Credit: Yoi Ashida ’20

The school facilitated 1675 PCR COVID-19 tests this fall, with the 500+ in-person population of students, staff, and faculty tested twice during week one of the term, followed by weekly surveillance testing of about 20 percent of community members.

“Having a successful term has taken an enormous, strategic effort on the part of everyone at COA, and I am filled with gratitude for this committed, conscientious community,” said COA President Darron Collins ’92. “We have been incredibly fortunate to be in a place that has taken the pandemic seriously and has given us great confidence in keeping our doors open to students this fall.”

All testing for the novel coronavirus was done through The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, with completed tests sent to Cambridge, Mass. by courier and results typically made available within 20 hours of arrival. One positive test was reported at the beginning of the term; after consultation with a medical team, it was classified as a recovered case of someone who had had COVID-19 earlier in the summer but continued to test positive. All other tests were negative.

“I am filled with gratitude for this committed, conscientious community” — COA President Darron Collins ’92.

The winter term is planned to begin at COA on Monday, January 4, and will feature a similar testing regime with The Broad as in the fall. The first week of classes will be entirely online while baseline testing is completed. The school will up their weekly surveillance testing to 25 percent of the in-person population.

Plans for the winter rest on the evolving state of the pandemic and state and regional regulations and protocols, Collins said. 

“We will continue to work with our state, regional, and local partners to determine whether it is safe and prudent to open the doors to our physical campus in January. We very much hope that it will be, and are planning for that at this time,” Collins said.

COA faculty have been given the flexibility to determine the best ways to teach their courses, with some faculty choosing to have most class meetings online. This flexibility has created a hybrid condition of in-person and remote learning modalities, with students and faculty working both on and off campus. That hybridity will continue throughout the winter term, Collins said. All in-person classes are held with participants physically distanced and wearing masks.

COA is a leader in experiential learning and environmental stewardship, and is the Princeton Review’s #1 Green College 2016-2020. Every COA student designs their own major in human ecology—which integrates knowledge from across academic disciplines and seeks to understand and improve the relationships between humans and their natural, built, and social environments—and sets their own path toward a degree. The intentionally small school of 350 students and 35 faculty members was founded in 1969 and offers Bachelor of Arts and Master of Philosophy degrees.