Since spring 2019, 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.
Important Dates and Travel Information
The school has made the decision to begin the winter term virtually for the first six weeks of the nine-week term, delaying the return of students for on-campus learning to March 6. We will provide more details on the logistics of returning to campus in a future communication. In the meantime, the details outlined below should help you in planning your return.
January 11: Winter term begins virtually for all students
January 11-February 19: Classes will remain virtual during the first six weeks of the nine-week winter term.
February 20-March 5: Spring Break
*March 6-7: All students will return to campus for the remaining three weeks of the winter term and a 10-week spring term; receive their first on-campus COVID-19 test; and begin the quarantine period in their dorms.
March 8-12: Students will learn virtually while in quarantine and receive their second COVID-19 test at the end of the week.
March 15-March 26: In-person classes will begin for the final two weeks of the winter term.
March 30: Spring term begins
June 3: Last day of the spring term
June 4: All students in grades 9, 10, and 11 depart campus
June 5: Commencement for seniors and families
*By February 1, 2021, all families must indicate to the school whether their child will return to campus on March 6-7 or remain virtual for the balance of the academic year. (We will send out a survey in a future email.)
Spring Break will be from February 20-March 5, 2021. For the winter term, we are seeking to maximize in-person learning for all students. By moving Spring Break earlier in our calendar, we gain three weeks of on-campus time together. An updated calendar-at-a-glance can be found here.
We work 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.
Yes, every student must obtain a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 10 days before arriving on campus on March 6-7 and that test report must be submitted through the Magnus Health link found in the parent portal prior to arriving on campus. If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they will be required to remain off-campus until 14 days after they are symptom free. If a student tests positive but has no symptoms, they must remain off campus for a minimum of 14 days following the positive test.
Enrollment and Tuition
The winter schedule can be found here.
In order to accommodate students living in different time zones, and to reduce time that students must spend on video calls, we will use a variation of the Virtual ’Burg schedule used in the fall:
- Each class will have two class meetings per day. The student can choose which one best serves them in the time zone they live in. In addition, a student should expect an additional hour of classwork (which they will complete asynchronously) and 45-60 minutes of homework.
The schedule is shown below. If your child has a rotation 1 and a rotation 2 class, they will go to one of each class synchronously (with their teacher and classmates) each day. They will use the rest of the school day to complete their asynchronous work for each class and their homework. Asynchronous work could be group work with other students, individual work, take-home quizzes, essays, etc.
On the first class day of the winter term, we will ask each student to tell their teacher which session—the earlier or the later session—that they will attend every day. The student will be expected to attend that session for the length of the course, unless there are extenuating circumstances (a medical appointment, a college interview, etc.).
In-person co-curricular activities are not permitted across the state of Pennsylvania at present, including a ban on youth and interscholastic sports that will last until January 4, 2021 (and which may be extended). A number of public- and private-school athletic leagues and associations, including the Mid-Atlantic Prep League and Pennsylvania Independent Schools Athletic Association, have already cancelled on-campus co-curricular activities through the winter term.
All Mercersburg students will be engaged in PGA programming in some way, including a number who will participate in our expanded Lifestyle Fitness programming. We are working to adapt and adjust winter PGAs that will transition from virtual sessions to in-person activities, as well as constructing some new opportunities. Some of our students will be able to create their own experience, which we’re very excited to assist them with.
When we return to campus, our PGAs will in some cases overlap with traditional seasons and start/stop times. Some winter PGAs will continue through the early spring period, while some spring PGAs will start when we move out of quarantine. We may also run some short-term outdoor programming at the end of the winter term, then run our standard spring outdoor programs. Ultimately, our PGA experience will be different and will be targeted toward providing students with the best experience possible in their areas of interest. We will provide more details on the full structure as we assess and implement our resources and opportunities.
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
Health and Safety
The health and safety protocols that were in effect during the fall term will continue in the winter term with a few exceptions.
Due to an increased risk during the colder months of the year, the school will continue to monitor the need to implement interval surveillance testing. We will determine when this is necessary using both internal and external case numbers and positivity rates. We will continue to symptom-test as needed with concurrent isolation and quarantine.
The flu shot will be required for employees before arriving on campus in January 4. (Good news—the majority of our employees have already received the vaccine!)
We know that the best ways to limit exposure to and spread of COVID-19 are to adhere to clear protocols for cleaning and sanitizing, wearing masks, and practicing physical distancing when practical, especially indoors and outside of our circles. Below is more information to help families understand our commitment to the health and wellness of our community.
- Sanitation - The school has created cleaning protocols that exceed the expectations set forth by the CDC. In addition, we have installed 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.
Masks - At this time, we expect that all students, faculty, staff, and others on campus will be required to wear masks on campus and we encourage all families to plan to send their students back to school with multiple washable masks.
Testing - We are requiring every student to have a COVID-19 PCR test within 7 days of their arrival on campus as well as a test on the day of arrival and a second test five days later. Additional testing may be required throughout the school year; we will determine those testing intervals based on recommendations from the CDC and local and state health departments, best practices for residential schools, and the needs of our school.
Health Monitoring - All students, faculty, and staff will be required to answer a series of online questions about symptoms related to COVID-19 every day prior to the start of the school day (this includes a self-administered temperature check). They may not attend classes or other school activities or come to work if they are symptomatic or have been in recent contact with anyone testing positive for COVID-19.
- Contact Tracing - Members of our community have been trained to conduct effective contact tracing. Employees and students are required to turn on the TRACE app on their cell phones before starting their day on campus. We are also currently exploring a wearable device for the winter and spring term.
- 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.
Yes, if a student has elected to purchase the health insurance provided through UnitedHealthcare, it will cover the cost of FDA-approved testing given in the U.S. Any hospitalization costs, including those for COVID-19, are covered under the insurance as well.