Simon’s Rock announced a plan to welcome students back to campus for the fall 2020 semester with primarily in-person, socially distanced instruction as well as virtual class options for students unable to return to campus. Developed by several committees at Simon’s Rock—and in coordination with state and local authorities, public health officials, the Provost, College counsel, and Bard College—the plan prioritizes public health and the safety of the entire campus and surrounding Berkshire community. In devising the plan, Simon’s Rock also consulted the Association of Independent Colleges & Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) and the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

“The core consideration in our decision to return to campus this fall is the safety of our students, faculty, staff, and neighbors,” said Provost John Weinstein. “We believe that primarily in-person instruction complemented by a robust program of ongoing, community-wide testing, personal safety practices, and training and education is the best way to safely deliver the Simon’s Rock educational experience while maintaining and strengthening our community”

Mark Pruhenski, Town Manager of Great Barrington, added, “I am pleased that Simon’s Rock’s Reopening Plan goes above and beyond minimum best practices for COVID-19 safety. I’m confident that this plan will help ensure the health and wellbeing of the Simon’s Rock community as well as that of Great Barrington and Berkshire County.”

Establishing a Contained Community

Students will return to campus in phases starting Aug. 17; classes will begin on Aug. 31. The fall academic calendar has been revised to minimize student travel for both Bard Academy and Bard College at Simon’s Rock. After arriving on campus, students will only return home for November break and will then remain at home for the rest of the fall semester. The last two weeks of classes will be conducted online.

The cornerstone of the campus reopening is establishing a contained community upon students’ arrival through rigorous, community-wide COVID-19 testing and a series of quarantines. Prior to arrival on campus, students will self-quarantine at home for two weeks. Once on campus, students will quarantine for up to two weeks. Thereafter, Simon’s Rock will sustain a contained community by practicing strict personal safety measures, symptom monitoring, and ongoing testing throughout the semester.

Ongoing, Community-Wide Testing

Simon’s Rock has partnered with the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard to provide free COVID-19 testing for students, staff, and faculty for the fall semester, with results delivered within 48 hours. Should any member of the Simon’s Rock community be exposed to or test positive for COVID-19, the College has established contact tracing procedures, isolation protocols and accommodations, and a plan for notifying local officials.

Limited Campus Access for Authorized Visitors; Commitment to Mutual Responsibility

As of Aug. 3, campus access is restricted to students, faculty, staff, and authorized visitors to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Casual visitors and guests will not be permitted on campus during the semester. Kilpatrick Athletic Center members will be allowed on campus only for use of the Kilpatrick facility. Additionally, Simon’s Rock has a partnership with the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center for a drive-in theater program to run through Labor Day. Ticket holders will only be allowed access to the location of the drive-in at the Daniel Arts Center parking lot; they will not be authorized past this designated area and will not be allowed in campus buildings.

On campus, faculty, staff, students, and authorized visitors are expected to observe personal safety practices as outlined by the CDC, including handwashing, the use of face masks/face coverings, social distancing, and daily symptom monitoring. Simon’s Rock is asking everyone on campus to operate under a philosophy of mutual responsibility by requiring all faculty, staff, and students to complete a COVID-19 training and sign a pledge affirming their understanding of campus policies and their commitment to protecting one another by following the policies. Authorized visitors to campus will also be required to review and sign the commitment pledge.

“The Simon’s Rock community is no stranger to developing innovative solutions to complex challenges,” noted Weinstein. “The extraordinary circumstances of the pandemic demand that we work together to reimagine education, and I have no doubt that we will succeed in finding solutions to living and learning together that are both safe and visionary.”

Simon’s Rock continues to assess the public health situation and is prepared to update its plan in response to new guidance and/or regulatory issues from federal, state, or local health officials. More information and updates on Simon’s Rock COVID-19 policies can be found by going here.

(information taken from a press release sent to WSBS from Bard College at Simon's Rock for online and on-air use, photo taken from Bard College at Simon's Rock Facebook page)

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