COVID-19 Safety Plan | January 2021



Simply put, we are doing it and it is hard. Physical distancing is a challenge and the colder weather has arrived. National and State level news and infection rates for COVID are daunting and remind us all that we must maintain our individual and collective vigilance. Our hope is for two full weeks with no evidence of COVID on campus before we make a few adjustments to our systems; such as re-opening more indoor spaces to physically distanced use (which is not without associated risks). While we have the latitude to make minor modifications to our plan, a significant change in our strategies is dependent on both the non-presence of COVID on campus for multiple weeks AND a change in the Santa Barbara County tier status, which appears rather stuck in Tier 2 (Red). Santa Barbara County Public Health has just rolled out a new and helpful dashboard. Tomorrow (Friday) we have another full community COVID surveillance testing event and hope for results in a few days but know it may not be until late next week. We continue to do as-needed testing for potential cases. Those individuals are quarantined in their cabins or the health office (depending on symptoms), until we get negative test results. Thus far, all have come back negative since our one and only positive a few weeks ago.


No planned or expected changes from the plan. We will run straight through to the December 11th departure date. Students are free to leave after 8:30 am on Friday, December 11th. We will celebrate Thanksgiving Day ourselves with some events, a huge meal on Kimpton Field beneath Grass Mountain, and … we will miss you. Trust me when I say that it pains me to cancel our traditional iconic event but I am also certain that it is the right choice this year.


Starting Saturday, November 21, we will allow and host a limited number of visits for immediate family members only during our “Half-Holiday” afternoons, which are many but not all Saturday afternoons (1:45 pm – 5:30 pm), Sunday afternoons (1:45 pm – 5:30 pm), and Tuesday afternoons (3:50 pm – 6:00 pm). It is vitally important that this opportunity be a special visit rather than a regular thing, and even more important that it is done with sufficient care and intentionality to fully mitigate the risk of transmission of COVID to our campus. We think we need to offer this for a few families and also believe that less is better in terms of the total number of visitors to campus. A few important notes on campus visits:

  • By appointment only (call Jill Brady to schedule 805-688-5114, Mon – Fri, 9am – 4pm)
  • Limited to 3-4 families per half-holiday (preference to new student families)
  • Limited to immediate family only, who must self-screen for any flu-like symptoms prior to arrival, and may be subject to additional screening on arrival
  • On arrival, check-in with the Faculty of the Day (ask any student to radio them)
  • Families must check and confirm with your child directly to confirm their availability (no laps or other Midland obligations) and if laps are incurred, the student will need to work laps off before the visit can take place
  • Students may not leave campus & family members may not enter school buildings (including cabins)
  • Masks & physical distancing expectations remain fully in force at all times (no entry into buildings, including student cabins, one designated bathroom available)
  • We suggest bringing healthy snacks, spending time wandering on campus in Middle Yard, or going on a short hike (check out with the Faculty of the Day, please)
  • In the event of a significant increase in local, regional, or on-campus COVID cases, we may have to cancel or modify these visit times on short notice.


We know that our traditional pattern of 6 weeks of school followed by a one-week vacation isn’t a viable plan for the Spring semester in the current COVID climate. Long ago we ruled out a continuous run of the entire school year (no breaks at all) but have been waiting to figure out what pattern makes the most sense. We now have clearer, but not totally reliable, information on things like SAT & ACT testing options, CIF cross-country running prelims and final, a myriad of other dates & events, and school day count requirements. We are also in the midst of learning about the sustainability of extended sessions of school without breaks (it can be done yet it is  hard for both students and faculty). In addition, we have learned from our own experience and that of other schools that we can reduce our pre-return quarantine period to 10 days, assuming that access to testing on a few specific days is possible.

In summary, our plan is this: to extend winter break by one week, add one week of remote school in January (these 2 weeks allow and support the 10-day quasi-quarantine), and then welcome the students back for the Spring Semester. Thereafter we will have 8 weeks of school, a two-week spring break (details below), and then return for another 9 weeks of school on campus. This results in year-end exams and graduation at the normal time (very end of May this year).

