The fire of pandemic rages across the United States. Unfortunately, the vaccine “firehose” is months away for our teachers and students. Therefore, we must strengthen the “bubble” at Franklin Academy if we are to repopulate campus in mid-January and safely navigate our way through the Winter Trimester.

Please know that the school’s ad hoc safety review committee met regularly during the December Intersession. The committee produced a thoughtful report, building on the success of our Fall Trimester plan. Now, the administrative team and the school’s trustees have endorsed a new set of recommendations emerging from the committee’s deliberations.

Here is a summary of enhancements to our existing COVID-19 safety plan. First, there will be a more robust testing regimen. We will test all employees Wednesday of every week, starting on January 20, and we will test all students every other Wednesday, beginning January 20. We are also endeavoring to secure a rapid test for on-campus use in the event of contagion. Second, day students will not be permitted to travel back and forth from home to campus. Instead, they will have the option of participating in Cyber Franklin or boarding at the school’s cost. In other words, day students will receive a room and board scholarship grant to cover residential costs during the Winter Trimester.

Next, we are not allowing visitors to come to campus during January, February, and early March. The only exceptions are drivers making deliveries. Of course, we will permit current parents to drop off their students during the two days of repopulating campus in mid-January and pick-up at the end of the term. Additionally, we will postpone admissions tours until the March break, when no one is on campus. Fourth, we are tightening requirements for mask-wearing and limiting contact between teams. Finally, there is no tolerance for individuals unable to follow safety protocols.

I recommend that current Franklin parents reread the previous two paragraphs with their students and scrutinize the safety committee’s full report by clicking here. You will then need to make the right decision for your family to “zoom or room” for during Winter Trimester. As a safety valve for boarders or day students who need to decompress and reconnect with their families during the trimester, a return home is possible. However, these home visits will necessitate a 10-14 day quarantine and a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. Full participation in the program as a Cyber Franklin student is available during this time away from school.

I want to conclude by saying that better times are coming but not yet. While I am encouraged by the relatively low positivity numbers in Middlesex County and East Haddam, this winter will be rugged. We believe that our students will benefit from being on campus. Still, we need everyone’s cooperation and support to protect our community.