ANDOVER — Phillips Academy has started a phased-in process of bringing students back to campus — two grades at a time, boarding students first, followed by day students.
Meanwhile, Head of School Dr. Raynard Kington is allowing teachers to decide whether to do classes online, in-person or a combination of both, taking into account their personal situations.
“We thought it was important to give as much flexibility as possible to faculty,” said Kington, who was named head of school in December 2019, just a few months before the pandemic.
“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 phased-in approach started Sept. 10 to 13, when ninth- and 12th-grade boarding students moved in.
All of them were tested for the coronavirus before registration and waited for results before being allowed to proceed to their rooms.
“We typically have a registration process at the beginning of every year, 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,” she added of this year’s registration. “We did a rapid COVID test on everybody before they were able to proceed through the registration process and head to the dorms.”
After checking in, those students quarantined on campus from Sept. 13 to 27, with their day-student peers doing so at home.
Tenth- and 11th-grade boarding students are expected to arrive from Oct. 10 to 11, “if campus systems and health conditions allow,” the academy’s website states.
Again, from Oct. 11 to 25, boarding students will quarantine on campus, while day students quarantine at home. During that time their classes will be remote, but students not in quarantine will start the combination of in-person, hybrid and remote learning.
By Oct. 26, barring any health concerns, all students will be in online, hybrid, or in-person classes, as well as taking part in afternoon and evening activities, according to the academy.
Phillips, which has its own internal contact tracing team, 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,” Patel said.
The tests are taking place at the Sykes Wellness Center. Patel said more staff will be brought on as more students return.
“We actually have been at this point reconfiguring our staffing,” Patel said. “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.”
Kington said onboarding the first group was a success and students have been abiding by the 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.”