The Kellogg Music Center at Bard College at Simon's Rock. Photo courtesy Bard College at Simon's Rock

Simon’s Rock emphasizes health and safety in reopening plan

Weinstein called his ability to approach the decision to reopen campus carefully, thoughtfully and in an informed way a testament to the diligent work of myriad individuals over the past five months, including various reopening committees and subcommittees as well as discussions with local, state and national public health experts and counterparts at schools around the state.

Great Barrington — John Weinstein, the new provost of Bard Academy and Bard College at Simon’s Rock, left little to the imagination when the school’s reopening plan was shared late last week:

Bard College at Simon’s Rock provost John Weinstein. Photo courtesy Bard College at Simon’s Rock

“It is our intent to reopen the campus with primarily in-person, socially distanced classes; we will do so with the utmost priority being the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors,” he said of a plan formulated in close coordination with state and local authorities as well as public health officials. He was also quick to acknowledge that, as the public health situation evolves and the state provides new guidance, “[the Simon’s Rock community] will adjust our planning accordingly and will keep you updated.”

Weinstein called his ability to approach the decision to reopen campus carefully, thoughtfully and in an informed way a testament to the diligent work of myriad individuals over the past five months, including various reopening committees and subcommittees as well as discussions with local, state and national public health experts and counterparts at schools around the state.

“While we cannot completely avoid all risks upon returning to campus, we are determined to work together as a community to mitigate risk to the fullest extent possible,” he said in a letter to the Simon’s Rock community.

The view of the Simon’s Rock student union from Blodgett Circle. Photo courtesy Bard College at Simon’s Rock

The overarching message? “As we return to campus, we will operate under the philosophy of mutual responsibility and care. We will look out for and support one another, but it will take consistency, adherence, and cooperation to succeed in our efforts. This means that we will expect all individuals coming to campus to act mindfully, in accordance with all Simon’s Rock policies and procedures.” He then went on to address the following arenas in greater depth:

Arrival

Students will arrive on campus in phases between Monday, Aug. 17, and Monday, Aug. 24; each student will receive a scheduled date and time during which they are permitted to move into their assigned room. Students are asked to limit the number of individuals accompanying them to campus to one person, who will remain outside of the residence hall. Students will be asked to self-quarantine at home for 14 days prior to arriving on campus; upon arriving on campus, all students will be quarantined in their dorm rooms or apartments for 24 to 48 hours, pending test results (see below).

After a negative test result, students will be permitted to join the campus community. Day students will be asked to check in and out with campus safety each day and will not be permitted in residence hall rooms or common areas; they will be provided a designated space to relax between classes. Regulations for international students recently introduced by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are still being reviewed. Meanwhile, the school’s international student support team will continue to advocate for international students so that their academic program is not interrupted. Their statement of support can be found here.

Testing

Ongoing, weekly COVID-19 testing will be required for all students, faculty and staff. Tests will be administered upon arrival and continue throughout the rest of the in-person semester. Simon’s Rock has arranged, with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, to provide testing via a minimally invasive, self-administered nasal swab, and conducted under observation by a trained professional. All testing will be free. The school is also developing a reporting system to monitor students, faculty and staff for symptoms of COVID-19; college officials say more information about this process will be provided in the coming weeks.

The Mods residences at Simon’s Rock. Photo courtesy Bard College at Simon’s Rock

A group of Simon’s Rock employees trained in contact tracing — through a course developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies — will support the efforts of public health officials in the event that a positive case is detected on campus. The school’s plan establishes protocols for on-campus treatment, quarantine and isolation in the event of positive cases of COVID-19.

Should a student test positive, they will be immediately isolated in designated housing until cleared by local health authorities. Campus Life and Campus Safety staff will work together to ensure meal delivery and regular wellness checks on ill students, and students will be able to continue with their academic programs of study. Simon’s Rock employees who test positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted to return to campus until they meet all requirements set forth in the employee return-to-work plan. 

Academics

The fall semester will begin as planned with classes at the Great Barrington campus commencing Monday, Aug. 31. The semester will be conducted with primarily in-person, socially distanced classes, and masks/face coverings must be worn by everyone. Upper limits on class size have been set based on square footage of the rooms, and physical markers and signage will be displayed throughout classroom facilities to ensure proper social distancing. When possible, faculty will aim to hold certain classes outdoors.

Additionally, a number of courses will be offered remotely for students unable to return to the campus. The academic calendar has been revised to minimize student travel for both Bard Academy and Bard College at Simon’s Rock. In particular, the regular full-week October break will be replaced with a two-day break from regular classes; students will go home for November break and will remain at home for the rest of the fall semester; the final two weeks of classes, including reading days and exams, will be conducted online; students remaining on campus during this time will also take those classes online. The spring semester remains as originally scheduled and will be updated as conditions require changes.

Campus Access

The following campus visitor guidelines are in effect as of Aug. 1:

  • Students, faculty and staff, including most live-in staff, are not permitted to have guests on campus until further notice.
  • Employees who live in single-dwelling houses on the campus periphery may have guests as long as they are not accessing the main areas of campus.
  • Kilpatrick members only are allowed on campus as far as the Kilpatrick Athletic Center.
  • Simon’s Rock has a partnership with the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center for a drive-in theater. Ticket holders to each drive-in movie will be allowed access to the designated area of campus.
  • The campus will be closed to casual visitors, including dog walkers and campus walkers.
  • Only individuals with business with the college may be on the campus. All authorized campus visitors must be registered through the department with which they have business; must follow public health protocols and conduct symptom monitoring; and must be logged in to campus with date, time and contact information at their destination.
  • The gates will be closed at Lake Mansfield Road and the Gatehouse entrance so that all entry to campus is only via the Lower Pond entrance.
A past commencement ceremony at Simon’s Rock. Photo courtesy Bard College at Simon’s Rock

All students and employees will be asked to wear their identification cards in a way that can be easily seen; this will assist in assuring that the main areas of campus are being used by students and employees only.

Integral to the reopening plan is the prioritization of the health and safety of the greater community, including the ability of Simon’s Rock and the local health care systems to manage an increased caseload. These conversations would feature significantly in any decision to consider a mid-semester shutdown of in-person campus operations. Enrollment at Simon’s Rock has historically hovered around 375 students; another 40 attend Bard Academy, the nation’s first two-year high school for boarding and day students.

The complete reopening plan can be found on the Simon’s Rock website, or by clicking here. Weinstein, in signing off, reiterated the following: “Simon’s Rock is a unique and adaptable community, and I am confident that together we will make it through this challenging and unpredictable time. Thank you, as always, for your patience, cooperation, and commitment to Simon’s Rock.”