Key Dates Summary

December 11, 2020 | After 8:30 am, Winter Break Begins (students cannot leave the day prior)

January 8-17, 2021 | Quasi-Quarantine until the return to campus
January 11-12, 2021 | At-home Individual Pre-Return COVID Testing WIndow
January 11-15, 2021 | Remote School Week
January 17, 2021 | Return to Campus between 2:00 and 5:00 pm
January 18, 2021 | On-Campus Classes Resume (8 weeks)

March 12, 2021 | Friday after 6pm Spring Break Begins*
March 13, 2021 | Departures and Pickup completed by 12 noon*
March 19-28, 2021 | Quasi-Quarantine until the return to campus*
March 22-23, 2021 | At-home Individual Pre-Return COVID Testing Window*
March 28, 2021 | Return to Campus between 2:00 and 5:00 pm*
March 29, 2021 | On-Campus Classes Resume (9 weeks)
May 24-27, 2021| Exams

May 28, 2021 | Senior Awards Dinner
May 29, 2021 | Graduation at 12 noon, all students released by 2 pm. Campus is closed at 4:00 pm.

Over the next few days we will update the MyMidland Calendar to reflect these changes.


Plan and book refundable travel from home to Midland to arrive on campus by 5:00 pm on Sunday, January 17, 2021, and then plan and book travel for after 6 pm on Friday, March 12, 2021 (Saturday morning departures are okay as needed)

* Note: Members of the cross country running team should check with the Athletic Director (José Juan) and coaches (Ami & Matt) prior to making plans as we schedule around the current, but not firm, dates for the State Prelims (March 12-13), Southern Sectionals (March 19-20), and State Finals (March 27).

Plan and book refundable travel to return from Spring Break and arrive on campus by 5:00 pm on Sunday, March 28, 2021, and book year-end travel for departure from campus no earlier than 2 pm Saturday, May 29, 2021.


With great consideration for the health, wellness, and safety of all our community members, we would like to share our most current plans for a return to campus and the arrival process itself. Please note that we will be monitoring and incorporating Santa Barbara Public Health recommendations and evidence-based practice guidelines throughout the year as needed. In these uncertain times, we believe that a slow, collaborative and thoughtful approach is prudent when time is available, and moreover what our community and the world needs.  In this way, we can progressively share with you the incremental steps toward what we hope will be a sensible and nimble navigation.

We hear you– the longing to return to school, to be together. Please know that during the distance learning period, we have been working tirelessly to accommodate group-specific access to hydration, bathroom usage,  hand washing and sanitizing stations, more outdoor learning opportunities, scheduling adjustments, and more. We have rallied a Health Office working group to carefully consider every moment of possible contact and the nuts and bolts of being together safely. In addition, the Health Office has never looked better and more ready to serve our students’ needs at this time. Click the link below for our Return to Campus Plan Document.


We would like for this document to calmly walk our community through the arrival process and then through the various plans and expectations for the year. Recognizing that perhaps the changing guidance can be destabilizing, please expect further insight and developments on “Crafting a Special Year” in the coming weeks, as our interdisciplinary team of folks in the Health Office, Food Services, Disinfection and Sanitation, Administration, and School Counseling work together to provide you with our most well-informed strategy for the coming year. Please read the following instructions carefully and let us know if you have any questions. In light of your return, the fourth W is that We are here for you. And we have 4 W’s to remind us what we need to do.


The incredible challenges for students when they face the two-dimensional world of online learning and being away from the Midland campus is not lost on us. Like our plan to remain nimble and sensible in balancing our higher aspirations with our basic needs, the fourth W will have the space to transform and grow in response to the needs We hear from our community. We approach wellness from a holistic perspective that considers the whole of the community and the individual. We are in this togetherWellness includes yours and mineWe will provide emotional and support content throughout the year. Our success this year rests on our collective commitment to each other as evidenced by our flexibility, compassion for mistakes, sensitivity to each other’s needs, and ability to communicate well. We got thisWoohoo! And in the words of Malcolm X, “When I becomes We, even illness becomes Wellness.” Welcome back.

In solidarity, with care, and a Midland community waiting to welcome you back,

*In collaboration with the Health Office Working Group and the Admin Team*

Marissa Hildebrant Signature

Marissa L. Hildebrant, MSN | Health Director


Here we go!

It is our pleasure to confirm a revised campus reopening timeline. It’s time to begin preparing your travel plans. Make sure you purchase refundable tickets just in case! There are a lot of details below and lots more to come. Please read and review this update (and the subsequent communications) carefully.

Also, please strive mightily to comply with both the letter and the spirit of our guidance. We all need to participate in a collective effort to reopen the campus successfully,  safely, and sooner than we had last imagined.


As of Tuesday, September 29th, the California Department of Public Health confirmed Santa Barbara County’s “Tier Status” as Tier 2 (red). If the County retains this status for two consecutive weeks (through Tuesday, October 13th), schools are allowed to reopen for in-person instruction thereafter.

There is a very real risk that the new Tier 2 status will soften the general community’s commitment to vigilance. So, at this point, Midland’s plan depends on continued good news and compliance with recommended practices by the entire Santa Barbara County Community. A return to Tier one (purple) in the next two weeks would force us to delay the reopening again.


As I have noted before, our first priority continues to be the long-term health and well-being of our entire community. Our goal in re-opening has always balanced the strong desire to get students back on campus as quickly as possible with the critical need to do it safely and effectively so we remain open.

We now embark on a difficult journey together. I have faith in our collective ability to find our way and to “make do” in trying circumstances. Likewise, I can assure everyone that there will be complications and difficulties that we can’t foresee or that we simply miss in the flurry of activities ahead. We cannot let our excitement distract us from the tasks and responsibilities before us. I also know that we are living through unprecedented times and believe we can and will do this successfully.


This is not all the information, just the first round. In collaboration with Marissa Hildebrant, our Health Director, I will again host an afternoon video-conference call (accessible also via phone for those with constrained bandwidth) to explain further and to answer questions (see schedule and links below). To view the timeline & information in a pdf format, click here.


OCT 2 from 5:00-6:00PM Pacific: Friday Zoom Call w/ Head of School, Christopher Barnes, and Health Director, Marissa Hildebrant | This is an important time to learn further updates and to get questions answered about the details provided in this letter.

NOW – OCT 7: School activities & classes continue remotely

OCT 8-14: Teachers & advisors will assign independent school work. Although students will complete and submit assignments, they will not attend online class meetings. | This time will allow us to prepare the campus and to transition back to in-person learning (and to give the faculty a short break).


We traditionally have a break in October. This year, the break allows us to switch from remote school to on-campus in-person school. Students will have a chance to re-charge before we dive in!

OCT 15-20: October Break for Seniors

OCT 15-24: October Break for New Students

OCT 15-26: October Break for Returning Students 


“Quasi”-Quarantine: we require that the entire community take two full weeks before their return date to “wash out” any potential infection. This measure will significantly decrease the risk of bringing any illness to campus by radically limiting potential exposure. In the next day or so, more detailed information and expectations will come from the Health Office. For now, simply plan to eliminate all “close-contacts” (15 or more minutes within six feet of anyone) starting on the dates listed below.

Contact Tracing: Students should arrive on campus with a written list of all “close contacts” from the two weeks prior to their arrival. This list will be used only in the event of a positive test result indicating a need for contact tracing. “Close contact”  is defined as more than 15 minutes at less than 6 feet spacing indoors or outdoors (with or without masks).

OCT 7-21: Seniors & Faculty two-week self-quarantine

OCT 10-24: New students two-week self-quarantine

OCT 12-26: Returning students two-week self-quarantine

For students to come to campus, they must have proof of a negative COVID-19 antigen type test within 7 days of their arrival on campus.

ON/AFTER OCT 15: Seniors get COVID-19 Test

ON/AFTER OCT 18: New students get COVID-19 Test

ON/AFTER OCT 20: Returning students get COVID-19 Test


The shift in dates is significantly influenced by available dates for on-campus community testing, which needs to happen within a recommended time window to maximize risk mitigation after students return. Please note that students must remain on campus from arrival until the winter break.

Jill Brady, Assistant to the Head of School, has the task of coordinating all arrivals and will collect your travel plans. She is your point of contact for travel logistics (more details to come). Please respond promptly to all her requests for information.

The campus will remain closed to visitors, including families, at least for the first three weeks after students arrive.

