COVID-19 Information

Upper School COVID-19 Plan

Upper School faculty and staff are excited to join students back on campus in late August. We recognize the importance of community in our educational systems, and maintaining our strong Ellis community has been a guiding factor in the development of our plans for reopening.

We have thought carefully about how we can make adjustments to our spaces, routines, and programs in order to provide students and families with a safe and connected school experience. Throughout this process, we have consulted the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Pennsylvania Department of Health guidelines to ensure that we are complying with their recommendations on smaller groupings, face coverings, social distancing, and good hygiene practices.

As a result, both our physical spaces and the flow of our school day will feel different to students, but they will find familiarity and comfort in the support of their teachers and the challenge of their course work. In the early weeks of the school year, we will help our students to reestablish routines, adjust to new methods of learning, and nurture their social and emotional health. We feel fortunate to have the time, space, and resources to be able to adapt our program to meet the needs of these unusual circumstances and to be able to offer our students and families a safe, healthy, and robust Upper School experience.


We have changed our schedule to a two-week schedule with classes scheduled Monday through Friday, rather than on numbered days. Class times and time spent in classes will remain the same or increase. This will allow for a smooth transition to remote learning, if needed, and ensures that students will have access to their full schedule of classes whether they are in school or learning remotely. CoLab day programming, including Integrated Studies courses, has been incorporated into the new schedule.

Student Cohorts 

We have reenvisioned our spaces in order to limit mixing between groups during the school day. At no time will students be in groups larger than 25 when indoors. For Glee Club, students will play and sing outside with twelve-foot social distancing and face coverings; Orchestra will meet in the auditorium with social distancing. Our music teachers will also integrate lessons that do not involve singing/playing and may include research and projects if weather conditions do not allow for social distancing.

Homerooms and Study Halls

Students will be divided into two sections for grades 9 through 12 homerooms. For morning homerooms (8:00–8:10 a.m.), students will be supervised by homeroom teachers beginning at 7:30 a.m. Students who arrive between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. are to retrieve materials from their lockers and report directly to their homeroom location. Students who arrive between 7:00 and 7:30 a.m. should report to the auditorium to await clearance from the School Nurse and may then proceed to their homeroom locations.

All students in grades 9–12 will be scheduled into study halls this year in order to ensure adherence to social distancing guidelines. 


Students will eat snack and lunch in grade-level homerooms, supervised by faculty and with social distancing. One grade will be assigned to eat lunch in the courtyard at least once during the week if they choose and if weather permits. Students will not be required to wear face coverings when eating.
Common Spaces

Some hallways and stairways will convert to one direction, and stairwells will be either up or down. We will have a clear class dismissal protocol to reduce congestion during passing time and in hallways.
  • Restrooms: We will reduce occupancy in our restrooms; students will be allowed to wait outside the restroom on floor signage with teacher permission. 
  • Water Fountains: Water fountains will be covered except for bottle filling. Each student is asked to bring their own labeled water bottle to school each day.
  • Lounges: Lounge spaces will not be open for congregating or gathering.
  • Outside Spaces: In order to maximize our time outside, we have created an outdoor spaces calendar which allows each division access for classes and lunch.

We have redesigned our classroom layouts to accommodate six-foot social distancing between students and faculty. In order to accomplish this, we have reduced the occupancy of our classrooms and created new room assignments and classroom seating configurations. Classrooms will be equipped with hand sanitizer and disinfectant, and all student spaces will be cleaned before and after each class period. 

Co-curricular Activities

We recognize that student government, affinity groups, and clubs are a valuable part of our Upper School experience. We will still run these student activities with assigned meeting days and locations in order to adhere to social distancing guidelines and safety protocols. Advisory group meetings will be similarly structured. The School will work with student leadership to reimagine community events and traditions that may need to shift to a virtual format.

Family Events

We deeply value our partnership with families, and we have worked to develop a plan for Curriculum Night that provides families with important information and feedback. All Upper School faculty will share video recordings with an overview of their classes, and these videos will be posted on Unified Classroom pages. Families will also be invited to a Zoom meeting with their child’s advisor, where they will have an opportunity to ask questions and share feedback about the start of the school year.

Throughout the year, parents are encouraged to reach out to their child’s teachers and/or advisor if they have questions or concerns; while we aren’t able to invite parents to campus at this time, teachers are still happy to talk on the phone or meet via Zoom.

As the year progresses, we will regularly reevaluate which of our family events may need to be reimagined virtually and will keep families updated as changes or modifications are made.

