This week, St, Mark's is welcoming back boarders and day students who wish to return to campus, while other students will still be taking classes remotely. In a recent letter to the St. Mark's community, Head of School John C. Warren '74 spelled out the preparations undertaken and the changes made in order to prioritize the safety and health of everyone involved:
After almost two weeks of exclusively remote learning, we look forward to the start of classes on campus for some of our students on Monday, September 28. This day comes after many months of planning by our faculty and staff to ensure a return that prioritizes the health and safety of our entire community.
While we are excited to mark this milestone in the 2020-2021 academic year for the students who will be able to join us in person, we are also deeply committed to our students who will remain remote for the coming months. I am confident that those students who have chosen—or for reasons beyond their control, were required to make the choice—to learn remotely will have an experience that will meet the St. Mark's standard of excellence.
For those students returning to campus next week, life will be different than it was when they last attended classes in person in March. Students will wear a mask almost all the time. They will participate in a daily health check, and they will not be able to travel throughout campus as freely as usual. At this point, we are all used to some restrictions and a certain "new normal" that COVID-19 has forced upon us. It is my belief and my hope that returning to in-person life at St. Mark's, with all of its compromises, will provide those students who are able to be here with an incredibly positive experience, both academically and outside the classroom.
St. Mark's recently retained Environmental Health & Engineering, Inc. (EH&E) to assess readiness for managing operational impacts associated with COVID-19 while reopening and resuming operations. A representative from EH&E recently conducted a walkthrough of the School and a review of documents, as well as interviews with faculty and staff members.
The collected information was compared to best practices for reopening provided by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. (ASHRAE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA).
EH&E reported that "St. Mark's has developed a robust and mature plan for reentry in accordance with best practices. In EH&E's experience, St. Mark's planning is in line with or more advanced than similar independent boarding schools. Additionally, St. Mark's has the infrastructure in place to respond to changes in their population, the community, and in guidance in a timely and thorough manner."
Following are some of the health and safety measures St. Mark's is taking this fall: