Walnut Hill Announces In-Person Academic Year 2021–2022
May 13, 2021
This past year, Walnut Hill’s commitment to our families has been reflected in our comprehensive strategy and significant investments in response to COVID-19 as we prioritized the safety of our students, faculty, and staff. The entire campus rallied to keep safe throughout the pandemic and adhere to essential public health standards and, as a result, we were able to welcome all students who chose to come back to campus this quarter. To date, we have 205 students on campus full-time for the final quarter of the year. This would not have been possible without the extraordinary effort, hard work, and dedication of our entire faculty, staff, and administration. I want to thank them for navigating the challenges and opportunities this year presented, and hope you will join me in acknowledging their efforts.
As transmission rates decrease and vaccination rates increase in the United States, and more specifically in Massachusetts, we are pleased to announce that for the upcoming academic year 2021–2022, Walnut Hill’s educational, residential, and co-curricular activities are planned to resume all in-person, with continued health and safety measures in place. New international families will have an orientation day on August 25, new domestic students will arrive on August 26, returning students on August 27, with orientation events all weekend and classes beginning on Monday, August 30. We are confident that our students will be best served by returning to campus fully in-person and wanted to offer you some information both about this past year and the year upcoming.
Health & Safety: Recap & Future Plans
To date, Walnut Hill has administered 8,161 COVID tests, and has had a total of12 community members on campus test positive since testing began on October 20, 2020. (View the year-long dashboard here.) This is an incredibly low number considering the size of our community, and the extra challenges we faced as an arts school with regard to studio and practice space. Our vigilant health and safety measures over the course of these months have been successful in keeping transmission rates low, especially in comparison to other public and independent schools of our size. Everyone on campus is still testing weekly and will continue to do so through graduation.
We have recently started transporting students who wish to get vaccinated to vaccination sites, which all students have access to using the School's address for residency status.
Walnut Hill’s health and safety measures will remain in place as needed and appropriate, for the 2021–22 academic year. This remains subject to ongoing review and refinement in alignment with best practices as more becomes known regarding vaccine distribution and emerging guidelines from the Massachusetts Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
All students who are eligible to receive a COVID vaccine by August 30, 2021, should plan to do so. COVID vaccines will be required for all students to return to campus in the fall. The School understands that not all students have access to vaccines in their home countries. Students who cannot be vaccinated may be required to quarantine upon arrival. The School will facilitate students in receiving vaccinations if they are not available in their home country.
Learning: Arts & Academics In-Person Next Year
The hybrid model that was implemented this year during the height of the pandemic was an incredible solution that allowed students and faculty to connect and continue learning both here on campus and as far away as China. However, it did put a great strain on both students and teachers in terms of the schedule and timing of classes. We appreciate all of your patience in having students pivot to a hybrid learning model in the past year, and also are confident that both faculty and students will better benefit from the all in-person program for the upcoming academic year.
Because we are confident that rigorous health and safety measures have kept our community safe, and because offering an in-person arts and academic experience is central to our mission, Walnut Hill will not offer a remote online program in the 2021–2022 academic year.
Campus Life & Performances
It is evident this quarter how much students enjoy being on campus, meeting with teachers in person, socializing safely at community activities, rehearsing together, and returning to a more “normal” high school experience. Special thanks to the Student Life office who has organized countless fun on-campus activities, as well as safely managed outings to places like mini-golf, movie theaters, nail salons, and ice cream shops.
Student performances and exhibitions have been happening throughout the spring and will continue through the end of the year. With small, safely spaced audiences in attendance, the interaction of performers and audience members fuels a dynamic that is irreplaceable and joyful. A large-scale outdoor tent installed on campus this week will make even more socially distanced live performances (in addition to in-person graduation) possible – look for ticket information on our calendar or in our weekly email communication In A Nutshell.
International Families: Travelling to Campus
According to a survey recently sent by Lauren Johanson, International Program Coordinator, to international families, the vast majority of families who responded to the survey planned to return to campus if travel restrictions between the U.S. and China were eased. We are delighted that the restrictions have now been lifted and that travel to campus has become much easier.
There is no longer a requirement to spend 14 days in another country prior to entering the U.S., which removes yet another hurdle for international families traveling to campus.
U.S. consulates abroad have resumed scheduling visa interview appointments, which means that new students are able to secure visas to come to campus.
Given the good news about the lifting of travel restrictions, we are hoping that all international students will make plans to return to campus for classes in the fall.
Important to Note: International students with an F-1 visa should be aware that withdrawal from school for a semester or year may impact their F-1 status and may require Walnut Hill to terminate the student’s I-20. Students may need to reapply for an I-20 depending on the length of absence from the U.S.
College Acceptances & Matriculation: By the Numbers
We are graduating 97 seniors this June and here are their future plans: 60 students are continuing in their art area to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts or Bachelor of Music degree; 31 students are continuing on to pursue an academic area toward a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree; 2 dance students are continuing with Walnut Hill in a postgraduate year, and 1 is auditioning for a ballet company, and 3 students are opting to take a gap year at programs both in Europe and the United States;
This year we had 20 students admitted by early decision, including to Columbia, Harvard, Barnard, Notre Dame, NYU, RISD, Northwestern, Connecticut College, Wesleyan, Skidmore, and the University of Miami;
Over 95% of our students will receive merit-based aid (including both academic and talent scholarships); and
156 College Admissions Representatives virtually visited our office this year to meet with seniors.
I know this is a lot of information to digest, but I wanted to share both the good news of this past year and my feeling of optimism with regard to the year upcoming. High school-aged students thrive in a community of like-minded peers. Artists need to create and perform, interact with an audience, and be inspired by other artists. Students enjoy and benefit from face-to-face interactions with classmates, mentors, and instructors. We firmly believe that it's time to get back to appropriate, developmentally essential educational activities and community life. The Walnut Hill experience – alive and well for more than 125 years – generates important formative milestones in young student-artists' maturation, training, and foundational life experience.
Interest in a Walnut Hill education is strong this year as families look for alternatives to local programs hard hit by the pandemic. Our ability to provide high-quality in-person arts education along with our robust academic program is driving demand. Those who have not yet returned their contracts for the 2021–22 school year are encouraged to do so by May 25, as we cannot guarantee space availability beyond that date.
I hope to see you and your student on campus in person before the start of a new school year (if not at graduation this June). If you have questions about the upcoming academic year, I invite you to join a special town hall Zoom meeting Tuesday, May 18 from 6:00pm to 7:00pm EDT where you’ll have an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. Please check your email for the Zoom link. In the meantime, I wish you a healthy and happy spring and summer.