The Immediate Implications of the Coronavirus Epidemic on Hotchkiss

The following letter was emailed to students and their families, faculty, and staff on March 12, 2020.

Dear Members of the Hotchkiss Community,

Over the course of the past two weeks, a team of Hotchkiss senior administrators and healthcare providers has been meeting daily to monitor and plan the School's response to the quickly evolving coronavirus epidemic. We are focused on mitigating the risk of an outbreak on campus and the potential of such an outbreak to accelerate the spread of the virus beyond the campus.

As I have stated in an earlier communication about the coronavirus epidemic, we are an interdependent and interconnected community, particularly when we are operating in our usual way as a residential learning community living in close quarters on campus. The health of each member can affect and be affected by the health of the others in the community. We know from experience that when one member of the community comes down with a contagious illness, it tends to spread very quickly on campus. That is a normal, familiar pattern, as we have seen this winter with the flu on campus. It is also a familiar pattern for the campus community to experience another round of infections when we come back together following breaks. 

This coronavirus is different from the flu. So far it appears to be more contagious than most strains of the flu and more lethal than the flu; we have no immunity from it, nor is there a vaccine for it. We take seriously the risk of a major outbreak occurring on campus, and we are compelled to act to avoid that.  

We are fortunate to have excellent on-campus health care and access to an excellent hospital. While both the School's Health Center and the Sharon Hospital have adequate resources to address the typical health needs of this campus and community, they have informed us that they would be quickly overwhelmed if there were to be a surge of coronavirus cases. Overwhelming our local healthcare system could have major public-health implications. You may have read the recent New York Times article about "flattening the curve" or slowing the inevitable spread of a virus and why that matters:  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/science/coronavirus-curve-mitigation-infection.html

History teaches us that "social distancing" is effective. Analysis of the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918 reveals that social distancing slows the spread of a contagious virus and lessens the risk of overwhelming the healthcare system and accelerating the rate of infection. Knowing this and in response to the current spread of the virus in the United States, we have decided to put into place the following social-distancing measures:

March Break Extension and Distance Learning Implementation
We have decided to extend March Break through Sunday, March 29. Faculty members will return on March 23, as scheduled, in order to prepare to continue to teach their courses online.  Distance learning will begin for students on Monday, March 30, and will continue through Friday, April 10. Specific details about distance learning instruction will be emailed to students on Friday, March 27.

At this time, we plan to welcome students back to campus on Monday, April 13, with classes starting the next day. However, given the nature of the epidemic, we may find it necessary to adjust this timeline. We will continue to monitor guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as state and regional health authorities in making the decision about students' return. We will email students and families no later than Tuesday, April 7, with additional details about the return to campus.

COVID-19 Webpage
We have developed a webpage to share up-to-date information with students and parents. On this page you will find updates, recent communications, and links to websites with helpful information. You can access it at: www.hotchkiss.org/community-life/health-wellness/covid-19-updates

We recognize this change in plans is highly disruptive for students, families, faculty, and staff. We encourage students and families to reach out to the following individuals with questions and concerns:

Dean of Academic Life, Jared Hall / (860) 435-3186
Dean of Community Life, Steve McKibben P'22 / (860) 435-3739
Dean of Residential Life, Heather Perrenoud P'22 / (860) 435-3739
Director of International Programs, David Thompson / (860) 435-3179
Deans' Office: (860) 435-3739 or (860) 435-3189

The safety and well-being of all members of the Hotchkiss community, especially students, is our first priority. We are also committed to doing our part as an institution to flatten the curve and slow the transmission of the coronavirus.  

We are grateful for your understanding and your flexibility during this difficult and uncertain period.   

Sincerely,

Craig W. Bradley
Head of School

 

Answers to questions you may have:

What will distance learning look like?
Beginning March 30, live-streamed classes will start on a schedule beginning at 11 a.m. E.D.T. We have delayed the class start time so that students in all North American time zones can participate. These classes will be recorded so that students unable to join at that time will be able access them as well.

The revised class schedule will be forthcoming.

What happens if I don't have my textbooks with me?
Do not worry. All assigned readings will be provided electronically.

What if I am at home and unable to return to School on April 13?
Distance learning will be provided through the end of the semester for students who cannot return to campus. 

What if I do not have access to high speed internet during the period of online instruction? 
We are committed to helping students access distance learning. Please send an email to Registrar Heather Mechare with the subject line: "Internet Access."

What about school events, including athletics, and travel?
The School has suspended all School-sponsored events on- and off-campus until we resume our normal schedule, and we have restricted school-related travel by members of the faculty and staff to within Connecticut. 

All of the Founders League schools are making similar plans, and the heads of school are in conversation about the implications of these plans on the schedule of spring athletic contests.  

What are the requirements for students to return to campus?

All Hotchkiss community members:

  • must be asymptomatic and without a fever. Students with respiratory symptoms should contact the Health Center before returning.

  • who have traveled to any international areas designated by the CDC with a level 2 or 3 COVID-19 travel advisory within the last 14 days must remain off campus in the USA.

  • must not have traveled on a cruise ship within the last 14 days.

  • must not have come into close contact with a person being tested for or diagnosed with COVID-19 within the 14 days prior to return to campus.

  • must not have been asked to self-monitor, self-isolate, and/or self-observe by a public health official or medical provider within the last 14 days.

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