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A blueprint for a safe return

Stringent health protocols, a contained campus, and a modular academic calendar will enable the Academy to resume on campus this fall.

Interlochen's campus safety building

The Campus Safety building, completed in 2015, serves as the primary checkpoint for screening visitors. It will now serve as the site of daily health screenings and temperature checks for all employees and day students.

For decades, the Campus Safety team has protected the students, employees, and facilities of Interlochen Center for the Arts. From screening visitors to announcing the occasional bear sighting to sounding tornado alarms, Campus Safety’s priority is to protect every member of the campus community.

The advent of COVID-19 has presented new challenges to maintaining a safe and healthy community. In April, President Trey Devey established the Campus Health Task Force to plan a safe return to campus—and protect its people and places in the meantime.

As we recognize National Safety Month this June, we share an overview of our comprehensive plan to reunite our community at Interlochen Arts Academy this fall.

Implementing and enforcing stringent health protocols

Health protocols are perhaps the most vital aspect of the campus re-entry plan. Since March, Interlochen’s Senior Management Team has been working with the school’s chief medical advisor, who is a nurse practitioner and contagious disease specialist, to develop stringent guidelines for accessing and resuming activities on campus.

Upon return to Interlochen, all students and employees will be tested for COVID-19, with continued testing to occur throughout the school year under the guidance of a data scientist. All faculty, staff, and students will participate in daily health screenings and temperature checks, and will receive COVID-19 training detailing required behaviors and commitments to personal and community health. Social distancing, mask-wearing, and contact tracing protocols will also be established. All students will be required to bring at least five cloth face coverings to campus.

As an additional precaution, all students, faculty, and staff will be required to receive the annual influenza vaccine. Vaccinations will be administered on campus in October 2020 at no cost to students and employees.

Campus facilities will be optimized for transmission prevention. Classrooms, offices, and other common areas will be reorganized to adhere to social distancing requirements, and will be routinely and rigorously cleaned and sanitized. During warm months, outdoor venues will be leveraged as classrooms for increased physical distancing. Additionally, the plan designates isolation and quarantine areas for students who have been exposed to or test positive for COVID-19.

Establishing a contained campus

To prevent COVID-19 transmission from guests, Interlochen Arts Academy will be a “contained campus,” with access to campus restricted to members of our community.

All public events—including conferences, reunions, and external meetings—are canceled, and concerts and events will be closed to the public. Sadly, this also means that families and friends will not be able to attend performances, but may enjoy concerts and performances via an expanded schedule of live webcasts from the safety of their own homes. For the safety of all our students, visitors will not be allowed on campus during the semester. However, we invite all families and friends to participate in our Virtual Family Weekend on Sept. 25-26. Faculty will still be available to meet with families via phone and video conferencing. Academy alumni are invited to join us Oct. 16-17 for our Virtual Reunion Weekend. Planned activities include Zoom reunions, an alumni panel discussion, Interlochen trivia night, alumni coffeehouse, and more.

“We realize that not being able to visit and share their art with family and friends will be very difficult for our students,” said Interlochen Center for the Arts Provost Camille Colatosti. “However, this difficult decision will help ensure the health and safety of our community.”

Students will not be permitted to travel off-campus for shopping, field trips, or auditions, but will still be able to meet with representatives from colleges and universities through a virtual college fair. Faculty and staff will also be prohibited from traveling outside the five-county area. The number of administrative employees working on-campus will be reduced through remote work, and all day students and employees arriving on campus will be routed through the main gate to facilitate daily health screenings and temperature checks.

Establishing a contained campus also means that students will only be allowed to enter the Academy at two major intake points: The start of the fall semester and the start of the spring semester. Students will not be allowed to transfer into the Academy after the beginning of either semester.

Lastly, the academic calendar for the 2020-21 Academy school year will be adjusted to maximize the opportunity for in-person learning—and to prepare for the possibility that campus may close again.

The fall semester will begin three weeks early, on Aug. 17, to decrease student time on campus during the flu season. As a result of the contained campus guidelines, students will not be permitted to return home for the Thanksgiving holiday. A special on-campus holiday celebration will take place from Nov. 26-27. The fall semester will conclude on Dec. 18.

The Academy’s winter break will be extended to eight weeks, allowing students to remain safely at home during peak flu season. Classes will resume for the spring semester on Feb. 15. Despite the extended break, the total number of instructional days in the school year will remain the same.

The new calendar will incorporate a modular approach, with monthly “down cycles” to compensate for the lack of off-campus breaks. The modular curriculum will also create clear cycles in educational work, which will help minimize disruption should the Academy need to shift to remote learning again.

“We know that the 2020-21 Academy year will look very different, and that many of the traditions and events our students cherish may be modified,” said Trey Devey, president of Interlochen Center for the Arts. “But we are grateful that our community will be able to be together once more to pursue artistic and academic excellence. That has always been our purpose, and we look to continue that mission this fall.”