OCT 22: Seniors arrive after 12pm

OCT 25: New students arrive after 12pm

OCT 27: Returning students arrive after 12pm

We will evaluate the feasibility of having a few weekends designated for parent visits. Preference will go to new student families.

Unfortunately, there will be no large community celebration for Thanksgiving. Clearly, this is not a time to gather 500 people on campus for a meal. But don’t worry–students and faculty will celebrate with turkey and all the fixings.

The first time students will leave campus to return home will be Friday, December 11 for the regular winter holiday break. They can leave campus as early as 8:30 am. We will announce the plans and schedule for the January return date in late November.

One final essential note: All students must get a flu shot before returning to campus! Signs and symptoms of the flu can look like COVID-19. Therefore, any student with symptoms will be quarantined. Having a flu shot will reduce the chances of getting the flu and may also reduce the severity of coronavirus infection. Soon, our health director will send helpful information about where to find free and accessible flu shots.

As always, if you have a specific challenge or problem let us know how we can help. I expect a  flurry of questions and concerns, and I will get back to you as soon as I can. I will also respond to questions in the next communication or meeting.

The Health Office, with the support of our re-opening workgroup, is finalizing a follow-up letter with more detailed instructions on the return and re-opening process. We need everyone to become familiar with these plans because no one person can re-open Midland successfully–the only path forward requires all of us to do this together.

We’ve called upon you to be patient. Thank you for that. Now we call on you for action (and inaction!). All this was, still is, and will continue to be hard. Through it all, we will look after one another, mitigate harm when we can, and find the needed reserves to persevere.

Now, more than ever, don’t forget… WASH your hands, WEAR a mask, WATCH your distance. Remember, WE are in this together.


It is a real joy to see Midlanders’ (students, parents, faculty, and staff alike) all leaning into this challenging time and finding the best in the moment and in themselves. Once again we see that remote learning, for all its intrinsic faults, isn’t impossible. We are forging community, delving into learning together and finding our way. Onward we go in the face of adversity, relentlessly seeking the best inside the complicated and difficult times we are all living through. Thank you to each and every one of you for your dedication to our collective endeavor.


As of late today (Tuesday, September 15th), Santa Barbara County’s “Tier Status” has been confirmed as unchanged (still in Tier one, widespread, and purple category) by the California Department of Public Health. The trend in Santa Barbara is both positive and hopeful; however, we are not in a position to reliably or prudently re-open the Midland campus for mid-October (the next re-evaluation will be in one week).


Midland’s first priority continues to be the long-term health and well-being of our entire community. We also collectively share a duty to participate in the local, regional, and national fight against the spread of the Coronavirus. Thereafter, our mandate is to honor the needs of our community and start school on campus as soon as possible and prudent. Given recent trends, it seems possible to do so in early November; however, there are no guarantees with so many circumstances beyond our control.

I want nothing more than to welcome all our students back to campus and get back to living and learning together here at Midland. Yet, we also must honor the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which demands difficult choices for us all. We continue our dialog with local health officials and the Santa Barbara Department of Public Health. Santa Barbara County will have to be in Tier 2 (substantial, red) for two full weeks before schools will be permitted to re-open under specific guidelines (which we believe we can meet). There is still no applicable or relevant exemption or exception process for us.

The campus return and re-open dates are now shifted two weeks later to the end of October (specifics below). We will confirm these dates on or before Monday, October 5th to give families time to make transportation plans (three weeks prior, not four weeks as in the past) and to share the detailed plans and expectations for our two-week quarantine prior to returning to campus (which will include testing for COVID-19 prior to return).


To be clear about our priorities and next steps, I have outlined details about our immediate future below. I will again host an afternoon video-conference call (which is also accessible via phone for those with constrained bandwidth) to explain further and to answer questions (see schedule and links below).

