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Northwood plans fall semester

LAKE PLACID — Northwood School administrators are piecing together a plan to bring students back to campus this fall.

In a letter to the school’s students and their families on Tuesday, Head of School Michael Maher outlined a preliminary road map for reopening the private school’s Lake Placid campus on Sept. 3. Some students may have the opportunity to return sooner than that for athletics or “co-curriculars” — activities connected to classes — according to Maher.

Administrators plan to bring back students in phases and separate them into five or six groups, or “cohorts,” that will live together, eat together and do co-curricular activities together.

“The cohort will become a sort of extended family. If someone in the cohort tests positive for coronavirus, everyone in the cohort will be more closely monitored and restricted to ensure the virus does not spread,” Maher wrote. “Students can interact with other students outside their cohort if they are careful to follow recommended practices.”

Students will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, then retested again within 14 days. After that, the school plans to conduct “health screenings and regular virus testing.”

“We will be prepared to handle appropriately those who test positive and have space to isolate sick students, either in our expanded health center, or close by, with additional trained staff,” Maher wrote.

The school may also be required to reduce its classroom density — which typically hovers around 15 students per class.

“We expect some classes will be blended — some in person with the teacher and others remote,” Maher wrote. “Regardless, all students will participate fully in every class.”

Co-curriculars and athletic programs will continue, though in what form they’ll continue is unclear.

“We are scheduling games, camps, and events for the fall trimester with the understanding that this is all dependent on the guidance from public health agencies and athletic governing bodies,” Maher said. “If we are unable to compete or travel in the fall, our coaches will have enhanced programming in place that will allow colleges to continue to recruit our student-athletes.”

The school’s reopening isn’t set in stone. The plan, Maher said, is subject to “New York state approval using guidance from the state, the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and local public health authorities, and the not yet released Forward New York Plan parameters for secondary schools.”

It’s not clear when international students will be able to return to school.

“Travel to the United States is currently restricted, and the U.S. State Department has not started to issue student visas for newly enrolled students from outside the United States (returning students currently holding F-1 visas do not need new visas),” Maher wrote. “We expect the situation to open up as we approach the start of the school year, and will be in touch with international families frequently over the summer.

“The guiding principle in all our decision-making is the health and safety of our entire community — our students, staff, faculty, and the Lake Placid community. Our highest goal is to work together to bring our students back to campus this fall.”

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