Since the spring, Mercersburg Academy has been working diligently to understand the impact of COVID-19 and to develop protocols to protect our community. We knew that planning to open to on-campus learning would be complex and would also require significant resources in order to feel confident in this direction. At this time, our goal is to protect those in our community who are most vulnerable while delivering on our mission for our students. We all must recognize that the way we live and learn together will look different, but in order to have the privilege of being on campus, we will make the necessary sacrifices to protect our community members most susceptible to the virus. Should we receive new information that impacts our plans, we will communicate promptly with our families. But for now, we have welcomed our students back to campus with the guidance of medical experts and state policies, both of which support our plans to return to campus learning.
Important Dates and Travel Information
Students will arrive on campus between Wednesday, September 9, and Friday, September 11. The fall term will run without a fall break until Friday, November 13. Students will then immediately begin an interim term called the Mercersburg Intensive, which will run from Monday, November 16, to Wednesday, December 16, with a break for the traditional Thanksgiving holiday. Students will take one course during this term and will begin the course in-person while on campus November 16-18, with the balance of the one-credit course continuing virtually between Thanksgiving break and winter break. All students should plan to travel home after classes Thursday, November 19, with a plan to return to campus January 9 or 10, to begin the winter term. The winter term return to school schedule is below for reference:
January 9–10: Level 3: Students will arrive on campus at their assigned arrival times; all students, including day students, will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival.
January 9–15: Level 3: Students will quarantine in their dormitories (boarding students) or at home (day students); classes continue virtually.
January 14: All students will receive their second COVID-19 test.
January 15-16: Based on the second set of testing, quarantine may be lifted and classes will begin in person (Level 2 transition).
To accommodate for moving our arrival day to January 9, we will be shifting Spring Break back a week to allow for a nine-week winter term for 9th-12th grades, a nine-week spring term for seniors, and a 10-week spring term for 9th-11th grades. Spring Break will begin after students' last commitments are complete on Friday, March 12, and ends on Saturday, March 27. An updated calendar-at-a-glance can be found here. We also anticipate allowing students who cannot or should not return home to remain on campus for a modest fee. We will communicate more information on what this plan looks like soon.
We are working with a professional third-party bus company to arrange the transportation of students on major arrival days. We are ensuring the practice of physical distancing and are requiring masks during transfers.
To request transportation from airports/train stations for the return to campus, please complete this form. Contact Transportation Coordinator Carol Ecton with any transportation-related questions.
Domestic Boarding Students: In order to alleviate traffic and congestion, students within driving distance of the school were asked to move their belongings into the dorm in mid-August. Students living in the U.S. must self-quarantine at home for 14 days before returning to school.
Students Living Abroad: Students coming to the U.S. from other countries should monitor CDC guidelines for reentry, which currently include a 14-day quarantine. As a result, both new and returning students living abroad should self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to school.
Virtual Orientation: Due to restrictions on having large gatherings of people on campus, we will provide virtual orientation opportunities for our new students and families. In addition, once students are on campus, we will conduct our on-campus orientation for students to acclimate to school life.
Enrollment and Tuition
Due to the evolving landscape of the spread of the virus, we continue to closely monitor the situation. Regardless of our ability to participate in interscholastic athletic competitions or gather in performance spaces, we are ensuring that our students have robust after-school programming that includes quality activity/sport-specific training. In addition, we are working to develop engaging new offerings for our students.
We are in frequent contact with our athletic leagues (MAPL, KSFL, PAISAA) and other peer schools about what is feasible for this fall and beyond. Whatever those decisions, we are committed to providing a full and varied set of after-school offerings that will meet the needs of all students within the guidelines provided by state and local agencies and that align with our safety protocols.
Yes, we are pleased to offer the school-day SAT to interested members of the Class of 2021 on Wednesday, September 23, and Wednesday, October 14; however, in the interests of prioritizing the safety of our school community, we have closed as a national test center on August 29, September 26, and November 7.
All faculty have been engaged in robust professional development courses and workshops over the summer. These courses and workshops focused on two areas: enhancing virtual learning experiences and diversity, equity, and inclusion work. In addition, the return of teaching faculty to campus in mid-August concided with the start of additional training and preparation to ensure our readiness to welcome our students back to campus.