  • Continuing Remote Learning: Classes will continue remotely until the two weeks prior to the return (until approximately on Monday, October 12, but to be finalized) and then shift to a modified schedule to support students, faculty, and families in quarantine; allow for a break mid-fall semester; and give us time for the final return to campus preparations.
  • Modified Quarantine Schedule: The modified schedule for the two weeks of quarantine will be finalized and shared when we confirm the new on-campus start dates. For now, you can expect a week or more to include increased independent work and some designated time free from online obligations.
  • New Anticipated Return Dates: We are planning for a late-October opening of campus with seniors returning Monday, October 26; all new students arriving on Thursday, October 29; and all returning students on Saturday, October 31. The next break will then be the regular winter holiday break in December (students released after 8:30 am on Friday, December 11, 2020).
  • Potential Future Delays: To maximize the opportunities ahead, we need to be agile and flexible. From what we know presently, it is possible that the re-opening of the campus will be delayed further. If these delays continue, we will have to consider the value of coming together for only a few short weeks.
  • 3 Weeks Lead-time: We will provide three weeks’ notice (decreased from four) for details about the reopening of campus. This lead time is vitally important to our families that come from far away and abroad. The next decision will be on or before Monday, October 5 to confirm the late October opening. Please do not make binding or non-refundable travel commitments prior to this date.
  • Parent Video Call: I have scheduled another video call to provide further updates and to respond to questions for current parents on Thursday, September 17th, 5:00 pm to 5:45 pm (Zoom Meeting Link and more details below)
  • Other Questions: As always, if you have a specific challenge or problem let me know and we will work through it together. Sometimes it takes a day or so, but I will get back to you as soon as I can (

In my last update, I noted that the gap between what we desperately wanted and what we could actually do was widening. It seems like the tide may be turning, albeit slowly. In the all-too-rare calm moments, there really is visible light at the end of the tunnel. There are plenty of twists and turns to come. We are progressing and finding our way together; that in itself is a gift for which we can all be thankful. I am grateful for the efforts of so many to help us all be our best in this moment.

Don’t forget… WASH your hands, WEAR a mask, and WATCH your distance.


Dear Students, Parents, Faculty, Staff, and Trustees,
Faculty meetings started this week, and we are already deep into preparing for the start of school on Monday, August 31st. We heard about amazing journeys that each and every faculty member, and their families, have been on over the past month and a half. There were stories filled with challenges and triumphs, and then the experience of finding the silver lining in difficult circumstances. Current times have placed us together on one heck of a journey.

Unfortunately, we now know enough to confirm that Midland cannot re-open campus in mid-September as desired. We continue to plan and prepare for a re-opening of campus, and we will open as soon as it is allowed and prudent to do so. As always, the long-term health and wellness of our entire community is our first priority. The campus return and re-open dates are now: Monday, October 12 for seniors; Thursday, October 15 for all new students; and Saturday, October 17 for returning students. We will confirm these dates on or before Monday, September 14th to give families time to make transportation plans.

I share everyone’s disappointment. And, we must honor the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which demands difficult choices for us all. Even though the current local trend has glimmers of a flattening curve, (a hopeful sign), county and state public health policies preclude us from re-opening our campus until Santa Barbara County is off the Statewide “County Monitoring List” for two full weeks. I have had direct dialog with local health officials who tell me that Santa Barbara County is unlikely to come off the list for several weeks and that there is no applicable exemption process for Midland (exemptions exist for some for K-6 grade level schools only). They also reported that county and state level health officials are aware of boarding schools (as a sub-category of schools) and that they intend to evaluate potential exemption options in the future, which may mean in the next few weeks or months.

As I have said before, Midland’s first priority continues to be the long-term health and well-being of our entire community. Thereafter, our mandate is to honor the needs of our community and start school on campus as soon as possible and prudent. We believe it will be possible to do so this Fall, hopefully in October; however, there are no guarantees with so many circumstances beyond our control.

Now we are left to embrace the path in front of us. We will start school remotely and with a firm eye on the need to authentically connect with Midland families, to empower students in their process of self-discovery in tumultuous times, to nurture our community, and to explore all aspects of our curriculum in new ways. We expect to encounter bumps in the road, and we know our new students will face unique challenges. Faculty and staff will spend the next two weeks outlining plans and creating a clear structure to support our students (and families) in navigating these uncertain times. Our success depends on our collective commitment to forming and sustaining both our community and our positive learning environment. We will make the best of remote learning and build off of our strengths just as we did last spring. And, while it may not be perfect, we will make the very best of this complex moment.


To be clear about our priorities and next steps, I have outlined details about our immediate future below.


