Stratton Mountain School partners with SVHC

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STRATTON — The independent Stratton Mountain School has engaged Southwestern Vermont Health Care to provide students and staff with health care services for the upcoming school year.

The agreement means that the school's approximately 130 students and 60 staff members "will have access to SVHC medical programming, including on-campus wellness checks, telehealth services, urgent care, and access to 25 primary and specialty care practices across the SVHC network," the school announced Monday.

It also means that Dr. Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, will serve as the school's medical director throughout the 2020-2021 school year.

"We believe that partnership is powerful medicine and SVHC's agreement with Stratton Mountain School is a prime example," Dobson said in a news release. "It will play an important role in fostering a culture focused on health, giving people the tools and resources needed to live their healthiest life."

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Dobson is also a member of the school's COVID-19 task force, which has overseen the development of a student-parent manual outlining campus protocols and mitigation strategies.

The school currently plans to welcome boarding students to campus on Aug. 31, with the rest of the student body returning the following day, according to the July 15 iteration of the 21-page document. Students and staff must be tested for the coronavirus and submit documentation of a negative result before the opening date. Daily health checks and weekly PCR tests for COVID-19 are also part of the current plan.

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Speaking Monday about how the partnership materialized, head of school Carson Thurber said that the school's staff and board thought the organization should "strengthen our health care positioning" amid the pandemic. The school expects the partnership to help keep anxiety levels in the community low and to help the school remain open, he said.

The hospital is not expected to maintain a physical presence on campus, but the school would engage those services if necessary, Thurber said. Dobson is present in multiple weekly meetings with staff.

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The school will be contracting with the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard for the weekly COVID-19 tests of community members, and it will be using the management system Boardingware "to help track and manage permissions, travel, and contact tracing and provide instant communication and real-time monitoring of attendance, health concerns, and travel requests across our community," according to the student-parent manual. Catamount Restoration Services has been hired by the school to clean campus common areas four times per week, with facilities staff conducting supplemental cleanings.

Virtual town halls for parents and students have been scheduled for later this month to address questions about the school's new policies.

In addition to Thurber and Dobson, other members of the COVID-19 task force include assistant head of school Holly Wendell, business manager Mary Via, alpine program director Mike Morin and trustee Jess Baron, according to the student-parent manual.

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