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

Greetings GSSM Families:

We are over halfway through the first seven-week residency, and I am so proud of the almost 200 students on campus and how they have cooperatively complied with all we have asked of them.  We have made every effort to keep our community safe—recognizing that it is the responsibility of faculty, staff, and students to honor institutional protocols and health care guidance as we continue to navigate this pandemic.
 
We have made a concerted effort to offer an out-of-class, campus experience that would be closer to “normal” than what was offered during the brief residencies last semester.  I feel that we accomplished this while continuing to offer opportunities for engaging the students who chose to continue their studies remotely.  Dean of Students Dr. Cathy Thomas and the campus life team, among others, are to be commended for all they are doing.

One of GSSM’s commitments was to review the conditions and restrictions associated with the first seven-week period and make modifications as appropriate, which we have.  Be assured that these safety measures are designed with the school community’s best interest in mind and at heart, and we will continue them as we prepare to reopen the residence hall on Monday, April 5th.  The conditions for participation and families’ commitment to them remain critical for success.  Since they are designed to support safety and community, students who do not adhere to the COVID-19 related protocols or the GSSM Discipline and Honor Code will likely be required to leave the residency and complete the semester and Interim virtually.  We ask that you carefully review this information as a family before agreeing to participate by signing and submitting the required release.  
 
Similar to my correspondence to you dated December 4, 2020, the purpose here is to provide families with details for your consideration as you contemplate participating in the second seven-week residency.  The safety and well-being of the school community remain the priority, and the information provided below supports that premise.  Like last time, I apologize in advance for the length of this letter, but we want families to make informed decisions.  As excited as we are to keep the residence hall open, please note that the GSSM Administration reserves the right, in consultation with the Board of Trustees, to amend plans 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 as well as local activity.

The second residency begins on April 5th and ends May 19th.  Juniors will move out on Wednesday, May 19th.  Seniors who are already in residence may stay through graduation, which will be held on Saturday, May 22nd.  Seniors who choose to remain virtual during the second residency will have the option to move on campus on May 20th to participate in any senior related activities hosted prior to graduation.  However, they (and their parents) will have to sign a separate release that is specifically for the abbreviated senior residency prior to taking occupancy.  Details associated with that option will be communicated closer to that time.  The release that is currently available to families for communicating their intentions is for the second residency that begins on April 5th and ends May 19th
 
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.  Most established expectations applicable to community members were included in the Return-to-Residency plan.  They include, but are not limited to COVID-19 testing, temperature checking, symptom reporting, physical distancing, limitations on mass gatherings, wearing face coverings, contact tracing, disinfection protocols, limitation of guests, and requirements when individuals test positive or have been exposed to the coronavirus. These expectations will be updated as needed by GSSM.  You can also find updates on the school’s website.  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.
 
Again, all students should anticipate sharing a room with another student and a suite with two other students.  GSSM reserves the right to consolidate spaces once we know how many students will be participating in this second residency.  Govies are expected to abide by all conditions for participation to continue the residency once they are on campus.  A summary of the conditions is outlined below and any modifications from the first residency will be noted by an underline:

  • Each student and parent must sign a release indicating whether they plan to move into the residence hall on Monday, April 5th if eligible.  Your signatures also indicate that you understand and accept the conditions as outlined.  Any family who does not return the form by the stated deadline will remain virtual by default.  Late requests will NOT be considered.  
  • Information about the meal fee will be provided by the Business Office.
  • Students who did not participate in the first seven-week residency will be given a specific time to move-in on the morning of Monday, April 5th.  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 in the building.  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, including the student.  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.
  • Students who are returning after the first seven-week residency will also be told what time they should plan to return on April 5th.  Current residency participants are not required to clear their rooms, so your return time will take that into account.  Please plan to have only one person assist you.
  • Since current residency students will not be required to clear their personal belongings, occupied spaces will be sealed.  The Facilities staff will only enter rooms to address reported maintenance issues.  Additionally, the Information Technology division may also be working while the residence hall is closed.  Common and public spaces will be deep cleaned during the three weeks before the residence hall reopens.  
  • 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 with their roommate or when eating.  The other exception is with the permission from supervising staff during athletic activities.  Due to the size of the residence hall rooms and expectations regarding physical distancing, there should be no more than three students in a room at any given time and all should be masked.  Anyone who is unable or unwilling to wear a face covering could potentially be exposing others and should carefully consider those implications.
  • Physical distancing (social distancing) will be practiced in hallways, classrooms, and outdoors. 
  • Students will have to provide a negative COVID-19 test that is taken within five (5) days of reporting to campus.  Additionally, all students will be retested within the first 72 hours of taking occupancy. 
  • Surveillance testing will be conducted periodically, and all families of new participants must consent to this testing to be considered for participation.  The consent agreed to back in January covers the entire semester so current residency students will not have to complete a new one. 
  • All residency participants must wear Contact Tracing Tags.  The consent for the tags has been combined with the testing consent for your convenience. 
  • Students will only be allowed to bring necessary items.  Furniture in student rooms should not 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.  New residency participants will receive information from the Dean of Students Office with specifics.  For returning participants, please be mindful of this and take home anything you will not need for the latter part of the semester on March 12th.
  • Students may sign out of the building beginning at 7:00 a.m. each morning unless otherwise communicated.  Campus curfew will be 7:00 p.m. every evening.  The only exceptions will be activities sponsored by Campus Life or another approved school entity.  Building curfew will be 8:00 p.m. on the weeknights and 9:00 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.  To specify, students must be on campus by 7:00 p.m. and inside by 8:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9:00 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.  
  • Students will be required to stay on campus until designated breaks.  Students will be able to leave campus with parameters, but not for overnight.  If they leave overnight (authorized) for any reason, they will have to quarantine at home for five days before coming back to campus.  A negative COVID-19 test result will be required before returning to residence.  As an example, if a student travels for a college visit, the five-day period begins after he/she returns to their primary residence.  Leaving for overnight without permission is a violation of the GSSM Discipline and Honor Code.
  • GSSM will not provide transportation for college visits or interviews; this will be the responsibility of the family. If students are participating in same day activities (e.g., scholarship interviews or competitions) or appointments (e.g., medical) that do not require an overnight stay, the parent is responsible for transportation and must commit to observing the safety protocols outlined in this letter during the time they are with the student if the student plans to return to campus that same day.  Students may not drive themselves.  GSSM will only coordinate transportation for limited appointments scheduled by Health Services and activities we sponsor.
  • Walking boundaries will be modified and limited; students may travel primarily on Carolina Avenue and College Avenue between 4th and 6th Streets.  Campus Life will coordinate “runs” for food, shopping (e.g., Walmart, Sonic, Cookout), and other locations determined later.  Mask wearing is required when walking around Hartsville.  While students are not prohibited from eating in local restaurants, students should be mindful of the associated risks per CDC guidance.
  • All students will be required to QUEST. 
  • Students may not travel to faculty or staff member’s homes or ride in their personal vehicles.
  • Items that are not prepackaged (e.g., baked goods) should not be offered to students.  Additionally, prepackaged and prewrapped items should be provided directly to students rather than having them reach into containers for them. 
  • Food items should be catered.  Exceptions should be managed through Aramark.  Students cannot use the kitchen to prepare items to sell or share with their peers.  This includes sponsoring fundraisers that involve food items.
  • Students may order food, but it must be paid for at the time of order, and they must be at the main lobby door to receive it upon delivery.  Those delivering food cannot enter the building.
  • If students want to participate in interscholastic athletics that GSSM is not offering, they are advised to do so in their home communities.
  • GSSM faculty and staff should not engage in close contact activities with students, especially without masks (e.g., sports). 
  • Students who are not in residence may not participate in Prom or related activities.  Students who choose to remain virtual will experience programming similar to what is currently being offered.
  • Students will not be allowed to have visitors and/or guests on campus including parents, guardians, and alumni.  This excludes move-in on the Sundays noted as parents are welcome to assist their Govies in getting settled.
  • 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
  • All residency participants will have to complete the health survey in REACH each weekday by 10:30 a.m. We are asking that students complete it by noon on the weekends, but they will not be penalized for non-compliance if they do not complete the REACH survey on Saturday or Sunday.  If at any time, students feel sick, experiences flu-like symptoms, or are concerned that they may have COVID-19 or any other illness, they should contact Health Services.  The same applies if they think they have been exposed to any condition that is highly contagious.
  • If a student tests positive for COVID-19, he/she/they will return home immediately for treatment and recovery for a minimum of 14 days.  Students will not isolate at GSSM, and a negative COVID-19 test must be presented before re-entry.  In these cases, families are expected to arrange to pick their student up within five (5) hours of receiving the call from one of our nurses.  
  • Students who are found to have been potentially exposed (through close contact) to the novel coronavirus will also return home immediately to quarantine based on the DHEC quarantine policy, which is currently 14 days.  Contact tracing based on CDC/DHEC guidelines will identify students who need to return home.  Students will not quarantine at GSSM.  As noted above, families are expected to arrange to pick their student up within five (5) hours of receiving the call from one of our nurses or her designee. 
  • All health services policies should be adhered to and supported by families.
  • Violations of any of the protocols outlined above (e.g., distancing, mask wearing, medication policy, curfew, walking boundaries, etc.,) or any that may be imposed later to support community safety and wellness as well as violations of the GSSM Discipline and Honor Code (e.g., any three Level 1 violations, most Level 2 violations, and any Level 3 violations) will likely result in dismissal from the residency requiring that the student remain virtual for the remainder of the semester.  If this occurs, seniors will forfeit their opportunity to be on campus the days prior to graduation.

By the last week of March, students who indicate their plans to participate will receive additional details regarding move-in, life on campus, activities, and the use of spaces.  Based on the information provided above, we ask that families complete the release by Monday, March 22, 2021.  A sample of the release (provided here), is only for your review and information.  The official form you will submit will be available on GSSM’s Online Portal on Monday, March 1st.  Although the link is the same for parents and students, logging into the portal with the student’s username and password identifies you as a student and grants you access to student forms.  Conversely, logging into the portal with the parent/guardian’s username and password identifies you as a parent/guardian and grants you access to parent/guardian forms. 
 
Both a student and parent/guardian signature must be electronically affixed to the release by the deadline in order for submission to be received and placement or replacement granted to the student.  The electronic form will automatically capture the date and time signatures are affixed.  Any forms not completed by the deadline will automatically default to, “I do not wish to/I do not wish for my student to participate in the residential experience.”  As a reminder, once a form has been submitted with a “no” for participation it cannot be changed to a “yes” for participation.  If you have any trouble accessing the release form once it is available on March 1st and/or submitting the form, please contact Mrs. Heather B. Carabo, Program Coordinator for Academic Affairs and Student Development.

We are excited about this next opportunity for residency and look forward to receiving your online submission.  If you have questions or need further clarification, I can be reached at mobley@gssm.k12.sc.us.

Yours for GSSM,

Emilye Mobley, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Development
SC Governor's School for Science + Mathematics