School will begin remotely on Monday, August 31.

Please keep an eye out for planning and preparation emails in the weeks before then for both students and parents.


This Thursday afternoon, the Midland Board of Trustees will meet to approve a revised operating budget for 2020-21 and to approve a tuition refund policy in light of the fact that we now face a month or more of remote learning this academic year. During the next parent Zoom call, I will provide more specific details and then follow up with a summary email. I can assure everyone that the Board, business office, and I understand the seriousness of financial realities and will strive to honor our commitments to students, families, our employees, and the future of the school.


We are planning for a mid-October opening of campus:

Seniors return on Monday, October 12

New students return on Thursday, October 15

Returning students return Saturday, October 17

The next break would be the regular winter holiday break in December (students released after 8:30 am on Friday, December 11, 2020).


To maximize the opportunities ahead, we need to be agile and flexible. From what we know presently, it is possible that the re-opening of campus will be delayed further.

We will continue to provide one months’ notice for details about the reopening of campus. This lead time is vitally important to our families that come from far away and abroad. The next decision will be on or before Monday, September 14 to confirm the October opening. Please do not make binding or non-refundable travel commitments prior to this date.

As always, if you have a specific challenge or problem let me know and we will work through it together. Sometimes it takes a day or so, but I will get back to you as soon as I can.

This fall, we enter uncharted territory as a community, school, and society. Currently, the gap between what we desperately want and actually need is widening. Today we look at the cards we have been dealt, and we have to come to terms with disappointment: this just isn’t what we wanted. Yet, our fundamental strength and opportunity in the face of adversity is our scale–one person and one challenge at a time. It’s part of our DNA. Because of our history, our mission, and, most importantly, our community, Midland is uniquely poised to weather this particular storm. We can–and will–respond and find our way forward and through all this together.

I am so grateful for our community and the trust you place in us to partner with you as we find our way through uncertain times.

Warm Regards,

Christopher Barnes
Head of School

P.S. – Remember the 3 W’s… WASH your hands, WEAR a mask, and WATCH your distance.


Oh, goodness… Sometimes the curveballs just keep coming. All of us now live in a world where our needs and wants often diverge from what is possible, prudent, or permissible. I found it profoundly heartwarming to review the survey results earlier this week and to see such a strong outpouring of desire to start school on campus as soon as possible – nearly every group overwhelmingly expressed a wish to be on campus as soon as possible! So, it is with very mixed feelings that I send today’s announcement: for the 2020-21 school year, we will delay the re-opening of our physical campus and begin with three weeks of remote engagement and learning on August 31.

Currently, California state guidelines and public health officials will not allow us to open Midland.  Governor Newsom and the health department have good reasons to require school closures, reasons that support the societal battle against a serious global health pandemic. Undoubtedly, our specific situation – a small 100% boarding school in a remote and rural area with relatively low levels of COVID-19 infections – was not part of the state-level decision-making process. Although there is an undefined exception process, which we are actively researching, it is already clear that applying for an exception will be a slow process.

Our first priority is the long-term health and well-being of our entire community. Thereafter, our mandate is to honor the needs of our community and start school on campus as soon as possible. We believe it will be possible to do so in September or October; however, there are no guarantees in the age of COVID-19 with so many circumstances beyond our control.



Although the opening of campus will be delayed, engagement with Midland, our community, and learning will begin on Monday August 31.

Please keep an eye out for planning and preparation emails in the last week of August for both students and parents.


We are planning and working towards a mid-September opening of campus:

Seniors arrive on Monday, September 14;

New students arrive on Thursday, September 17;

Returning students arrive on Saturday, September 19;

On-campus classes begin on Monday, September 21.

We will confirm these dates on or before Monday, August 17.


We will communicate all details regarding the re-opening of campus within one month of the opening date. This lead time is vitally important to our families coming from far away and abroad. The next decision will be on or before Monday, August 17 to confirm the September opening.

Please do not make binding or non-refundable travel commitments prior to hearing from us on the 17th.

From what we know presently, it is entirely possible that we will be delayed further until October 5, 8, and 12 (for seniors, new students, and returning students respectively).


