Adjusting Admission During an Ongoing Pandemic

By Alex Ragone posted 10-12-2021 11:03 AM

Adjusting Admission During an Ongoing Pandemic blog by Alex Ragone, Director of Admission at Norwood School.

As we enter the second school year of operating live during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing the health and safety benefits of vaccinated adults and the waning of the current delta surge. We are hopeful that the opportunity of student vaccinations in the coming months will further our wish to have life feel more 'normal'. Yet, we must prioritize the health of our unvaccinated students, and doing so continues to impact the way our schools, and admissions operates.

Norwood School is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade independent school in Bethesda, Maryland. Our child-centered program adopted a multi-layered approach to COVID-19 prevention which included:

  1. Required vaccination of all faculty and staff.
  2. Weekly COVID-19 PCR testing for all students, faculty, and staff.
  3. Universal masking indoors and out.
  4. Social Distancing of at least three feet while indoors. 

These measures, and the support of our wider community has kept our school running with minimal live instruction disruption throughout the past two school years.

As we have navigated the pandemic with our academic program, we in the admission office have learned a great deal about how to engage families while not having them on campus. Here are a few lessons learned:

  • Zoom works for small group conversations and enables more families to engage with the community.
  • We knew that our community is about relationships between teachers, students, and their families, and we learned that we could share that experience while being remote.
  • Having virtual tours is critical and we are going to keep doing them.
  • Lastly, we learned to be more flexible and open minded.

As we enter this year, we are continuing to watch the pandemic closely, but vaccinations are allowing us to add some live events back to our process. We have always done one-on-one parent conversations and tours with prospective families, and we will bring live versions of these back for vaccinated adults during this admission season. We will continue to offer a virtual version of parent conversations and tours for families who prefer this option or are out of the area.

We also are pairing these individualized and personal events with a large virtual open house where families will be able to engage with faculty, administration, parents, and students across the entire school, and virtual small group meetings with our head of school, division heads, and academic dean. In addition, as the season goes on, we will be adding virtual faculty, student, and parent panel discussions.

We're holding off on deciding about live play dates for PK - 2 and student visits for 3-8 until we see the status of vaccinations and current health data. Last year, we had PK - 1st grade families create four videos of students doing several activities, and then did individual assessments of each second through eighth grader. Either way, we know we can engage students in person or virtually.

This admission season is certainly much different from the unknown that we entered last year, and we are hopeful that we'll continue to adjust to the current environment, yet I don't think we'll shift back to the completely live pre-pandemic environment.

What are you doing to adjust to the pandemic this year? Continue the conversation in the comments below.

Alex Ragone
Alex Ragone
Director of Admission
Norwood School



11-04-2021 05:20 PM

Hi Lisa,

Thanks so much for your inquiry.  We did general parent panels with parents across the grade levels as well as parents of students of color events last year and plan to do the same this year.  In addition, we might do faculty events with art, science, and social studies teachers in middle school, or our math and ela specialist in lower school.  Lastly, student panels are always a hit and we tend to use our 8th graders (as a PK - 8th grade school) for those.

Our virtual tours are produced in house as we have a webmaster/videographer on staff. You can check out that work here: Norwood School’s Videos on Vimeo.  Thanks for the comment and questions.

11-04-2021 10:04 AM

Hello Alex,
I'm interested in topics you are or plan to use for the parent, student and/or faculty panel discussions. I also wonder if your virtual school tour videos were produced in-house, or professionally created?