Fall Opening

Fall Opening Message from the Headmaster

Dear Woodberry Parents,
 
We are excited about the coming school year, and I am very hopeful that we can reopen the campus to your sons next month. Our team on campus has invested countless hours to develop a plan that balances the school’s program and the health and safety of our community. Though we’ll be wearing masks and keeping some distance between ourselves when move-in day arrives, it will be a great joy to see you and your son when you all return to campus. We have all missed you and are eager to have your sons back on campus. 
 
This message is consistent with what we shared a month ago and will provide additional information about all aspects of school life, including new health and safety measures and our plans for academics, athletics, the arts, and residential life. Our goal is to have the boys on campus for as much of the coming school year as possible. Keeping Woodberry open and safe will require hard work, conscientiousness, and shared sacrifices from all members of the community. Every year I call on the boys to work hard, build their character, and take care of each other. I will give them the same charge this year, and we are counting on them to embrace the shared responsibilities we have to keep our community safe and healthy. 
 
The first two weeks of the school year will require the most restrictive expectations around safety measures like face coverings and social distancing that we anticipate using during the year. If we can make our way through that period and grow more confident that there are no active cases on the campus, we can loosen restrictions and allow boys to mix more freely with each other. That is not to say, however, that life will return to “normal” after two weeks. As you’ll see below, we have altered our academic schedule and still face great uncertainty around the timing of interscholastic athletics. Because so many people, but especially so many young adults, do not have active symptoms when infected, we must continue to practice social distancing and to wear face coverings in many circumstances until a vaccine is available. 
 
Some health and safety measures will continue all year; others may be like a light on a dimmer switch that we adjust depending on the situation on campus and in the surrounding community. All of us — students, faculty, staff, and parents —  will need to be flexible and adaptable. The coming year will be unique in many ways, but I am confident that the Woodberry faculty and your sons will make it successful and an important chapter in every boy’s education.
 
Sincerely, 
 
Byron Hulsey ’86
Headmaster
    • .

Details on Areas of School Life

List of 5 items.

  • Return to School and the Fall Calendar

    Boys will return in a staggered fashion to allow for COVID-19 testing when they get to campus,  and to reduce the number of families arriving on campus on any one day. It is important that families adhere to the assigned arrival dates so we can space out testing and welcome everyone on campus in a safe and orderly fashion. We ask that only parents or the person who has been hosting a boy during his isolation period accompany students to campus.
     
    Parents or guardians can help boys move into their dorm rooms. It is absolutely essential that no parent or student come to campus on move-in day if they have experienced any COVID-19 symptoms in the two weeks before arrival or have been directly exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID two weeks before coming on campus. All students and parents must wear a face covering throughout the move-in process.
     
    In August the Dean of Students’ Office will send out a more specific plan for the move-in days.
     
    As a reminder, here are our planned arrival dates:
    Saturday, August 15: Prefects (begin self-quarantine by August 9).
    Tuesday, August 25: Sixth formers (begin self-quarantine by August 15).
    Thursday, August 27: International new boys (begin self-quarantine by August 20).
    Friday, August 28: Old boy fifth formers (begin self-quarantine by August 21).
    Saturday, August 29: Old boy fourth formers (begin self-quarantine by August 22).
    Sunday, August 30: New boys (begin self-quarantine by August 23).
     
    Thanksgiving break will begin on Saturday, November 21. Online classes will begin Monday, November 30 and run until the Christmas break begins on December 19. We hope to welcome students back to campus in January. Details about our plans for the second half of the school year will be shared no later than November 1 and hopefully sooner.

    View the online calendar
     
  • Quarantine Before Returning to Campus

    Quarantine by students before they arrive is one of the best ways to ensure that every boy arrives on campus healthy and ready to learn in person. The quarantine period also gives us greater confidence that the test we will give to all boys on arrival is accurate and that the test is not missing the early stages of a COVID case. If possible, we ask that any parents who plan to come to campus for move-in also quarantine for the week before arrival.
     
