Updates and information about The Marvelwood School's continued preparedness and response to the 2019 novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), including plans for reopening the School in September.
June 24, 2020
Dear Marvelwood Families,
As communicated to you in last Friday’s update letter, Marvelwood’s COVID Planning & Compliance (CPC) task force and other back-to-school planning teams have been actively working to outline how school can safely re-open in person this fall. Guidance and plans from the State of Connecticut and other schools and professional organizations have helped to set out a framework for repopulation of boarding school campuses. These plans offer excellent guidance, but also allow for the fact that different schools should set forth protocols uniquely suited to their needs for the safe resumption of in-person classes and activities.
In some ways, our intentionally small size, expansive campus and remote location work to our great advantage in terms of COVID planning. But like many schools and colleges, Marvelwood is taking a number of strategic measures to allow for the maximum in-person experience for students, while also building in the flexibility to adjust our plans, if necessary, to accommodate new information about the virus, testing, vaccines, and other factors. These measures will include adjustments to our school calendar, new health protocols, increases or adjustments in residential and classroom space to reduce density, changes to our dining procedures, the ability to offer simultaneous in-person and online learning and/or to switch between these as needed, and many more. While there are still many specifics to work out, we want to share some of Marvelwood’s preliminary plans and fall dates with you as early as possible to help in your family’s planning.
Return to Campus: It should be understood that the safety of our campus depends on disciplined individual adherence to a set of shared guidelines designed to mitigate risk. In terms of our process for reopening the school, one essential part of our plan is that Marvelwood will ask all students, faculty, and staff to follow “safer at home” protocols for two weeks before arrival on campus. We will send more detailed guidelines on these protocols at a later time, but in broad strokes, this means self-isolating within a reasonable driving distance of campus, taking every precaution for reducing coronavirus exposure for two weeks prior to returning to campus, and then returning to school without using any public transportation. (Students who typically fly to school are encouraged to self-quarantine with a friend, relative or other contact nearby; see below.)
Additionally, all students and faculty will be required to provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19, taken up to four (4) days prior to arriving on campus. This measure will help pave the way for us to reassemble as a community as safely as possible, regardless of the availability of reliable viral or antibody testing, a subject which the medical community continues to debate. Certainly, if there is reliable testing available, we plan to use that as part of our reopening and ongoing school program, in addition to other kinds of screening and safety measures, like mask wearing and social distancing.
International and domestic boarding students who typically travel by airplane to school are strongly encouraged to identify a “local” contact -- a friend, family member, or other resource in the nearby area -- and to spend the two weeks prior to the opening of school self-quarantining locally. The school can work with you to help identify potential contacts. In cases where this is not possible, these students will be given the option of arriving early on campus to complete a two-week self-isolation in one of our dorm rooms. While meals and supervision will be provided, there will not be organized programming during this time. We offer this as a service only to families whose students do not have options for quarantining at other nearby locations for this two-week period. If you think you might need this option, please contact Heather Hastings in the Deans’ Office as soon as possible to review your concerns. There will be a separate charge for this service.
In addition, students who need to do so will be able to petition to remain on campus through all school breaks and/or for the winter interim period for travel limitations/restrictions and safety considerations. This opportunity is being offered free of charge.
Registration & Orientation: Families will sign up for a registration time “reservation” that will allow us to decrease density throughout the process and manage traffic on campus. Where possible, we will ask that only one family member accompany each student to registration. Students will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test (administered within four days of arrival) in order to register. Our current expectation is that all students will also be re-tested for COVID at registration. Faculty and student leaders will assist with move-in and room set-up for boarding students, as parent access to dormitories will be restricted. Parent meetings with advisors will take place virtually, prior to arrival. Depending on the conditions and recommendations in place at that time, a parent orientation for new families will either take place on campus or virtually in the days following students’ arrival.
In many ways, orientation this fall will be more important than ever as we focus on the operational behaviors necessary to protect our community. In August, students and parents will receive and be asked to review and sign a Marvelwood Compact, which will outline safe habits and expectations for hygiene protocols, movement around campus, travel, and communication. Faculty, faculty families, and staff will also follow these expectations. It is incumbent upon each member of our school community to work together, understand the need for these accentuated protocols, and take personal responsibility to do what they can to minimize risk and exposure and to safeguard the health of all. We will be communicating with students about this throughout the summer.
