NYA campus from above

Back to School Plan, Summer 2021

August 26, 2021

Dear NYA Students and Families,

I hope you are all enjoying summer. We look forward to getting back to school and seeing everyone. The start of the school year is right around the corner, and I want to take this opportunity to share some important dates and updates:

Friday, August 27: Lower School Picnic – 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Wednesday, September 1:

  • 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. – Middle and Upper School New Student Orientation
  • 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – Middle School Locker Open House
  • 11:45 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Ninth Grade Orientation

First Day of School: WE ARE MOVING THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL FROM TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 7 TO WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 in observance of the Rosh Hashanah holiday. We note important religious holidays on our calendar, and when they conflict with school, we always accommodate absences to observe the religious holidays. However, we also strive to avoid conflicts of important school events with religious observances. It was an oversight to schedule the first day in conflict with the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I apologize about the late notice, but we felt it was important to make this adjustment. The first day schedule will be as follows:

  • Convocation for grades 1-12:  7:45 a.m. on Denney Field
  • Kindergarten Arrival:  8:00 a.m.
  • Primary Arrival: 9:00 a.m.
  • Toddler Arrival: 8:45 a.m.
  • Picture Day for students in Primary-Grade 12/PG (Toddler photos and retakes on 10/20)

Thursday, September 9: Lower School Parent Night via Zoom at 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, September 14: Upper School/Middle School Parent Night via Zoom

  • Middle School: 6:30 p.m.
  • Upper School: 6:45 p.m.

Friday, September 17- Saturday, September 18: Homecoming and Reunion Weekend

Saturday, September 18: Steve Morris Annual Golf Tournament-Toddy Brook Golf Course, 8:00 a.m. tee time

Tuesday, September 21: New Parent Reception 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. under the tent. More information coming soon. 

The NYA Health and Safety Committee met throughout the summer to review guidance and finalize our opening protocols. As we developed our back to school plan, we considered the local COVID-19 climate, worked with area schools and reviewed other opening plans, and utilized the U.S. CDC Guidance for Prevention in Schools document to inform our decisions at NYA. The Maine State CDC and Maine DOE is no longer issuing direct guidance for schools and is now recommending schools follow the U.S. CDC Guidance for Prevention of COVID-19 in K-12 Schools. 

The last eighteen months have been an incredibly challenging time for everyone. There is a great deal of emotion and shifting guidance, and we need to be cognizant of the impact of this pandemic on our children and young adults. At NYA, we benefitted significantly by attending school in-person, and we remain committed to maximizing the student experience for the 2021-2022 school year.

As we plan for the fall, we continue to operate with the same principles that have guided the school throughout the pandemic:

  • Protect the health and safety of those at NYA and mitigate the risk of community spread.
  • Maintain the continuity and consistency of in-person learning.
  • Allow our students to interact socially and remain engaged in academics, athletics, arts, and the activities they enjoy.

This year will be different than last year with fewer guidelines and increased access to activities. However, we are still in the midst of a pandemic and are witnessing an increase in cases across Maine and the country. Although we will make some modifications to meet the specific needs of our community, the following summarizes our protocols to start the school year:

The following are some key takeaways for the opening of school in the fall.

Vaccinations are a key tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our school community and to limit the need for extended quarantines for our students. We strongly encourage vaccinations for eligible members of the community.  In addition to limiting spread, the U.S. CDC Close Contact protocols do not require quarantine for vaccinated individuals. Unless vaccinated students test positive for COVID-19, they will be able to participate in class and extracurricular opportunities without the need for quarantine in most cases. Vaccines are readily available, and additional information may be found here.  

Pooled testing is another effective tool for the school and our students. Students who participate in pooled testing will not be required to quarantine from school and school activities due to close exposure in most cases. Both vaccination rates and pooled testing participation will provide some key data as we look to reduce restrictions in the future.

Screening: Staying home when sick and with symptoms is a very important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19. We will no longer conduct morning screenings and temperature checks at each building. However, we ask that you conduct a self-screening each morning at home.

Ventilation: Proper ventilation will continue to be utilized as a tool against the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. We will employ a variety of means to ensure there is effective ventilation in buildings. Strategies will include, but not be limited to, open windows during good weather, HVAC systems, and air purifiers.

Social Distancing: As feasible, students and community members should practice social distancing, but restrictions and capacity limits in buildings have eased. There will be some limits on seating in common areas (Safford, Bicentennial Learning Commons [BLC], and the gym) and some classrooms. While some social distancing remains, the overall capacity in common areas like Safford and the BLC have been increased from last year’s pandemic levels.

Hand Sanitizer stations will continue to be maintained throughout campus. Maintaining good hand washing habits is an effective tool in the fight against COVID-19.

Masks:  Masks will be required at all times indoors except when eating or drinking and at all times on buses. Masks are optional outdoors.

While we believe that wearing masks reduces the risk of spread within the school, we also recognize the barriers that it places on our students. We hope to introduce additional mask breaks and will assess these restrictions as the year progresses. Key metrics to guide this decision-making will include:

  • Percentage of eligible population that is vaccinated.
  • Percentage of population participating in pooled testing.
  • Rate of spread in the school community.
  • Rate of spread in the greater community.

Campus visitors: Campus will be open for spectators at athletic events and other special events. Access to school buildings will otherwise be limited to students and staff except with a pre-scheduled campus appointment.

Class Overnights: We are pleased to again offer some overnight trips for the Middle School and Upper School. These provide an important outdoor and group building experience for our students and faculty. Because students will be in close quarters during times when face coverings are not feasible, we will require students to either participate in pooled testing or obtain a negative PCR COVID test within 72 hours of their trip. Additional information on trips will be forthcoming.

Athletics: Athletic protocols were shared with Upper School teams, and updates will be forwarded as appropriate. Information on athletic protocols will be shared with Middle School teams prior to the first day of practice. We are pleased to welcome spectators to home and away events. For spectators, masks are optional for outdoor events and required for indoor events.

Remote Learning: We will not offer remote learning as a long-term substitution for in-person learning, but we will continue to offer remote learning on a finite basis for special circumstances outlined in our full policy here

Travel policy: For domestic travel, anyone who is not vaccinated and is not participating in pooled testing will be asked to follow the CDC’s recommendations for people who are not fully vaccinated. There are no restrictions regarding domestic travel, but please consider the risks and take steps to mitigate exposure during travel. For international travel, all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, are required to obtain a negative test within 72 hours of travel. You will also need to receive a negative test within 3-5 days after travel. Unvaccinated individuals must also quarantine for seven days in addition to a negative test. Quarantine period without a negative test is 10 days. Full international travel guidelines are available through this link

While we are unified in our care for our children and students, our community is like others with varying perspectives on the best way to confront this pandemic. I respect these differing viewpoints, and most of all, I am eager for a return to normal. We will continue to monitor the climate and strive to make prudent decisions in support of our students. I appreciate everyone’s support, understanding, and commitment to remaining healthy at NYA.


Ben Jackson
Head of School