Sent on Behalf of Vice President for Student Development, Dr. Emilye Mobley:

Dear GSSM Families:

On Monday, August 17th, GSSM began the 2020-2021 school year.  We have been busy preparing for the opening of school and are excited to begin the semester.  Unfortunately, we are not able to begin the school year in our usual manner, but we will strive to create an engaging and community rich experience for our students. The safety and well-being of the school community is our priority and our decision to begin the year virtually supports the safest start of school. 
 
We recognize that the residential aspect of the GSSM experience is one of the hallmarks of the residential program and we are committed to fostering engagement and building community among the Classes of 2021 and 2022.  There is no way to completely replicate what we do when we are in residence, but we will implement efforts and initiatives that will assist students in connecting with each other as we work to develop ethical leaders and encourage service.  We will intentionally encourage and support student engagement through programs, student organizations, the arts, service, and opportunities for leadership development. 
 
The safety and well-being of our school community was and continues to be paramount as we consider opening the residence hall.  In late July, the Governor’s School proposed offering two-week residencies during the fall semester to students who are interested. This plan was approved by Molly Spearman, State Superintendent of Education, and endorsed by the GSSM Board of Trustees on Friday, August 7th, 2020.  Our commitment is to offer this residential option in the safest way possible.  Be assured that our shared goal is to have all students return to campus as soon as this can be safely accomplished.  It is important to note that there will be conditions for participation designed to support community safety and wellness.  These residencies are optional and will be offered on the following schedule:

Juniors – Sunday, September 20th – Friday, October 2nd
Juniors – Sunday, October 4th – Friday, October 16th
Seniors – Sunday, October 25th – Friday, November 6th
Seniors – Sunday, November 8th – Friday, November 20th  

The GSSM Board of Trustees and Administration reserve the right to amend this plan as appropriate based on the best available data.  We will continue to monitor state and national trends related to COVID-19 along with DHEC and CDC guidance.
 
To support health and safety, there will be protocols and conditions associated with participating in these two-week residencies.  We are committed to providing as much information as possible so families can make informed decisions regarding this option.  The conditions will operate in direct correlation with what is currently expected of employees and contractors who are working in the building.
 
GSSM will make every effort to update the school community with timely information about specific health and safety guidance important for our students, faculty, and staff.  We will establish specific requirements applicable to students, including but not limited to requirements for COVID-19 testing, temperature checking, symptom reporting, physical distancing, limitations on mass gatherings, wearing a face covering, contact tracing, disinfection protocols, limitations on guests, and short-term isolation requirements. These expectations will be updated as needed by the GSSM. Adherence to health and safety requirements applies to all community members and extends to all aspects of campus including bedrooms, bathrooms, classrooms, and common spaces.  While GSSM will do everything within our capacity to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, we cannot guarantee that the protocols instituted will prevent the spread of and exposure to COVID-19.  Every person will play a role in reducing the risk for themselves and others.
 
During the residencies, students will be housed one student per suite.  There will be conditions for participation that will have to be adhered to by all students to continue the residency once they are on campus.  A summary of the conditions is outlined below for your consideration:

  • Students will not be considered for these two-week residencies if the registration process is not complete and all necessary paperwork for enrollment is submitted.
  • Each student and parent must sign a release indicating whether or not you are interested in attending one of these residencies.Families cannot select which weeks they want to attend, and students will not be allowed to come more than once.Your signatures also indicate that you understand and accept the conditions as outlined.
  • Families will not be required to pay for meals during these two-week residencies.
  • Each student will be assigned a room and given a specific move-in time and time allotment for parents to assist students in getting settled.These times will be staggered to allow for the sanitizing of moving carts and distancing in the elevators.Students will be allowed one car (two if the family is leaving one) and two persons to assist them.Everyone who enters the building must don a mask.Anyone who is ill or has been recently exposed to COVID-19 should not come to campus.In determining whether it is appropriate to come to campus, we strongly encourage individuals of any age to consider whether they have any serious underlying medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe illness, including COVID-19.
  • Absent limited exemptions, face coverings, or masks are required for all community members as consistent with CDC guidance.This includes traveling on minibuses and in all public spaces.Students must wear a mask unless they are in their residence hall room alone or when eating.Anyone who is unable or unwilling to wear a face covering could potentially be exposing others and should carefully consider those implications.
  • Students will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within five (5) days of reporting to campus.
  • Students will only be allowed to bring necessities.We ask that you limit what you bring to campus and label all items with your name and your assigned house.Furniture cannot be moved.There will be limited carts and dollies available for move-in located in the Main Lobby.Unfortunately, other students and members of the staff will not be able to assist you with moving so please keep this in mind as you are packing and preparing.Only bring what you need for the two-week period. Given the nature of the pandemic, we may have to close the residence hall suddenly.Other emergencies are also possible (e.g. hurricanes) so we must be prepared to clear the residence hall quickly.
  • Students will not be allowed to sign out of campus during the weekdays or weekends.There will be a limited number of Walmart/Food Runs per weekly.Only seven (7) students may occupy a minibus at one time. Students will be required to wear masks/cloth face coverings and are expected to wash their hands/sanitize frequently.
  • Visitors and guests will not be allowed on campus during the two-week residencies including parents, guardians, and alumni.This excludes move-in on the Sundays noted as parents are welcome to assist their Govies in getting settled.
  • If a student leaves the campus without permission or for overnight, they may not return to the residence hall and will have to go home and resume virtual instruction.
  • Students will have to submit all prescription medications to Heath Services upon check-in.Our nurses will administer medications in keeping with our medication policy outlined in the Student Handbook.
  • If, at any time, a student feels sick, experiences flu-like symptoms, or is concerned that they may have COVID-19 or any other illness, he/she should contact Health Services.The same applies if they think they have been exposed to any condition that is highly contagious.
  • In keeping with school policy, GSSM may request or require a student(s) to leave campus and return to the care of their families when there are public health and community concerns.  While we are experiencing this global pandemic and in keeping with school policy regarding sick students, we are likely to require that students with a fever of 100.4 or higher return to their parent’s care.  Families are expected to arrange to pick their student up within five hours of receiving the call from one of our nurses.  Students will not quarantine at GSSM.

Sometime after September 4th, families who commit to participating will receive additional details regarding move-in, life on campus, activities, and the use of spaces.  Based on the information provided, we ask that you complete the Registration and Release found hereWe are asking that all families return the form by Friday, September 4th, to me at mobley@gssm.k12.sc.us.  If you have questions or need further clarification, I can be reached using the same email.  Questions related to academics and instruction during the residencies should be directed to Danny Dorsel, Senior Vice President for Residential, at dorsel@gssm.k12.sc.us.

Sincerely,

Emilye Mobley, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Development       
SC Governors School for Science & Mathematics