    • Quarantine should take place after any use of mass transportation, including planes, trains, and buses. Students who plan to fly or take a train should travel to a point within driving distance to the school and quarantine there for one week before coming to campus. 
    • If at all possible, we urge families to drive to campus this year.
    • It is our hope that students who are not driving to campus can quarantine themselves with a parent somewhere near Woodberry, or with a family member or friend who lives within driving distance. 
    • If there is no other option for a student, he can complete his week of quarantine on the Woodberry campus. Please contact dean of students Nolan LaVoie if your son may need this option. 
    • This request means international families should plan to arrive in the United States at least one week before arriving at Woodberry. Families can contact Mandy Alexander, director of the international student office, if they have questions about arrival or quarantine.
  • What to Expect on Move-In Day

    All families will go to the Barbee Center on arrival. Students will be met by members of the dean of students’ office and the health team. Boys will be given a COVID-19 test and will receive their room information. Anyone who stored belongings on campus this summer will collect those items and take them to their room. 
     
    We will use staggered arrival times in order to reduce crowding on the dorms. Everyone will need to wear a mask inside campus buildings and practice social distancing as much as possible. We will make sure hand sanitizer is available on the dorms and will also clean major touchpoints like door handles and elevator buttons during the day. It is essential for everyone to wear a mask at all times when on dorm or indoors, and it is very important to practice physical distancing on move-in day. 
     
    We will send more specific move-in plans to new boys and old boys in August. 
     
  • Testing to Detect COVID-19

    We will ask students to take three COVID-19 tests as part of the return to campus. Completing multiple tests over several weeks reduces the likelihood of a positive case coming on campus or of an infection spreading to multiple people.
     
    Before arrival: Before we can permit any boy on campus, he must have a negative COVID-19 diagnostic PCR test result. We will also accept an antigen-based diagnostic test result.  Antibody/serology tests will not be accepted. This test must be done within seven days of the student’s arrival date, so during his self-quarantine week. Boys should submit those results to WFS through the MAGNUS healthcare portal as soon as you receive them. You may independently secure a COVID-19 diagnostic PCR test through your doctor’s office, a clinical or public health laboratory, an urgent- or ready-care clinic such as MedExpress, or a drive-through/pop-up clinic at a pharmacy. Click this link to see a letter requesting a COVID-19 diagnostic PCR test to give to your health care provider. Again, this pre-arrival test MUST be completed within seven days of a student’s arrival on campus. 
     
    If you cannot obtain a test during the week before arrival, we will have a limited ability to offer a rapid test on the day you arrive. Those students and their families will be asked to remain down the hill until the student receives a negative test result. Once a student receives his negative result, he and his family will be free to proceed up the hill and begin moving into his dorm room.

    On Arrival: When a student arrives at WFS, he will be directed first to the Barber Center for check-in and a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Each student will pick up his welcome packet and mailbox key from the front table in the lobby, proceed to the nurse’s table to drop off any medications with Mrs. Firman, and join the queue for COVID-19 testing. The test performed at WFS will involve a minimally-invasive nasal swab that takes only a few moments to complete. We expect results from PCR tests several days after the test has been collected. 
     
    After Arrival: Boys will receive a second PCR test seven days after arriving on campus. This follow-up test is designed to catch an infection that was missed by the arrival test (for example, if a boy were exposed to the virus during his trip to campus or if exposed to the virus after arriving on campus). 
     
  • Creating and Maintaining a Safe Community

    We’re fortunate that COVID-19 usually does not impact teenagers as severely as it affects older adults. However, there are no guarantees that a teenager’s case will be mild if he becomes infected. And clearly we have many faculty and staff members in the Woodberry community who are in higher risk categories because of their age or their personal health situation. 
     
    We have had at least two cases of COVID-19 on campus so far (one involving a member of the staff, the other involving a painter working on the Walker Building renovation project). Both cases were contained without further infections because the people involved wore masks, practiced social distancing, and stayed home when they started feeling sick. 
     
    We expect to have more cases of COVID-19 during the school year. Woodberry’s rural location and ample space is an asset, but we are not a sealed bubble, nor can we be. In order for us to remain on campus, we must all work together to limit the potential spread of the disease when a case occurs. 
     
    All of us — students, faculty, and staff — will use four strategies to create a safer community. All students and adults will also make a Commitment to Protect Woodberry. None of the four strategies we’ve outlined below offers complete protection against COVID-19 infections, and we must be prepared for additional cases on campus during the school year. If we practice these four strategies consistently and effectively, however, we will limit the spread of the coronavirus and prevent the likelihood of a single infection turning into an outbreak. 
     
