2020-2021 Cushing Academy Reopening Plans

We have developed guidelines for the resumption of classes and other activities in the fall in a manner that puts the health and safety of our community at the forefront and is consistent with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ "Four-Phase Approach" to reopening. Please see details below. 

Latest Updates

Fall 2020 Planning Webinar #5 - 8/6/2020

Frequently Asked Questions


List of 6 frequently asked questions.

  • How is Cushing adjusting its yearly calendar for COVID-19?

    The fall term will run from August 24 through November 20. Winterim will have the flexibility of taking place remotely or in person for students, and will consist of three, three-week windows that will lead up to Spring Break. The spring semester will run from March 8 through June 9, with graduation on June 5.
  • What will the daily schedule look like?

    While there will be many familiar features in our daily schedule, there will also be modifications that will allow for longer passing time as well as a net increase in the length and number of lunch blocks. The new daily schedule will maintain its signature single and double-letter structure: with single-letter periods meeting synchronously eight times, for forty-minutes each, over a two-week interval, along with one additional asynchronous forty-minute class; double-letter periods will meet three times synchronously for seventy-minutes per week, with an additional forty-minute asynchronous class. We have preserved the element of asynchronous classes in recognition of the ways in which they can be used to enhance learning outcomes.
  • What is Winterim?

    During peak flu season, Cushing Academy will offer mandatory learning experiences structured around three three-week windows that will lead up to Spring Break. As the bridge between the fall and spring semesters, Winterim will deepen skills and supplement learning experiences from the fall across all disciplines. Additionally, Winterim will provide exciting new opportunities to explore interdisciplinary seminars fostering greater student engagement, interpersonal growth, and agency. When the second semester begins, we will finish the year with fourteen weeks of on-campus learning. Our focus has remained on optimizing the allocation of time spent on campus, maximizing breaks from campus for rejuvenation and the allowance of safe returns, and again, supporting the continuity of learning. We will design Winterim with the flexibility of being mainly remote with flexibility for on-campus participation as the public health situation and medical advice warrants.
  • How will Cushing limit class sizes and ensure physical distancing as outlined by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for classroom instruction and also in administrative areas?

    We will limit the number of people in each classroom by following Massachusetts guidelines and measuring the distance between desks. We are also increasing passing times to allow for fewer students in the hallways, and we anticipate that some students will begin the year with online instruction.
  • What will online learning be like for those unable to be on campus?

    We have ordered new cameras for classrooms to allow students who are Zooming in to fully participate in learning and feel that they are more directly involved in the classroom experience as well. We will also record and post all live classes. Additionally, we will do our best to schedule international (and west coast) students during periods that are most realistic.
  • How is Cushing preparing for the transition to remote learning should that be mandated by state and local governments?

    If a transition to fully remote learning is necessary, classes should be able to continue without significant disruption due to the nature of the new daily schedule that we are creating.


List of 1 frequently asked questions.

  • Will some courses and offerings in the Arts be affected by restrictions?

    The Cushing experience includes participation in a number of Arts offerings both in and outside the classroom. This will not be a typical fall semester at Cushing in any respect, including for those activities. We are creating guidelines for how students can continue to engage with the performing and studio arts, and we are working to create meaningful artistic engagement. We will share those with you over the summer and upon your arrival.


List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • When will an announcement be made about athletics for the 2020-2021 school year?

    Cushing Academy will follow the guidelines and restrictions put in place by local and state governments as well as those by the New England Preparatory School Athletic Council (NEPSAC). If it is safe and recommended by governing organizations that interscholastic sports continue, then Cushing Academy will allow its teams to participate in athletic competitions. If fall interscholastic athletics are canceled and not recommended as safe, Cushing Academy will provide a full athletic program on campus including practices, physical training (i.e. Power Source), and other offerings which may include sports psychology, college recruitment, as well as other opportunities for fitness, health, and wellness.
  • What will winter and spring sports look like?

    We are prepared for the winter athletics program to operate during Winterim (if allowed by the State of Massachusetts and other governing agencies). We do not have any details on the spring athletics season yet and hope that it will operate normally by that point as we return for the spring semester in March.

Campus Life

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • How large will Waddles be and how will they work?