Fall Calendar: Our first day of classes will be Monday, September 7 (Labor Day). Below are details about our staggered, safe arrival, and other fall dates.
- August 22,23: International and domestic boarding students with specific travel restrictions or an inability to self-isolate within driving distance of school can return to campus to allow for a two-week period of self-quarantine.
- September 4: Student leaders arrive (afternoon); staggered registration 1-3:30pm
- September 5: Staggered arrival (by appointment) for all new boarding and day students; registration times TBA
- September 6: Staggered arrival (by appointment) for all returning boarding and day students; registration times TBA
- September 6: Orientation activities for all new students (morning); back-to-school activities on campus (afternoon/evening)
- September 7: Academic orientation activities; classes begin; all-school Labor Day picnic
- October 9,10: Midterm & ”Virtual” Parent Conferences
- October 12: No classes (all boarding students on campus)
- November 14,15,16: Fall Term Exams; term ends November 16 after last exam
- November 17: Travel Day
- November 30: IDEAS Winterim begins (online from home for most; in person for any student with permission to remain on campus)
- December 11: IDEAS Winterim ends, and Winter Break begins
- January 2021: On-campus classes resume, at a date still to be determined
Academics and the Year’s Calendar: With the above dates in mind, and acknowledging that the IDEAS winterim will be conducted remotely, with most all students participating from home during that time, Marvelwood has adjusted the year’s calendar to reflect our commitment to delivering a full “traditional” year’s worth of on-campus teaching. During the fall term, we will be able to offer simultaneous in-person and online learning and/or to switch between these as needed. While our goal is to primarily teach in-person, this “hybrid” approach will allow us to be flexible and meet the needs of students who are unable to return to campus due to travel restrictions or health issues. Our academic leadership is also working on a revised daily schedule that will incorporate considerations for updated cleaning, passing time, and lunch protocols.
Campus Life: In an effort to reduce student density in residence halls, we are reimagining the use of our dorm spaces. At least to begin the year, we will create a day student-only dorm and three boarding student dorms: one for girls, one for boys in grades 9-10, and one for boys in grades 11-12. We are also expanding the square footage of the health office, and have identified two quarantine spaces on campus, for use if needed. The dining hall will also be reconfigured to minimize density and community members will follow new guidelines for all meals.
Athletics and Afternoon Programs: One of the hallmarks of Marvelwood's education is the breadth of opportunities students have in the afternoon. Although it is too soon to know what independent school fall competitions will look like (particularly since Marvelwood competes with schools in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York), our Director of Athletics is working with the league and other schools, actively pursuing ways to maintain competition with peer schools. They are planning for several possible scenarios, including resuming a full interscholastic athletics program, resuming a partial program, and the addition of sport-specific training, scrimmages, and/or intramurals on campus. In other afternoon activities like theatre, the hurdles for safely continuing school programs are less daunting, though again we will adhere to Center for Disease Control and local government guidelines.
Marvelwood is fortunate to be located in an isolated, rural, low-population density area of New England. We plan to capitalize on our open 86-acre campus, our outdoor facilities, and our immediate access to hiking trails, state parks, nature preserves, bike trails, ropes courses, lakes and ponds to provide a wealth of safe, engaging outdoor activities throughout the fall term and the school year.
Scheduled Breaks, Student Travel, and Visitation: All current medical recommendations, and the unique safety that our geographic location provides, suggest that keeping students on campus and in the local area will best serve our community. School-related student travel off campus (field trips, community service, weekend activities, athletics) will be restricted or canceled, and it is likely that we will similarly restrict or prohibit boarding students from traveling home for weekends, at least for the fall term. The traditional on-campus Fall Family Weekend will be replaced by virtual conferencing; we will also reduce the length of the mid-fall break and enjoy it on campus as a group instead of sending students home or off to more metropolitan areas.
Visitation to campus by family, friends, and other outsiders will also be limited, if not prohibited, for a period of time.
With much of the national conversation about COVID-19 focusing on a second wave, we are building a calendar that proactively addresses this topic while providing for needed flexibility. As such, we are planning to conclude our fall term at the Thanksgiving break, provide a co-curricular interim program for a few weeks in December, and reconvene on campus in early January. While some experts point to Connecticut’s cautious and careful re-opening as an indication that any second wave or resurgence of the virus may be “minor” in the state, we plan to maximize in-person class time during the fall term while being prepared to flip to distance learning if advisable at any point. As the weeks pass, we achieve increased clarity regarding the timeline and our ability to be in person this year, but uncertainty remains with respect to what will happen in the state or region, or what the CDC guidelines may be as we head into the winter months. It is likely we will shorten our March vacation to allow for a full two terms’ worth of in-person academics between January and the end of school. It’s also possible that we may need to adjust our planned return in January and/or extend the school year into early or mid-June.
