Wilderness Awareness School and COVID-19

Our number one priority is the health and safety of our students, staff, and community. We will update this page regularly with new policy updates, guidelines, refund guarantees, and FAQs. 

Safety of our Programs – All Outside, Low Ratios, and Small Groups

We are fortunate that the structure of our programs provides ideal conditions for gathering in groups during COVID – all outside, in small groups (as much as possible), in large areas, etc. We have also lowered our student to teacher ratio in order to continue to provide excellent experiences for our students and to ensure we are doing everything we can to keep students and staff safe. For ages 4-6, we will provide a 6:1 student to teacher ratio (previously 8:1). For ages 7 and older, we will provide an 8:1 student to teacher ratio (previously 10:1). For adults, we will provide a minimum 8:1 student to teacher ratio. As a non-profit organization, we are thankful to our generous community of donors whose support enables us to offer our programs at a lower ratio.

Health Checks

We will be asking all students to have their temperature checked the morning of class and to stay home if they have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 including, but not limited to a temperature over 100.4F, shortness of breath, and a dry cough. See the DOH Guidelines for the full list of symptoms as these are regularly updated. Instructors will also be conducting health checks when students arrive to class.  

Social Distancing and Face Coverings

Staff, apprentices, and volunteers are required to wear face coverings (except for when they are eating, drinking, etc). We are also requiring ALL students to wear face coverings, unless they have a medical exemption. There will be times during the day when staff will space students apart to take a break from masks. Please make sure to test your and/or your child’s face covering before coming to program and make sure they know how to use it properly and that it fits comfortably.

Tuition and Refund Policy

Our standard refund policy applies to all payments received for programs, unless you have been adversely impacted by COVID-19 ( recent job loss, recent illness, caring for sick family members, etc.) See below section: COVID Emergency Relief Fund. 

See our full refund policy here.

COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund

Thanks to the continued generous contributions from our community, we are offering a relief fund for those who have a specific COVID-related situation that develops (recent job loss, recent illness, etc.) and causes financial hardship. This will be available throughout the year. A simple application is required to apply for relief funds. We have currently allocated $15,000 for this fund for the 2020-21 school year. You can fill out an application here.

School Year Youth Programs

Department of Health Guidelines

Our school is in a unique position; we are not an accredited school. For this reason, our programs fall under the category of “day camps and child care”. We have adjusted our safety policies and procedures based on the WA DOH Child Care and Summer Camp Guidelines, and have been piloting them successfully at our summer programs. As a non-profit organization with programs running exclusively outside, many of the considerations for returning to public schools will not apply to our program offerings.

Cancellation of In-Person Classes 

The DOH guidelines are not attached to the phases laid out by the state. This is good news, as we are allowed to continue operation, regardless of what phase King County is in! If public schools close to in-person learning, we will not be required to. Given these guidelines, we have high confidence we will be able to continue running Youth Programs throughout the year without cancelling any in-person class days. In the case we do cancel any in-person classes due to COVID related reasons, we will offer a 50% refund for any class days missed.

Online Learning

We are continuing to build resilience in our staffing and sound safety practices for our students in order to reduce the probability that we would have to cancel any in-person classes. However, there might be a circumstance where we would need to cancel in-person class. For any short period of missed classes (1 to 2 class days), we will not be offering any online or remote learning opportunities (this also goes for any weather or act of nature causes for missing a class day). While we don’t anticipate a situation that would require cancellation of multiple class days, we will not be offering any substantial online or remote learning opportunities for extended missed in-person days. At most, we may offer short check-in zoom calls or simple at-home nature challenges for any extended cancelations. We understand that you come to our school for connection to nature in-person and that you may already have an abundance of online learning in your life at this time.

Transportation

Due to the safety risks involved with transporting students in vans and buses, we will not be offering transportation for our school year programs. This includes transporting students from Duvall to our campus, field trips, overnights, etc. We did not make the decision lightly as we know this adds travel time for families. But it feels like the best path forward with the health of our staff and students in mind. With added traffic at our campus, we will likely be staggering drop off and pick up times for some programs. Stay tuned for further details on this. For teens enrolled in Wild Within, we will provide updates for you in a separate email later this week. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What added safety protocols will you have in place?
Each day, students will be required to take their temperature (either at home or at class). If it’s above 100.4 degrees F, students will not be allowed to come to class. There are also a series of questions you will need to answer no to be able to attend class. We will have an updated check in process to minimize risks as well. Parents ARE required to wear face coverings at drop off and pick up.

Are students required to wear a mask?
We ARE requiring ALL students to wear face coverings, unless they have a medical exemption. There will be times during the day when staff will space campers apart to take a break from masks.

Are students required to stay 6’ apart?
We are encouraging students to stay socially distanced at least 6’ apart, but not fully requiring it. There will be times when students and/or staff will likely need to be closer than that – helping students with gear, medical treatment, etc. In those times, we will ask students to wear a mask if they are not doing so already.

Are staff and volunteers required to wear a mask?
Yes. We are requiring our staff and volunteers to wear masks. This is to minimize risk for staff and students.

Will the school still be providing transportation?
At this time, we will not be providing any transportation. This includes driving from Duvall to our 40-acre campus as well as field trips and overnights. Even with masks and distancing, being enclosed in spaces does not feel like the best option for our staff and students. To minimize risk, we are planning to keep students in sub-groups as much as possible, and having students from multiple groups and/or programs intermixing in the same vehicle would negate that. 

What happens if the program needs to shut down? Will you be providing online learning?
We are not tied to what public schools are doing. As referenced, we have our own guidance that we are following. This guidance is not currently tied to phases, which means that even if we go back to Phase 1, unless this guidance is changed, we will not be forced to shut down. There is the possibility that we may need to implement online learning (Ex: if an instructor got sick and we were not able to find a backup in time), but this feels like a much smaller chance of happening than it was in the spring. We will have more backup instructors than in a typical year as well. We are planning to run in-person programs for the year and feel hopeful that we will be allowed to do so.

What other precautions are you taking?
We will be keeping sub-groups as distinct as possible. For the time being, we will not be altogether in a large group. That likely looks like 1 instructor, 1 volunteer, and 6-8 students (depending on the program). We will minimize the need for instructors or students to mix with other groups. We will continue to follow guidance around this and adjust accordingly. One big advantage to this is that we will have smaller student-to-instructor ratios. During breaks/mealtimes, students will spread out to maintain social distancing of at least 6’.

What is your refund policy?
Before the start date, if a program is canceled by WAS, full refunds will be offered. After the program start date, if we cancel any in-person classes due to COVID-19, we will offer a 50% prorated refund per day missed – to be assessed twice during the year: Jan 11 and June 5th. For Youth School Year programs, will offer online learning opportunities during any cancelation period. 

Additionally, we have a $15,000 Relief Fund to assist families who experience hardship during the year due to COVID-19. See our full Registration Policy.