Returning to the House

Upcoming Reopening Milestones

  • Online learning continues
  • Feb. 8: Upper School groups return for on-campus activities, beginning with Seniors
  • Feb. 8: Remote Learning on Campus available (an opportunity for struggling students to engage in remote learning on campus with instructional assistants)
  • Feb. 15-19: Mid Winter Break
  • Feb. 15: Fall Sports begin
  • March 3: Middle School groups return for on-campus activites
  • March 8: Upper School groups on campus
  • March 15: Middle School groups on campus
  • March 29-April 2: Spring Break
  • Trimester 3, April 5: Hybrid Learning (a combination of remote and in-person classes)

Current In-Person Activities

  • International students are living on campus in our dorm
  • Athletic practices taking place on and off campus
  • Outdoor Program trips
  • Kitchen, Facilities, Administration faculty are working on site

Staying Safe at Northwest

We convene a leadership group each week to plan our reopening. This group follows the Washington State Department of Health K-12 School 2020-2021 Guidance. We also use the data dashboards provided by King County Public Health in our decision making.

Documents that guide our faculty presence on campus


Below, you will see answers to some of the questions most often asked. Please check back, as this FAQ will be constantly updated.

  • What outside factors (new variants of virus, unanticipated glitches in vaccination rate, other) might affect the plan to return?

    We are carefully monitoring information provided by epidemiologists and public health officials on a regular basis and then developing an internal plan to respond to that data/information. Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine appears to be effective against the new variants. Our plan to return is focused on our ability to implement the recommended health and safety measures necessary for reducing the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. We have the appropriate plans, staff, space, and supplies needed to carry this out. We are also confident that our health and safety system is ready to monitor for and respond to suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19.

  • What is the process if a community member tests positive for COVID-19?

    If a community member tests positive, we will have a rapid response and will appropriately identify/notify those who will need to isolate or quarantine. Each situation will be handled on a case-by-case basis and managed by our Health Coordinator. Below you’ll find our protocol for a positive case or symptomatic individual.

    1. Notify the Health Coordinator.
    2. Sick individual will be supervised by the Health Coordinator in a designated isolation room with appropriate infection control measures in place.
    3. Designated parent/guardian will be notified to facilitate getting the individual home safely.
    4. Families will be in contact with the Health Coordinator and provided appropriate resources.
    5. Facilities team will properly close, clean and disinfect areas visited by the sick individual.
    6. Health Coordinator will collect information needed to determine potential infectious period and close contacts. Health Coordinator will facilitate the return to campus following the most up to date guidance provided from local and state health departments.
    7. Health Coordinator will be in contact with Public Health – Seattle & King County. Close contacts will be contacted by the county health department for additional guidance.
    8. Necessary information will be communicated to the broader school community.
  • What is the school's travel policy?

    Our travel policy is directed towards those in our immediate school community.

    “Travel” is defined as long-distance, overnight travel by any conveyance (e.g., aircraft, train, bus, ship, shared ride, personal vehicle). It does not include one’s usual commute to work or day trips to neighboring cities. All persons planning to travel must complete the following steps before returning to campus

    1. Quarantine for 5 days AND
    2. Receive a negative PCR (molecular) COVID-19 test
    3. Confirm test results with Health Coordinator Sierra Maxwell


    1. Quarantine for 14 days

    It is expected that all others in the household are staying up to date with and are following local and state mandates. Current guidance recommends that people arriving in Washington from other states or countries should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival. These individuals should also limit their interactions with their immediate household.

  • What has the school done to prepare the building for students and faculty?

    The facilities team has partnered with a network of service providers to expand the school’s capacity to safely operate on campus. Medical-grade filtration has been installed in our central air handlers, and each classroom is equipped with a stand-alone medical grade filtration unit.

    Our custodial team is pairing with a cleaning contractor to support daily professional cleaning and disinfecting. Here are a few of the processes and changes we have implemented:

    • Sourced, coordinated, and supervised the classroom and gym wood floor refinishing
    • Established relationships with cleaning suppliers to build and maintain inventory
    • Implemented 7 day per week cleaning/disinfecting support for the dorm
    • Utilizing a series of electrostatic applicators for disinfecting
    • Utilizing several new machines to improve cleaning quality and efficiency
    • Implemented a high-touch surface disinfecting routine throughout campus
    • Provided training to faculty on do-it-yourself disinfecting

    Each classroom is clearly labelled with the maximum number of occupants and all of the desks have been placed six feet apart from each other.

  • Will the school provide masks?

    We highly encourage students and faculty to bring their own masks. We understand that masks get dirty, or sometimes forgotten, and we will have a supply of masks readily available at the front door.

  • Is there a plan for testing?

    We are exploring options for regularly scheduled testing, regardless of signs, symptoms, or recent exposure. We do have tests available for diagnostic testing in instances when individuals are experiencing signs and/or symptoms, or get a notification that they were in close contact of someone who tested positive.

  • How will lunch be served?

    Our initial days on campus will be half days (9:00-11:30 am), and no lunch will be served. Students who are participating in Remote Learning on Campus will bring their own lunch and water bottles to school, and will eat outside, under a covered area.

    The House Specialty Program will remain in place until we pivot to fully feed students on campus. Once lunch resumes, on campus students will receive individually packed lunches in compostable containers. Lunch will be the only permitted time in the day when students can remove their masks.

  • If there are multiple cases that can be traced back to the school, will the school shut down again?​

    The metrics are meant to guide decisions and not to directly make the decision for us. The school has to weigh the risks and benefits of opening or closing. We are not prohibited from opening, or advised to shut down, based on a certain metric hitting a threshold. We are not saying we will open or close when numbers hit X, Y or Z, rather we asses COVID-19 activity in King County and within the school, and then make an informed data-driven decision based on those numbers.

  • How can I contact the school to ask a question?

    Please use this form to submit a question about returning to school.

Decision Making

To carefully monitor and navigate the complexities of this pandemic, The Northwest School has formed a committee of representatives from all parts of the school’s operations. The Operations Continuity Committee meets weekly to assess public health data and medical information related to the pandemic, and from there, make informed decisions to ensure the safety of the school community as well as the quality of the school’s educational program.

The committee is guided by the following principles:

  • Prioritizing safety.
  • Maintaining a robust academic experience.
  • Supporting the welfare of the community. 
  • Preserving mission-essential functions.

Here are the members of the committee:

  • Dennis Bisgard, Interim Head of School
  • Meg Goldner Rabinowitz, Assistant Head of School
  • Michal Allaire, Chief Financial Officer
  • Amy Berner-Hays, Upper School Director
  • Sue Maul, Middle School Director
  • Ruth Donahue, Human Resources Director
  • Bethany Fong, Director of Dining Services
  • Margie Combs, Director of Communications
  • Sierra Maxwell, Health Coordinator
  • Justin Peters, Dean of Residential Life
  • Britt Atack, Athletics Director
  • Greg Hampton, Information Technology Director
  • Tony Kaufmann, Director of Facilities and Transportation