     
    1. Hygiene and Facilities Changes: We are working with an engineering and environmental health company to make adjustments to our buildings. We have rearranged furniture in classrooms, the dining hall, and other spaces to allow for social distancing. We’ve also reviewed our HVAC systems; thankfully all buildings with A/C use fresh air circulation (rather than cooling and recirculating air already inside the building), which reduces the spread of virus particles. We have also added more hand sanitizer stations around campus.
    2. Face coverings: Boys will wear a cloth face covering (mask) when indoors, with the exception of their dorm room and the dorm hallway where they live. Adults will wear a mask indoors. In the month since we sent our last message, it has become increasingly clear that the virus is likely spread via aerosol and can be carried in minimal amounts of moisture and remain suspended in the air longer than previously understood. The good news is that wearing a face covering works to prevent the spread of the virus; it is, therefore, a practice that we will prioritize. 
     
    We will give each student several reusable face coverings when he arrives; boys are also welcome to bring their own or purchase more in the student store. We will collect and wash the masks for the boys each week.

    You can learn more about why face coverings are so important here.

    1. Physical distancing: Boarding school communities are tight-knit, and they don’t naturally allow for physical distancing. But we will do so whenever possible. We’ve rearranged classrooms and will not hold all-school meetings for the foreseeable future. During the fall we will take advantage of mild weather and hold larger meetings (such as for an entire form) outdoors. We will hold several chapel services each week, allowing all students to attend but creating space for them to spread out. 
    2. Testing and monitoring: As described in the section above, boys will take three COVID-19 tests before, during, and after their arrival on campus. If a test is positive, the boy will be asked to return home and continue classes online until he is fully recovered. This is our preference for all students whose parents live within several hours of campus. Boys who live further away, whether in the United States or overseas, will be isolated on House D and receive care on campus from our school nurses, as well as telehealth check-ups from our school physician.

      Students exposed to a person with a positive test but not showing symptoms will be quarantined in Dowd House either until they receive a negative test result or complete a quarantine period. They would attend classes online during that time. We will use contact tracing to determine which students or faculty may have been exposed to a positive case.
     
    Some adults in our community are at higher risk due to age or other health factors. These employees will have the option of modified responsibilities until a vaccine is available. For example, a faculty member might teach a normal course load with strict social distancing and mask use in the classroom but not serve on a dorm team in order to reduce risk. Every member of the faculty and staff plays a critical role in the success of the school, and we know students will be flexible and understanding if they are asked to take additional actions to help protect a classmate or an adult who might be more vulnerable to complications from COVID-19.
     
    • .

List of 5 items.

  • Academics

    We will offer the full breadth of Woodberry’s curriculum next year. Faculty are preparing to teach courses where some students are in the classroom and others are joining online. We are also working to standardize our use of Canvas, Woodberry’s learning management system, to generate consistency across the platform.  
     
    Our modified schedule was built with both on campus and remote learners in mind. We already know travel restrictions or health conditions will make it difficult for some students to be here at the start of school. And it is likely that we will have on-campus students learning remotely while isolated and/or quarantined due to a positive case or exposure to a positive case. 
     
    Here are the key highlights of the schedule:
    • Classes will be held Monday through Friday. 
    • We will use the same schedule each week throughout the fall trimester. 
    • Classes for third and fourth formers will meet four times a week for 45 minutes. 
    • Classes for fifth and sixth formers will have two 45-minute meetings and one 90-minute meeting.  
    • Classes will also have asynchronous components where boys work at the time, place, and pace of their choosing.
    • Saturday will include new co-curricular activities for boys on campus.
     
    The decision to have one asynchronous class each week will prepare students and faculty for the period in December when all courses will meet online. These learning opportunities might include specific time for reflection, participation in threaded discussions with classmates, out-of-class collaboration, or intentional application of learning to broader challenges. One of our students' primary frustrations last spring was the increased amount of what many of them saw as "busy work." We hope that we will all be better able to support meaningful asynchronous learning that engages boys to think creatively and analytically in December if we weave this kind of learning into our courses from the start of classes in the fall.  
     
    Reducing the class meetings per week opens up time for the faculty to manage the substantial work involved to enhance and standardize our courses on Canvas, engage our students for the one asynchronous meeting per week, and reach out directly to online learners.  
     