    The Student Experience Subgroup along with recommendations from the Health and Wellness Subgroup is working on the best approach to Waddles; more information will be available later this summer. Waddle design will be variable depending on dorm placement and academic/co-curricular placement. Our goal is to have students with common interests and/or shared living spaces be in the same Waddle, such as a floor of a residence hall. Dividing the student population into smaller student networks can reduce the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
  • Will we have to wear face coverings?

    Yes, faculty, staff and students will be expected to wear masks, in class, in public common areas, and inside buildings to help protect against the spread of the virus.
  • Will testing for COVID-19 be required?

    Yes, on-campus testing will be required for all students, faculty and staff. Testing will occur prior to arrival, upon arrival, and post-arrival. Testing may also occur regularly and as needed throughout the semester.
  • Will students be able to leave campus after they arrive? What about downtown Ashburnham?

    After students arrive on campus, they may not leave campus to go home or other locations—at least initially—to prioritize the health and safety of our community. We may loosen or reverse this decision depending on the progress of the public health situation and with advice from our medical experts. 
    As for going to downtown Ashburnham, after students have completed all COVID-19 testing (including post-arrival testing), they may be permitted to go into downtown Ashburnham wearing a mask and complying with all physical distancing requirements once the Cushing COVID-19 Advisory Level (CCAL) reaches Yellow (Limited).

Day Students

List of 3 frequently asked questions.

Enrollment and Tuition

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • Can students choose to be fully remote for the fall, and potentially Winterim and Spring?

    For international students unable to travel to campus, or for students who may be considered vulnerable due to health and safety, as it relates to COVID-19, remote learning is offered. Please complete this form to request remote learning.
  • Why isn’t tuition reduced for students doing the Winterim off-campus?

    The blend of in-person, hybrid, remote, and online instruction that will be offered during the 2020-21 school year does not reduce the quality and value of a Cushing Academy education.

    With remote and online teaching, faculty and instructors are still able to provide regular instruction and interact daily with Cushing students, and can also employ methods of assessment and regular feedback.

    We are also prioritizing the health and safety of our campus by allowing for the de-densifying of campus during flu season by completing a full semester before Thanksgiving and beginning the spring semester in March and finishing in June. This time period will be bridged with additional time for learning and to give students the opportunity to explore meaningful topics that they would not normally have the opportunity to explore.

Health & Wellness

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What guidance will you follow in determining whether you can safely open in the fall?

    Guidance will remain focused on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Massachusetts guidelines, which are updated frequently and as needed. All boarding and independent schools are making their own decisions based on local conditions and state guidance, and so far, their plans vary. To ensure the safety of our campus and the local community, we will continue to have a measured and appropriate response to the situation in order to provide a safe educational and physical environment for our students, faculty, and staff—and meet or exceed the professional guidelines recommended.
  • Will we have to wear face coverings?

    Yes, faculty, staff, and students will be expected to wear masks, in class, in public common areas, and inside buildings to help protect against the spread of the virus.
  • Will testing for COVID-19 be required?

    Yes, on-campus testing will be required for all students, faculty, and staff. Testing will occur prior to arrival, upon arrival, and post-arrival. Testing may also occur regularly and as needed throughout the semester.
  • How and when will Cushing administer COVID-19 tests?

    August 15: All students must complete a COVID-19 test five days prior to arrival on campus, including those who are quarantining. Cushing is working on a process for this test, and details will be forthcoming as to how students may complete this COVID-19 testing. If a student tests positive, a plan will be developed to begin classes online.

    August 20-21: All students will arrive on campus over the course of two days as follows: 
    • Families will sign-up for a time to arrive. Instructions will be forthcoming.
    • All students will again be COVID-19 tested on the point of entry to campus. The cost of this test will be $130 per family, which will be billed to each student’s account. We will work with families to assist with medical insurance reimbursement if allowed by individual plans.
    • All employees will also be tested to gain a baseline for each member of the community.
    August 24: First day of class.

    Week of September 1 - September 4: As recommended by the medical professionals in our task force and subgroups, we will be performing community-wide surveillance testing for all employees and students two weeks after student arrival.
  • What will happen if my student tests positive for COVID-19 while on campus?

    Any student diagnosed with COVID-19 will be cared for by our medical staff in an isolation unit on campus, and we will expect that student to leave campus within 24 hours to recover from home. If needed, they can be transported to Heywood Hospital (6 miles from campus) for treatment. Following any COVID-19 diagnosis, the health team will immediately start the process of contact tracing and create a list of close contacts in conjunction with the Department of Health. We will then follow state guidelines as needed for isolation and quarantine.