As an example, here are some of the workshops and courses faculty took this summer:
New School Models Design Lab (from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education)
Designing Virtual Learning Environments (from the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education)
Audio and Podcasting for Educators
Designing Assessments for Digital Experiences
Advanced Google Suite for Education
How to Facilitate Project-Based Learning in Remote Environments
Games, Simulations, and Virtual Field Trips
Creating Effective Hybrid and Blended Learning Environments
Creative Use of Google Slides
Creating, Engaging, and Effective Instructional Videos
Design Thinking: Fostering Innovation
Teaching History and Social Studies with Technology
Rethinking Makerspaces in a Remote Environment
Creating and Designing Digital Experiences for High School
Bias, Privilege, and Equity: Who We Are and What We Can Do About It
Families should review the “What to Bring” information located in the parent portal under Resources. It will be important that students bring minimal belongings with them. Our hope is that whatever students bring, they will be able to pack quickly and fit in one car or take on their flight, should the campus suddenly have to close.
Some things to consider:
- Students should only pack for the fall term and bring items for the winter and spring terms with them later in the year.
- Students should leave extra furniture and decorations at home, at least for the fall term. Please do not bring soft furniture or rugs that will be difficult to clean and disinfect.
- The school will provide two Mercersburg-branded face masks, but students are encouraged to bring additional washable, reusable, cloth face coverings that meet CDC guidelines.
- With the possibility of classes meeting outdoors, students should bring appropriate clothing to protect themselves from cooler fall temperatures and precipitation.
The dress code for the fall term will be more relaxed than in previous years. Students should note that there will be no need for semi-formal attire during the fall term. Additionally, we will not be designating between standard dress and casual dress and ask the students to simply follow the overall dress code expectations found in the Blue Book.
The Office of Student Life and the Facilities Department have worked together to ensure that the beds and desks in each dorm room are adequately spaced for appropriate physical distancing. For the fall term, each student has been assigned a side of the room, and students will be asked to not move the furniture in the room. Additionally, there will be no bunking of beds, and limited lofting, only when needed to ensure appropriate physical distance. As noted above, students are discouraged from bringing extra furniture, as these strict layouts will likely prohibit its use.
A reminder that not all students will be returning to campus to learn in person this fall. Students who are affected by this have been reassigned a temporary roommate for the fall term.
It is crucial for the health and safety of the Mercersburg Academy community that the school create a safe and secure bubble upon students’ return to campus. Because of this, students will not be permitted to leave campus while Mercersburg Academy is in Level 2 mitigation for COVID-19. This will prohibit students from taking trips to downtown shops and restaurants, as well as weekend-leave requests.
Additionally, parents and other external members of the Mercersburg Academy community are being asked not to visit campus during this same time period. As Mercersburg moves to lower levels of mitigation, leave and visit requests will be reviewed and approved by the Office of Student Life.
Students who have items stored with Dorm Room Movers had items delivered to their rooms August 17-19. Students who have items stored with Dorm Room Movers and are not returning to campus this fall will have their items stored temporarily on campus, and will not be expected to pay for additional storage with Dorm Room Movers.
Students who have items stored will be expected to follow the “What to Bring” guidelines. Unneeded items will need to be shipped home, or stored separately.
Fall term ends on Friday, November 13
Mercersburg Intensive begins in person and on campus, Monday-Wednesday, November 16-18
Thanksgiving vacation begins after classes Thursday, November 19; students should depart campus then
Health and Safety
- Sanitation - The school has created cleaning protocols that exceed the expectations set forth by the CDC. In addition, we will be creating cleaning and sanitation stations throughout campus as we encourage our community to engage in the most effective form of virus prevention: washing hands and disinfecting spaces.
- Campus Restrictions - It is crucial for the health and safety of the Mercersburg Academy community that the school create a safe and secure bubble upon students’ return to campus. Because of this, students will not be permitted to leave campus while Mercersburg Academy is in Level 2 mitigation (or higher) for COVID-19. This will prohibit students from taking trips to downtown shops and restaurants, as well as weekend-leave requests. Additionally, parents and other external members of the Mercersburg Academy community are being asked not to visit campus during this same time period. As Mercersburg moves to lower levels of mitigation, leave and visit requests will be reviewed and approved by the Office of Student Life.
We recognize that day students and faculty and staff will be traveling off campus regularly and expect them to limit their exposure and to practice effective physical distancing and use of masks when away from campus.
Flu season will be in full swing when students return in January. To keep our campus healthy, we are requiring that all students receive a flu shot prior to their arrival on campus. If your student is scheduled to receive a flu shot during our on-campus flu clinic this month and follows through with that appointment, then they will have satisfied this requirement and there is no further action on your part. If their COVID-19 test is also negative, they will be allowed back on campus in January. If you prefer to have your child receive their flu shot at home, documentation will need to be provided to the Health and Wellness Center at email@example.com.
We understand that there could be reasons in which you do not wish your child to receive this vaccine. We ask that you contact Dr. Laura Nickerson, director of health and wellness services, if you have a medical reason for not receiving this vaccine, or Chris Howes, assistant head of school for student life and culture, if you have a non-medical reason for not receiving the vaccine.