We are carefully evaluating revised tuition in the event that we spend a month or more with a closed campus and remote learning. Balancing the need to support our teachers to be ready to open campus on short notice with the need to recognize the significant financial commitments each and every family makes to the school each year has no easy solution. While there are details to refine, it will be something like a pro-rated (per week that the campus is closed for every week after 4) refund on net tuition paid (tuition less financial assistance). We expect to incur a substantial deficit this year and are revising our budget to reflect these potential significant losses in income and other COVID related expenses.

On a somewhat different note, the Barnes family was high up in the Sierra Mountains on a backpacking trip last week when one of our sons, Jack (he is fine now), faced the sudden onset of high altitude pulmonary edema (H.A.P.E). The combination of profound teamwork, bravery in the face of adversity, and communal trust got us through a very complex and scary moment together as a family. The experience shook me a bit. I am proud of our response and chagrined that we got caught on the eastern side of the Sierras with too little descent available to truly treat the problem. I am left with a reinvigorated sense of the sanctity of life. Often the scary and challenging moments are the ones that teach us the deepest lessons. Just now, writing this, reading the responses to the survey, and consulting with many folks as we navigate through uncertain times together, I am so grateful for our community and the trust you place in us to partner with each and every one of you to find our collective way through challenging times. We are in this together.

Warm Regards,

Christopher Barnes
Head of School

P.S. – Remember the 3 W’s… WASH your hands, WEAR a mask, and WATCH your distance.


We have considered and re-considered a variety of plans for the re-opening of campus. While it is likely that there will be further adjustments as the outside world continues to change, we hope this information will help to set expectations and allow our students and families to complete summer plans. Please know that we relish the opportunity for us all to find ways to apply the Midland mission and values to the profound challenges ahead of us.

All of the following details, logistics, new expectations, and requirements are best stated simply, but that is difficult to do because it is all complicated. Tone can also be difficult to convey accurately, so please know that our compassion for the challenges we are all facing now and in the months to come is driving our desire to be both clear and firm.

Below you’ll find our general philosophy and approach to mitigating the risks of COVID-19 at Midland. Then, details around new and specific expectations for our campus and, finally, some specific elements of our plan, an updated school calendar, and links to more information.


Mitigation Levels: Our strategy is to have three different levels of response: first, re-forming the community with hyper-vigilance; then, continuing, intensive surveillance for COVID-19  infections; finally, maintaining vigilant yet “normal” school. These three levels provide structure and clarity to a myriad of issues, such as: using masks, indoor versus outdoor classes, open versus closed public spaces (such as the library), etc.

Our task is to create a plan and associated practices to mitigate the risk of a complex and changing situation — and we are several versions into the process with more evolutions expected as we learn more. If you want more details or are just curious, then see the following working document Crafting a Special Year 2020-21.” 


Pre-Arrival Logistics and Requirements: The current working drafts of two key documents are available now, although they will continue to evolve and Midland will send reminders and final versions in early August. See Expectations Prior to Arrival to Midland School” and “Pre-Arrival Health Screening Form for 2020-21” .

Coronavirus Testing: For the foreseeable future, any return to campus for community members will require recent (within 1 week) testing for the COVID-19 virus and documentation of a negative result. We recognize that testing is imperfect and yet it is also an important risk management strategy. We do not have the capacity to both test students and then hold them in isolation while awaiting results, so the vast majority of students will need to be tested prior to returning to campus. Parents and families will need to take responsibility for pre-arrival coronavirus testing — although we can and will help and assist families in completing this obligation if needed.

Isolating Prior to Returning to Campus: Testing alone is not enough. All Midland community members must maintain extreme discipline and isolation from possible risks of contracting the COVID-19 virus from the moment tested,  until receiving a negative result, and finally until returning to campus — this is a requirement by the school for all community members.


Hygiene, Face Coverings, and Physical Distancing: It is our individual and collective duty to comply with standards designed to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 and other communicable diseases. These standards come from expanded Midland community expectations, societal norms, and Public Health requirements. Active and full compliance with these practices is a firm expectation and requirement for attendance at Midland and for participation in our community. For the good of all, we will each be required to sacrifice convenience and much more.

