A letter to the local Burke area community regarding BMA’s plans to open the school in August (July 20, 2020)

We are reaching out today to inform you of our plans for reopening the Burke Mountain Academy campus. We have been grateful to be a part of the amazing Burke community for the past fifty years and want to assure you that we are mindful of how our reopening may impact our friends, neighbors and business partners. The health and safety of our students is paramount but we also care deeply about the larger community in our area and intend to be a partner in maintaining a healthy environment throughout this pandemic.

As you might imagine, the past few months have been challenging ones for BMA, as it has been for every family and local business. The complexity of operating a virtual school in the spring coupled with ensuring that we were sufficiently prepared for a reopening in the fall has been a tall task. We are grateful to have an amazing staff, a wonderful Board, and the support of our student families as we have navigated these uncertain times. 

We will be receiving students back to our campus the week of August 10th. Students will arrive in two waves and we have made restrictions on the number of family members who are allowed to accompany them to school in an effort to reduce the influx of people coming to the area at one time. Further, every student will need to produce a negative test result for COVID-19 in the week prior to being allowed to return to school.

Once the students arrive, we will be going through an extensive quarantine and testing period. All students will be confined to a small dorm group while they undergo a series of tests. The entire population will be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and then again 7 days after arrival. Once all the students have passed through both tests, they will be allowed to move about campus and we will begin classes.

In addition to following CDC and VDH guidelines for schools, we will be taking additional steps to ensure that we are making the best efforts to limit the possibility of an outbreak at BMA. First, we will continue to monitor all students and staff on a daily basis for COVID-19 related symptoms. Second, we will continue a frequent testing protocol that will include immediate testing for anyone who reports symptoms associated with the virus and periodic all-school screening tests. Third, our students and staff will be reminded of their obligations to practice appropriate hygiene, social distancing, and wear face coverings at appropriate times. Finally, we will be operating a closed campus for the foreseeable future. Once the students arrive, they will be restricted to the campus with the exception of biking, hiking, or running in the immediate area. While we regret that the students will not be able to frequent local businesses in the area as they normally would, we feel that this is in the shared interest of our students and our neighbors.

In addition to the preventative steps that are being taken, we are excited to have recently partnered with Northern Counties Health Care (NCHC) to help oversee the health of our students. We are in the process of finishing a new Health Center on campus that will be staffed by two part-time Registered Nurses who will work closely with NCHC to ensure that we are able to meet the needs of our students. Finally, we have designated significant space on our campus for quarantine and isolation in the event of a positive test.

Our intent in sharing the significant steps that we are taking is to offer transparency in our operating plans in hopes that our friends in the Burke area feel assured that we are taking appropriate steps to resume in-person operation as safely as possible, with the understanding that we cannot guarantee that a COVID-19 infection will not occur on our campus or in the broader community. Understandably, folks are concerned about people entering our community from outside of the local region and we want to assure you that we are working diligently to support the safety of our students, staff, and local community.

Best regards,

Willy Booker ‘96

Head of School