    We have built the schedule in anticipation of the transition to December’s online learning, but also constructed it in a way that would allow us to move back to Woodberry’s regular schedule, including a resumption of Saturday classes, later in the school year if health conditions improve. 
     
  • Arts

    Just as we plan to offer our full academic curriculum in other subjects, music ensembles and other courses will be available next year. The music faculty continue to monitor guidelines from national and international music organizations. “Best practices” may be a moving target and evolve as the year goes along, but our faculty will help every student continue his musical education.
     
    Our drama and visual arts offerings are less impacted by COVID-19, though there will certainly be some changes. We look forward to another year of outstanding artistic achievements from students in all facets of the arts programs at Woodberry.
     
  • Athletics

    Read the July 28, 202 update from Athletic Director Matt Blundin

    We know many of your sons are anxious to know what athletics will look like this fall. Unfortunately this remains the area with some of the greatest uncertainty. As you saw in the schedule above, we will not hold traditional early ball practices. We will, however, share workout plans with boys (directly from their coaches or via the parent newsletter) in the next week or two so that boys can continue to work on their physical fitness in preparation for athletic seasons.
     
    The Virginia Independent School Athletic Association recently released health and safety guidelines for a return to practices; these guidelines are aligned with those provided by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). Athletic Director Matt Blundin and Dr. Hulsey are in regular contact with ADs and heads of school in the Virginia Prep League and across the state. VISAA, athletic conferences, and individual schools are still determining what makes the most sense for the fall. Our facilities review with an engineering firm will also call for adjustments in how we use locker rooms.
     
    The main possibilities include:
    1. Offering a modified set of athletic programming in the fall that includes sports defined as low-risk by the NFHS.
    2. Offering the regular set of fall sports but with a delayed start date and shorter seasons. 
    3. If interscholastic athletics are cancelled for the fall, students will be able to participate in modified practices and strength and conditioning. We are also exploring intramurals as a way to provide a fun and competitive alternative.
     
    No matter what course we and other schools take, we will incorporate athletics and physical fitness into our daily life on campus. We know that exercise and competition are important for boys' physical and mental health.
  • Online Learning and Delayed Return

    As described in the Academics section, all courses for next year are being designed so they can be taken in-person or online. They are also built so that a boy can be online for a few weeks and then join the classroom cohort without being behind. This will be useful in cases where a student is delayed in his journey to campus due to travel restrictions, visa issues, or pre-existing health conditions. This setup should also allow a boy who has started in person to work online for a few weeks if he is infected or quarantined.
     
    We want our students to be back on campus, and we know that’s what most boys and parents want, too. We are preparing to deliver the Woodberry experience in-person for nearly the entire year and for nearly all boys. But if your son cannot reach campus at the start of the school year, we are committed to supporting his academic experience until he is able to come to campus. 
     
  • Residential Life

    During the first two weeks of the school year, when boys are not in class they will spend most of their time with other students who live on their hall. This means boys will not need to practice social distancing or wear masks when in their dorm hallway. We will ask them to limit visits to other dorms during this time and to wear a mask and practice social distancing if it is essential for them visit other dorms. We will assign roommates to boys using the information we gathered this spring, though we do have a limited number of single rooms available if a boy is at higher risk for a severe COVID case. Please fill out this form if you believe your son is at higher risk for severe complications and needs a single room.  
     
    Because weekends and other trips off campus will be extremely limited, we are developing new activities on campus. These will include food truck visits on weekends, events at Robertson Lake, cookouts, competitions, and more. We plan to make greater use of our 1,200-acre campus than ever before. 
     
    The completion of the Walker Building project will also give us full access to Tiger Square as well as to a new outdoor programs space next to the building. 
     
    In early August we will share a full range of policies and rules about residential life and additional information about weekend activities. We also plan to hold Zoom calls for both old boys and new boys to talk through what the first part of the year will look like on campus.

Important Notes




>> Finding Rapid Testing Locations

Parents MUST PRODUCE A NEGATIVE TEST RESULT DOCUMENT
to be able to enter a dorm or academic building on Woodberry's campus.



Woodberry Forest admits students of any race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, and national or ethnic origin to all of the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religious belief, or national or ethnic origin in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic or other school-administered programs. The school is authorized under federal law to enroll nonimmigrant students.