We ask families to be flexible in planning travel for the second half of the year, as much could change between now and then. It is strongly recommended that you purchase refundable airline tickets in consideration of these possible changes. We pledge to provide any information about calendar changes in as timely a manner as possible, but reserve the right to make necessary adjustments up to two weeks before any previously-scheduled dates.
Marvelwood is confident that our blueprint for resuming traditional operations will give us the best chance of controlling our environment and being in person and on campus together. We recognize there is much we don’t know about the COVID-19 conditions that may exist just prior to and during the school year. We are outlining flexible planning possibilities to account for changes in conditions as we continue to discuss the upcoming year.
Since our announcement last March about moving to online learning for the remainder of the 2020 academic year, our faculty, administration, students and families have yearned for a return to the traditional school experience. The heart of our community lies in the relationships between teachers and students, coaches and players, roommates and peers who spring from different corners of the world and form lifelong friendships. We are all eager to welcome returning students back to campus, and to introduce new students and their families to what we believe to be a uniquely caring, nurturing, and inspiring community in which students grow and thrive.
Students’ return to campus is being designed with tremendous thought, care, and expert health advice. Marvelwood’s single highest priority is the physical and emotional health and safety of our students. As we continue to make decisions and refine our plans based on the latest health information, discussions with peer schools and experts, and the continued work of our administrative planning groups, we will provide you with updates as quickly as possible and throughout the summer. Please be on the lookout for our bi-weekly newsletters, and feel free to reach out to any of us with questions.
The CPC Task Force
Blythe Everett P’14, ‘16, Head of School
Timothy Carpenter ‘71, Chair, Board of Trustees
Mark Esposito P’11, Vice Chair, Board of Trustees
Heather Hastings, Dean of Students/Dean for Parents (Task Force Coordinator)
Caitlin Lynch P’13, Assistant Head of School
David Fiorillo, CFO
Barbara D’Iorio P’10, Executive Assistant
- Health and Hygiene
- Parenting a Teen During Covid-19
- Visitor Policy & Pre-Registration Form
Parenting a Teen during Covid-19
Dr. John Kennedy, Director of Counseling
April 30, 2020
The coronavirus disease pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working from home, physical distancing — it's a lot to navigate for anyone, but especially for parents. Parents of teenagers have unique challenges as they attempt to try and support their young adults during this time.
Compared to young children, teenagers living and learning at home during the COVID-19 crisis are feeling the loss of social connections and life experiences while struggling to manage their time.
Here are some strategies that might help to address these parenting challenges, especially at a time when many adults are struggling to hold it all together themselves and may not have easy access to their usual reserves.
Acknowledge that this is hard. Days are long, without a lot of structure. Online learning is challenging. And uncertainty—about health, summer jobs, and when this will end—is not easy. This is true for all of us, but more so for young adults on the brink of a future that’s difficult to imagine. Talking it out can help put these uncertainties into perspective.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Parents should pick their battles while in family-isolation. While some behaviors, such as being disrespectful or hurting others, may be non-negotiable, parents could be flexible on other things, such as more screen time. It is healthy to have your teen pitch in to help with family chores (cooking, cleaning, laundry…), but try not to create battles that can be avoided. Be clear with what you expect and ask for help, without judging too much when they are not able to see on their own what needs to be done.
These are extraordinary times, so when your daughter or son is waking up late or spending more time online than you would normally allow—let it go. However, when you’re nervous that he/she has been spending too much time alone in his/her room, don’t hesitate to check in to make sure everything’s ok.
Make a plan for everyone to have some private time. Many of us have now been alone with our families for almost six weeks. Most of us have never spent this amount of time together without a break, and this can be taxing on our relationships, and the way we interact. Teenagers will need and deserve privacy and time alone. Most teens will be isolating in their rooms, and this is particularly normal during this time. Try and be realistic about what you can expect as far as getting them out of bed and doing an activity, or spending more time together with the family. Have a conversation with your child about how you can respect their privacy and alone time while still having them respect the needs of the family as a whole. Engage them in the process of making a plan, so everyone can have the space they need. Make it clear that you welcome your teenagers’ company, but don’t take it personally if they want to isolate in their rooms or in some other private space in your home. Some structured family time together can be important (a family dinner can be a good time to discuss how classes are going or if they have any ideas on some new hobbies or activities they might be interested in trying). Think about approaching your teenager with an extra measure of consideration when making requests for time with the family though.