At Midland, we have for years treated fire risks very seriously (e.g. an automatic 20 work lap violation for breaching fire safety expectations) — hygiene, face coverings, and physical distancing will now be in the same category. Repetitive non-compliance will come with substantive consequences and could lead to separation from the community. Our advice is that you start practicing and role modeling consistent and effective use of these three vital basics right now; doing so will save lives and increase happiness.

Quarantine / Isolation On Campus: Community members who are or who are presumed to be (on the basis of symptoms or potential exposure) active carriers of COVID-19 (asymptomatic or symptomatic) should expect immediate isolation on campus (and if at all possible, a rapid transition home and/or off-campus) for a quarantine of 2 weeks, or until negative test results are confirmed. Given our finite number of  isolation spaces and resources, we are dependent on the support of regional families in picking up and caring for their own child for a quarantine period, if needed.

Roommates: Roommates will be considered as a family unit relative to coronavirus management strategies on campus. This does allow for less stringent practices in students’ personal living spaces and comes with the risk that both roommates will need to isolate and await testing results in the event of a suspected infection.

Immunity & Vaccines: At this time, testing for immunity is unreliable and not yet fully understood. Likewise, we look forward to an eventual vaccine although cannot assume one will be available during this next school year. Should immunity testing or a vaccine become available, we will adjust our plans accordingly.


Fall Semester Calendar:
AUGUST ARRIVAL | Unchanged, with new pre-arrival expectations (explained above), and new arrival procedures (explained below).

OCTOBER BREAK | Canceled and one week added to the end of the holiday break in January.

THANKSGIVING | No break and no all-community Thanksgiving event on campus.

HOLIDAY BREAK | Winter Holiday Release Day: Friday, December 11, 8am, campus closed by 6pm (unchanged). Return to School (NOTE: one week later!): Sunday, January 10 by 6pm.

NOTE: We will plan a series of off days and change the rhythm of the Fall semester periodically to allow for rest, reflections, and relaxation to support everyone’s well being.

Winter and Spring 2021 School Calendar: For the moment it is unchanged, although we will finalize in November 2020. Changes will be based on public health recommendations and our collective experience over the fall.

Arrival Day Screening and Logistics: As with pick up in March 2020, we will maintain the isolation levels of the campus by greeting families at the bridge and transporting student belongings to cabins. This is awkward and makes for difficult goodbyes, most especially for our new families; however, it is a simple and important strategy to minimize the risk of an unintentional transmission of the Coronavirus on a major transition day.


“Closed Campus”: Especially for the initial 3-4 weeks of school, campus will be closed to visitors and there will be no off-campus trips for students. We do expect to offer a few designated weekends when parents might visit for a physically distanced hike and picnic lunch. We can and will provide ongoing avenues for parents to “see” their children electronically.. Please defer all non-essential health and medical appointments to the holiday break (e.g. orthodontist appointments, driving tests, etc.). Off-campus trips for students will be for emergency issues only and any exceptions will likely result in a  2-week quarantine and/or testing requirements prior to return.

New Students, Parents, and Families: The transition to boarding school is daunting anytime and all the more so in the age of Coronavirus. At heart, the personal and one-on-one connections, both student-parent and school/advisor-parent, are important avenues that we will look to fortify in a challenging time. We need and want returning families to support our new families in the transition, and again will utilize our collective new found familiarity with online interaction to build and reinforce all these connections. We also can and will sort out the occasional visit (in October and beyond) with appropriate physical distancing, meetings with advisors, and other school support to smooth the transition.


Questions? Concerns? Please reach out to Midland’s Health Director, Janet Willie at (Note: Much of Midland’s staff is taking the month of July off, so we appreciate your patience while you await a response).

All this, this moment in time, the needs and wants of every single community member… it is a lot. We can and will do this, because it simply must be done. We will do it together and we are blessed with a deeply passionate and caring community that is both vested and committed to each and every student’s health and success. Rightly, students and parents can and should expect a lot of us — although our success is dependent on each and every one of you rising to the challenge and doing your part, including rather significant forbearance for inconvenience, inefficiency, and faithful effort on our part as a school to do right by many. Thank you in advance as we all delve into the unknown. We so appreciate your trust and partnership AND we so look forward to thriving together as a community this coming Fall.

[this information was initially shared in an update from the Head of School on June 26, 2020]