Friday, December 18, 2020
Colonel David L. Coggins, USMC (Ret.)
We successfully opened up this past fall and held in-person classes and fielded athletic teams in interscholastic competition. The protocols and procedures we put in place to protect our campus from COVID-19 worked well and we have had ZERO cases of COVID-19 on campus so far this year. We dealt with one situation in which a day student was exposed to a family member who contracted COVID-19, but we quickly responded to that report, we quarantined a few students who had close contact with that student, and none of our boarding students tested positive for the virus. Our protocols worked to keep our campus safe, and we have a high level of confidence that we can continue to keep our campus safe.
As we prepare to reopen our campus in January, I want to remind you of the steps we have taken and will continue to take in the weeks ahead.
While there will be much that continues to be challenging in this school year amidst the concerns of COVID-19, we are working to keep our mission, values, and methodologies as consistent as possible with what we have found to work effectively for our students throughout our 122-year history.
Our Guiding Principles in Dealing with COVID-19
1. The safety and well-being of our cadets, staff, and Fork Union Military Academy community is our highest priority.
While we recognize that no one can guarantee 100% safety from the risk of COVID-19, we will take all reasonable precautions to keep everyone on our campus as safe and healthy as possible. We will continue to follow the best advice of health professionals, which may include steps such as:
- conducting daily health screens with symptom and temperature checks
- following social distancing guidelines on campus
- appropriate wearing of cloth face coverings or masks by staff and cadets
- providing additional facilities for hand washing as well as hand sanitizer stations
- increased cleaning and disinfecting of shared spaces and living quarters
- modifying dining hall and food service protocols
- limiting the size of any gatherings on campus to appropriate levels
- strictly limiting outside visitors to campus
As in past years, the Yeatman Infirmary on campus will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by registered nurses. Our Academy Physician will hold morning sick call hours on campus for our cadets. We have the capability of performing appropriate testing on campus as needed, and we have bed space in our infirmary for the isolation of cadets who may need to be quarantined.
2. The campus of Fork Union Military Academy, comprising over 1,000 acres located within a rural setting, offers an ideal sanctuary that is separated and insulated from the high-density population areas in which Virginia's COVID-19 cases have been primarily centered.
We believe that once our cadets are on campus, they will be safer from exposure to Coronavirus if we place appropriate restrictions on non-essential travel. For this reason, we adjusted our Academic Calendar to limit the movement of cadets off-campus until our first major leave for Thanksgiving/Christmas. Some of those restrictions will remain in place as we reconvene in January 2021. We do hope to enjoy a Spring Break as scheduled, though we will adjust those plans if conditions require. Our campus has excellent outdoor facilities where cadets can get fresh air, enjoy athletics and recreation time, and remain removed from greater risk of exposure in the community beyond our campus.
3. Our One Subject Plan curriculum helps ensure that student and staff groupings are as small and static as possible and helps limit widespread mixing between larger groups within enclosed spaces.
One of the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is that schools practice cohorting--keeping small groups of students and staff together for as much of the class day as possible, and limiting the mixing between groups. This almost perfectly describes our One Subject Plan curriculum. At Fork Union Military Academy, students in class (typically fewer than fifteen) spend all day, every day, with one teacher for the entire 7-week grading term. We avoid the frequent changing of classes and rooms throughout the day, and other such exposure risks.
4. Our on-campus cadet environment provides structure, social support, and a system of accountability that is central to the success of our students.
We believe that the structured environment we provide on our campus is one of the biggest reasons our young men achieve success in the classroom, on the playing fields, and in their development of life skills and foundational values. While we are prepared to provide distance education if circumstances require it during the school year, we remain committed to providing a full boarding experience, with classroom instruction, athletic competition, and residential life activities to the fullest extent possible.
For more information...
We will continue to update our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page regarding our COVID-19 procedures located at this URL:
School Choices...Life Decisions
As I think about all the young people across our nation who have been pushed back into online learning for another school year with no sports and limited social contact with others their age, it breaks my heart.
- I think of the seniors, just like those of our Class of 2020 whose all-important final year of high school seemingly limped to a close without the normal celebrations of achievement.
- I worry about the college-bound athletes who miss out on a year of preparation.
- I'm concerned for the student struggling with a challenging subject who needs the support of an experienced teacher, skilled in delivering learning in just the way the student needs to receive it.
The effects of this pandemic have already been devastating to students, and may still bring potentially life-changing consequences.
Tuition, fees, room and board, uniforms...these costs are measurable...but the return on investment of a school experience such as Fork Union Military Academy may be immeasurable.
We often point with pride to our alumni who gained service academy appointments, or who won the Heisman Trophy at college, or who have become successful business entrepreneurs or community leaders. I believe that the school choices facing students and their families today will have tremendous impact on the lives those young men will lead.
Thank you for your trust in Fork Union Military Academy.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
Colonel David L. Coggins, USMC (Ret.)
Fork Union Military Academy