other local world-class Olympic venues. It looks unlikely that our student-athletes will be able to race or compete outside the region, but the school and NYSEF will adjust if the situation changes. Our hockey teams are planning to train at the Olympic Center as they did in the weeks before break. The outlook for playing hockey games does not look promising, but our coaches will be flexible and schedule games if the situation improves. The 2021 Northwood Invitational Hockey Tournament in January has been canceled. Our soccer team will train on our indoor turf field until playing outdoor games is practical and safe. Our dance company and the co-curricular dance offerings will be able to train at the Dance Sanctuary.

Day students will have new, additional expectations, especially during the winter months, that include prohibitions against working off campus, eating out at restaurants, and travel outside the area. No student or employee will be permitted on school property if anyone in their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is required to quarantine because of potential exposure to the virus. Students and employees are required to notify the school if they or anyone in their family is required to quarantine or isolate.

Renewed Community Pledge Due January 5

In the coming weeks, a revised and updated Community Pledge will be shared with all members of the Northwood Community. The Pledge outlines all the ways that we, as a community, agree to act to keep each other safe throughout the rest of the school year. All students and employees studying or working on campus during the second and third trimesters are required to virtually sign the Community Pledge by January 5, 2021. Students will access and sign the pledge via the Northwood Community Team on Microsoft Teams. *           *           *

Our top priority at Northwood remains the health and safety of our school community. Thank you again for your flexibility and patience as we continue to navigate the pandemic.


John Spear

Assistant Head for School Life

PS: Following this in the next few days will be another email with instructions for: (1) submitting a new return travel plans, (2) signing up for an arrival appointment on Jan 18, and (3) signing the renewed pledge.