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Initial Reopening Plan

June 29th, 2020


Dear Students, Families, and Friends of Darrow,

As we enter summer, faculty and staff are working hard to build a comprehensive, flexible plan for the fall. We recognize that there are currently a lot of unknowns with Covid-19, and mandates from the state and local health authorities may change if the rates of viral infection increase. We are proceeding to plan under our current understanding of the virus and modes of infection. For planning purposes, we hope this helps you with a better idea of what the fall will look like and what we envision our safety protocols will entail.

We will be offering a couple town halls over the coming weeks for new families and returning families - we hope this will provide you with a chance to see us, in the most face-to-face way possible, and ask any questions you might have. 

Start of School Year: We will be returning to campus in the fall as planned, with the approval of our plan by the Columbia County Board of Health and in accordance with mandated state guidelines. We understand that there are current limitations on international travel, and we will be working with our international families and students to support them through any travel restrictions and requirements.

August 25th, Tuesday: Core leaders return

August 27th, Thursday: Student Resident Advisors (RA’s) return

August 28th, Friday: New Students arrive for orientation

August 31st, Monday: All other students arrive

September 2nd, Wednesday: Classes start

Given the likely blend of face-to-face and virtual learning, student and family orientation may have a new feel and could have some online elements. Orientation is a great time to get to know the school and our community, and for our student leaders to learn and develop in their new roles. We are excited to think out of the box with these programs, and look forward to providing you with more details in mid-August.

Academic Calendar: We will have one major change in our 20-21 School Year Calendar, which will be reflected in an updated document posted to our website. Instead of our normal October break, we will be continuing straight through until our listed Thanksgiving break on November 21. At that point, we will all be off campus until the start of school in January on the 4th. A mix of virtual learning and online special programming will occur between the Thanksgiving and New Year holidays. The intention is to limit travel and exposure for our students, and will also give us the option to extend virtual classes into January if there is a resurgence of the virus in the winter months. Plans for our Winter and Spring here on the Mountainside will be made available as we gather more information throughout the Fall semester.

Changes to Teaching and Learning: 

Without compromising on the principles of Darrow’s Active Curriculum, courses and learning experiences will be redesigned for the blended model to maximize student engagement and to facilitate individualized academic support.

In our blended model:

  • Classes that are able to meet face-to-face given social distancing guidelines will be held in our classrooms, with necessary changes to section sizes to accommodate social distancing guidelines.
  • Face-to-face class meetings will alternate with students accessing learning materials and working on assignments online (virtually), to facilitate greater flexibility and to minimize group sizes
  • Students who are unable to return to campus will be able to attend fully virtually. 
  • Our weekly schedule will be modified to make it more suitable for the blended learning model. This will also allow for international students who may be delayed returning to the Darrow campus to take advantage of virtual learning. 

If you need to return to campus at a time other than the regular arrival times, please stay in contact with us throughout the summer so we can work with you to plan travel and room preparation here on campus. 

Testing: While we are still waiting for the final guidelines from the New York State Education Department, as well as the state and local health authorities, it is already certain that each student and staff member will be required to take a Covid-19 test before they arrive on campus, within a timeline that allows us to receive the test result before classes resume. Students and staff will also have their temperature checked upon arrival and on a daily basis. We will be asking our students and faculty to quarantine for at least a week before arriving on campus, and to follow all hand-washing and mask-wearing procedures as they travel to campus. We will be working with testing providers to be sure that we are able to secure tests for everyone. If any students or close family members are displaying symptoms associated with Covid-19, or believe they have been exposed to anyone who is displaying symptoms or who has tested positive for Covid-19, please contact the school so we can arrange for a separate arrival and testing date. 

On Campus Safety: With our beautiful, rural campus, we have the advantage of getting outside to support safe distancing. Our low total population gives us the opportunity to monitor the health and wellbeing of all our students and faculty, and allows us to stay isolated from other communities should we need to do so. 

We will be abiding by the local and state health guidelines for mask-wearing, sanitizing, and social distancing. Field trips and off-site Hands-To-Work crews are unlikely at this time. Access to campus will be restricted. In the event it is needed, a quarantine dormitory will be available with strict contact tracing and isolation measures in place. We will also be coordinating with Brock to make sure our food service is as safe as possible. This might include spaced out seating in the dining hall, to-go style meals, touch-free dispensers, or separate locations for meals. 

In our residential life program, we will also be looking to our local and state health authorities for guidance around dorm assignments, spacing, and sanitization of all areas in our houses. We are proceeding as usual with housing assignments until we have more information from the Board of Health, and will stay in communication about those assignments throughout the summer.

Looking at our Athletics programs for the fall, we will follow the state guidelines when it comes to athletic competitions and travel for games. We are looking at proceeding with normal athletics programs until the guidelines are finalized.

Day Students:

Based on current health and safety projections, we expect day students to be able to attend as normal. We will have one entry point onto campus for our day students and faculty to help with sanitization, temperature checks, and consistency in face coverings. With our restrictions on spacing and occupancy limits within our dorm rooms, it is unlikely that we will be able to provide day students with overnight stays during the fall semester.  

While this will not feel like a typical opening of school here on the Mountainside, we know that much of what makes Darrow the unique experience it is for students and families will still be here. We want to make this experience as safe as possible while still allowing for community building, rich faculty-student relationships, self-discovery, and transformation. We are so thankful for our wonderfully talented and empathic faculty, and all the work they are putting into this new teaching reality.

Finally, please reach out to us when you need us - we are happy to talk through any concerns you might have, and answer as many questions as possible about our initial plan for the fall. 

Initial Town Hall dates (Zoom links to follow)

New families: Tuesday, July 7th at 12 pm

Returning families: Tuesday, July 7th at 6 pm



Jenna Barbary-Glovsky, Dean of Students

[email protected]org


Mika Saarela, Dean of Studies

[email protected]

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