COVID-19 Policies and Expectations (Updated April 9 2021)
COVID-19 Safety at North Branch Nature Center
Our COVID-19 protocols adhere to the most up-to-date guidance from the State of Vermont. Our protocols are subject to change as Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Education guidelines evolve. For more information, please see the linked resources upon which we base our protocols.
As of April 9 2021, the protocols for all NBNC programs adhere to all protocols laid out in the Vermont Forward Universal Guidance plan. Briefly, this includes:
- Performing daily health screenings at the beginning of each program.
- Bathrooms and common indoor spaces are sanitized before the start of each program and at the end of each program.
- Staff and participants are expected to wearing masks at all times whenever 6' physical distancing cannot be maintained.
- Masks are always worn inside, and physical distancing will be maintained.
COVID-19 Safety and Youth Programs
In addition to the above universal guidance, we are adhering to additional state guidance for our youth programs. This currently includes:
- Participants will be no less than 3 feet apart (pre-K - 6th grade) or 6 feet apart (7th - 12th grade) for sustained periods of time. Brief periods of closer contact may occur.
- During snack/lunch or when a mask break is needed, all participants will be distanced, and staff will assist in establishing this distance.
- Masks that are wet, frozen or unable to stay on a child’s face will be changed out for a new, clean mask (participants are required to have two extra clean masks).
- If a program must come inside due to hazardous weather, and that period overlaps with lunch or snack time, masks may be removed for eating or drinking, provided that students are at least 3 feet (pre-K - 6th grade) or 6 feet (7th - 12th grade) apart. Masks will be worn during mealtimes when not actively eating or drinking.
Our protocols are subject to change as Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Agency of Education guidelines evolve. For more information, please see the resource upon which we base our protocols:
- VT DOH & VT AOE - A Strong and Healthy Start - Revised April 2021
- VT DOH & VT AOE - Safety & Health Guidance for VT Schools - Physical Distancing FAQ
- VT DOH & VT AOE - Health Guidance for Childcare & Out-of-School-Time Care
- VT DOH & VT AOE - Prekindergarten Health Guidance Clarifications
Healthy Learning During COVID-19
At NBNC we believe that being outdoors in nature provides significant social, emotional, physical, and intellectual benefits for our children. Our educational programming practices a nature-based approach to learning that builds health, happiness, and resilience. During this pandemic, we provide a safe and nurturing environment where children can engage with their peers and the natural world. For more about our philosophy around nature-based teaching and learning during COVID times, please see our position statements:
Previous COVID-19 Updates
July 7 Update:
North Branch Nature Center has been working with other nature-based education organizations to advise elementary schools on how to incorporate more outdoor learning in the school day. Please read our Outdoor Learning Position Statement.
July 1 Update
We have resumed limited in-person programming, including our Biodiversity University and ECO Educator Institute programs this summer, with some changes to our policies and expectations.
In order to keep you, our staff, and our community safe, NBNC is adhering to strict safety protocols based on CDC and VT Department of Health guidelines. We’re in this together, so here’s what you can expect from us, and what we ask of you as a participant of an in-person NBNC program:
What you can expect of us:
- Breathing Room: We’ve capped all our programs at 10 participants or fewer, and designed them to take place outdoors, with the exceptions of bathroom access, thunderstorm contingencies, and (in some cases) short-term use of the community room.
- Cleanliness: All potential shared surfaces will have been sanitized before and after each program. No two programs will share the same indoor space (including bathrooms) on any given day. We’ll start each program with a briefing to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding behavior, expectations, masks, distancing, etc.
- Professionalism: We have completed state-mandated safety trainings, established a staff/board safety committee and a COVID-19 Task Force, and are adhering to strict workplace guidelines to make sure we are taking appropriate measures to make NBNC a safe place to work, learn, and play.
- Honesty: Our instructors will be following state safety guidelines, and complete health screenings prior to each program to ensure a healthy staff and a safe space for each program.
- Respect: Our staff and instructors will wear a mask at all times (inside and outside), and maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people throughout all programs.
- Transparency: We want to make sure you are comfortable. If you’ve got questions or concerns about our programs and policies, please reach out to us at [email protected].
What we ask of you:
- Honesty: Do not come to the program if you are feeling ill in any way. You’ll be asked to sign a waiver and health screening document upon arrival acknowledging that you are symptom-free and haven’t been at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus recently. If you develop COVID-like symptoms within 14 days after the program, notify NBNC immediately.
- Respect: Wear a mask at all times (inside and outside), during NBNC programs. Maintain at least 6’ distance from all other people, including staff, during the program. Follow all safety guidelines explained by our staff.
- Cleanliness: Sanitize bathrooms and other common surfaces before and after use, according to our guidelines posted in each space. Bring and use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands thoroughly.
- Flexibility: Please understand that programs may be cancelled on very short notice, and that our protocols are continually adapting to best available science and expert recommendations.
Thank you for your support in keeping our community safe.
We are pleased to announce that NBNC Online is now open and freely available to everyone in our community, thanks to the generous contributions to the NBNC Resiliency Fund, our urgent fund to keep NBNC operational and support our staff during these difficult times.
Our deepest gratitude goes out to all those who have made this possible. Thank you on behalf of all of us at NBNC for your help as we work hard to care for our community, and the natural world, in unprecedented times.
Please join us in celebrating this milestone by inviting your friends, families, colleagues, and community to visit NBNC Online and take advantage of the webinars, videos, songs, stories, and activities for all ages that our staff have been tirelessly developing.
If you have yet to contribute to our Resiliency Fund, please consider doing so. We still need your help -- we've reached the first landing, but there are a few flights left to go.
- NBNC programs have been postponed. This includes: Forest Preschool, Robin’s Nest Playgroup, ECO, Explorers, Trekkers, and all in-person lectures and fundraisers.
- We are working to move some programs online — including the content of our upcoming Amphibian Monitoring Volunteer Training (March 18). Stay tuned for additional online offerings to come.
- Our buildings are closed to the public and all facilities rentals are suspended.
- NBNC staff will be working almost entirely from our homes and/or outdoors. We will be conducting business online and by phone and mail. Please reach out with questions and concerns.
- The good news — and wow, do we all need a little good news right now: Our preserve and trails are open! We know how vitally important access to nature is for each of us in this stressful time. Please stay home if you are sick, and please (as always) keep your dogs on leashes.
Resources and Online Programming
Though our doors our closed, we will be doing our best to provide teachers, families, and community members with resources to continue engaging in our natural world virtually. Visit NBNC Online to see what we're working on!