Create a routine and a schedule. Ideally we want to try and instill or maintain healthy habits and establish a new routine, including eating a healthy diet, engaging in daily physical activity and getting adequate sleep. Be realistic though, since this can be a tough one to implement with teenagers. Start with small goals that feel manageable. A change in the usual routine can further lend itself to staying awake late into the night and sleeping in. While some modification of their sleep schedule can be OK, try to negotiate a reasonable sleep schedule and stick to it, avoiding sleeping too much. Many of our teens are not used to online courses, and may also not be great at getting to class on time and completing homework independently. They may need your help creating a schedule that can work for them and for the family.
Expect Friction. If you’re a parent who is sticking to the social distancing guidelines, your teenager is probably already frustrated with you. They are also getting bored of being home and feeling stressed about trying to manage their online classes. All children misbehave. It is normal when children are tired, hungry, afraid, learning independence or just bored from doing the same thing at home with the family day after day. There will be tension, and conflicts are sure to happen, so it will be important on how we manage it.
Try to be positive. It‘s hard to feel positive when our teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying “Stop doing that!”. But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right. Rarely are kids doing things on purpose to upset us and it is more likely that they have forgotten how important something is to us (like taking those five dishes and three glasses that are next to their bed to the kitchen) or are just a bit oblivious to how their behavior can affect others.
Redirect Poor Behavior. Try your best to catch bad behavior early and redirect your kids’ attention from a bad to a good behavior. When they start to get restless, you can distract with something interesting or fun: “Come, let’s play a game together!” or, if possible and safe, go take a short walk outside to defuse things. Use positive words when telling your child what to do; like "Please put your clothes away" (instead of "Don’t make a mess"). If spoken to respectfully, most teenagers will be willing to step up and help out.
Take your own pulse. Know when you are likely to be more vulnerable or if you are hungry or tired, or feeling like you have a short temper. This is the worst time to try and confront your teenager. It is almost sure to backfire and to escalate into a shouting match. Shouting at your teenager will just make you and them more stressed and angrier. If you must confront them, then give yourself a 10-second pause. Breathe in and out slowly five times. Then try to respond in a calmer way. I know…easier said than done, but we need to do our best.
Use Consequences. Consequences help teach our children responsibility for what they do. They also allow discipline that is controlled. This is more effective than hitting or shouting. Give your child a choice to follow your instruction before giving them the consequence. It is always better to warn your child regarding what will happen if a certain behavior continues, or a behavior doesn’t stop. Try to stay calm when giving the consequence and make sure you can follow through with the consequence. For example, taking away a teenager’s phone for a week is hard to enforce. Taking it away for one hour is more realistic.
Praise you child when they are behaving well. Try praising your teenager for something they have done well. When they do bring those dishes from their room to the kitchen, or empty the dishwasher without being told, be sure to try and thank them. They may not show it, but you’ll see them doing that good thing more often. It will also reassure them that you notice and care.
Keep calm and manage stress. Practices that can be helpful are mindfulness and meditation, deep breathing, physical exercise, keeping a gratitude journal and creating art. There are many apps that can help, in addition to gyms and other physical activity sites offering free exercise classes online. This is a stressful time. Take care of yourself, so you can support your children. Millions of people have the same fears as us. Find someone who you can talk to about how you are feeling. Listen to them. Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked. It is also important that you reach out to the resources at Marvelwood. Contact your child’s advisor, or an administrator, if you feel your teen needs more academic or emotional support. We are here to help in any way we can.
Have compassion for yourself and everyone in the family during this high stress time. We are in a unique time. The uncertainty about what lies ahead can fuel anxiety. We don’t know what is ahead, but remember, we are all in this together and many of us are having a similar experience with our own families. Reach out to others for support. Love your family as best you can and be patient with yourself.
Dr. John Kennedy P’14, ‘19, ‘22
Director of Counseling
The Marvelwood School
- Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
- Johns Hopkins
- State of Connecticut
- U.S. Department of State
- World Health Organization (WHO)