Residential Life

List of 1 frequently asked questions.

  • Can my parents help me move into my dormitory?

    We certainly realize the importance of move-in as a part of the student experience and understand that you may want to share that moment with your family. One family member or guest may accompany you to the entry point of campus. Limiting guest traffic on campus helps to provide adequate physical distancing and is in the best interest of our community’s health and safety. Detailed instructions for move-in will be shared later in the summer.

Student Life

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

Travel & Quarantine

List of 2 frequently asked questions.

  • Is quarantine mandatory for students before arriving at Cushing for the fall semester?

    Yes, we are requiring a quarantine of 14 days before traveling to campus for all students. This means limiting close contact to family members ONLY for the 14 days before traveling to campus. During this time, all students will be required to conduct twice daily screening. Additional details about this process are forthcoming. 

    Each student must complete the Re-Opening Form to indicate their quarantine plans. Ideally, domestic students who live more than a day’s drive from Cushing would do so in the local area, but if that is not possible, they may quarantine at home before traveling to the Academy and limit contact with others during travel as much as possible. Additionally, in accordance with CDC guidance and recommendations from our medical team, international students will be required to quarantine for 14 days in Massachusetts before arriving on campus. 

    Cushing has reserved a block of rooms at the Doubletree by Hilton Leominster at a discounted rate of $138.00 USD per night including a continental breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Families must make their own reservation by emailing Brittani Cruz at: Brittani.Cruz@Hilton.com. The deadline to make your reservation is July 22, 2020, and the cost of this stay will need to be paid directly to the hotel at the time of the reservation. Cushing will have an adult on property for supervision of the group. If an international student wishes to quarantine at another location in Massachusetts, this location must be communicated to and approved by the Academy by July 21, 2020. Please submit your plans in the Re-Opening Form for approval.
  • How does the recent announcement by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) impact international students?

    Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued guidelines for the fall semester regarding the ability to maintain F-1 student visa status, while taking online courses.  In order to remain in valid F-1 status, beginning this fall semester, students are not permitted to continue full-time online coursework within the U.S.  Those that are enrolled in online-only programs will need to depart the U.S., or if this is not possible, to change to another applicable visa status. Students may engage in Cushing's online curriculum from their home country.  As Cushing Academy plans to schedule in-person, on-campus classes, to the extent possible, we believe this change will not impact the portion of our student body that is able to return to campus.  Although we are planning to offer an online option for those who cannot return to campus, those international students on F-1 visas who remain in the U.S. should plan to return to campus to properly maintain their visa status, as normal student visa regulations will apply.  We will monitor the situation and inform our students and families as soon as possible if there are any changes or clarifications.

2020-2021 Academic Year Calendar

List of 10 events.


August 6, 2020

July 30, 2020

Webinar for Students: New Academic Schedule and Activity Updates
We apologize for the occasional poor audio quality of this recording.

July 14, 2020

June 25, 2020

June 11, 2020

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May 21, 2020

Senior Steering Committee

Joseph Marzilli
Chair of the Board of Trustees

Randy Bertin
Head of School

Associate Head of School for Enrollment

Paul Silva
Chief Financial Officer

Dr. Tina Hermos, MD
Assistant Professor, Pediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases
University of Massachusetts Medical School
Affiliated with UMass Memorial Medical Center

Dr. Anne Hoen, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Epidemiology, of Biomedical Data Science, and of Microbiology & Immunology
Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine

Dr. Michael Mutchler P '15, '16
Family Medicine, Adolescent Medicine
Heywood Hospital
Cushing Academy Medical Director since 1996

Bill Rouse
Senior Advisor

Cushing Academy

39 School Street
Ashburnham, Massachusetts 01430

Cushing Academy

Cushing Academy exists for students and develops curious, creative, and confident learners and leaders. Founded in 1865, Cushing is a co-ed, college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9-12 and PG. Our students, who come from over 30 states and 30 countries, excel in our outstanding academic, art, and athletic offerings. We welcome you to visit our community and beautiful 162-acre campus in Ashburnham, Mass., just one hour from Boston, to experience all that Cushing has to offer.