Remote Learning Access

Students who are unable to be on campus due to COVID-19 related health concerns will have remote access to all of their courses. Students will follow the same schedule for both in-person and remote classes, and Zoom links, assignments, and materials will be provided via Unified Classroom in advance of all class meetings. Students accessing their courses remotely are responsible for joining class at the designated start time and are expected to be engaged and present throughout the class period, just as they would in the classroom.

This year will require patience, flexibility, and compassion on the part of all members of our Upper School community, and we are immensely grateful to have students, families, faculty, and staff who are willing to partner with us as we navigate the upcoming school year. While our spaces and schedules may look different, the warmth and strength of our community remain the same, as does our commitment to offering an engaging and supportive experience to all of our students and families. 

Upper School FAQs

List of 11 items.

  • Can a student switch to remote learning after starting online?

    We are eager to be as flexible as we need to be in this regard. Teachers will teach assuming they have students both on campus and accessing school remotely from home. If you decide your daughter needs to switch to remote learning, let your division head know and they will communicate that with the teachers. Everyone will have the Zoom links for every class, so the only lag would be in getting materials.  And the same is true for a student who has been learning remotely and is coming back to school: let us know so we can be prepared.
  • How will you encourage students to be forthright when they are not feeling well and to seek out guidance?

    We will go to homeroom meetings during the first week to address these issues. Middle and Upper School students can let their teachers know if they aren’t feeling well, and go see the School Nurse.  

    In the past, it was common for kids that weren’t feeling well to still come to school. Now, it needs to be a whole family responsibility for those students to stay home instead. For us to be safe as a community, we need parents to pay attention to their children’s symptoms, and if there’s any doubt, keep them home. This is a key reason behind our decision to make it easy to access school remotely from home.
  • How will spaces be used for lunch/snack?

    We have set up a schedule for all outdoor spaces, and have already scheduled activities that have to be outside like singing and P.E. We will also be allowing students to eat outside as often as possible. For lunch, both outside and inside, students will be in small groups with adult supervision. They will be required to be socially distanced, and not to take masks off unless sitting and eating.  
  • How will you make sure that extroverted students feel nourished and cared for, instead of being told to back off?

    We will talk with the students about that in Advisory and encourage them to be outside as much as possible where they can be more free and demonstrative. We will also talk about how to share feelings and how to communicate emotion and affection without touching and being close to someone. We don’t want girls to feel they need to be something other than who they are. We will also ask girls for suggestions and share what has worked for them.
  • If students aren’t able to come to campus, will they still be able to attend school remotely so they don’t miss any content?

    Yes. All Upper School teachers are going to teach every class assuming someone is at home. They will have a Zoom meeting link on their Unified Classroom page that is a dedicated link for a virtual classroom. If a student is absent for any reason (assuming they are not too sick to come to class), they can join the remote classroom that day and find the materials that are posted. We want to make it as easy as possible for students at home. If a student is too sick to attend remote classes, then the makeup work will be posted on Unified Classroom and the student should check in with their teachers and advisor for the best schedule for making up the work.

    It’s the same for Middle School: a student will have access to the links and materials that they need for remote learning. During orientation, we will go over all of it with students in case that happens.
  • What is the dress code for remote learners and can masks be different patterns and colors?

    Any cloth mask with more than one layer or surgical mask that is comfortable and fits well works. It’s most important that students can tolerate the mask.

    Our expectation for remote learners in the Upper School is to adhere to non-uniform guidelines, which are posted on MyEllis. In Middle School, students need to wear a uniform for remote learning—at least the part that we can see (polo shirt). We will continue to have dress-down days and Tiger Days in House shirts.
  • What types of masks are acceptable?

    They need to be cloth masks with multiple layers or surgical masks. Bandanas and neck gaiters are not acceptable. Face shields alone are not allowed.
  • What will the student experience look like for remote learners?

    The teachers have had training, the rooms have been set up with an additional camera and microphone, and the School has been exploring ways to engage students who are remote and how best to incorporate them into discussions and activities, including when social distanced in a group.  

    For example, if there’s an experiment that can’t be replicated at home, they will find a similar way that it can be done at home. From seeing the board work to hearing in-class discussions, our goal is for students at home to see and hear what is happening in real-time so that they feel like part of the classroom. The expectations are the same for students at home as at school: to feel engaged and connected.
  • When can students buy lunch from the cafeteria?

    Our food service provider, Metz, is creating a process through which food can be ordered ahead of time. We will not have a cafeteria line, but individually wrapped salads or sandwiches. Money will need to be put on your Metz account in advance, and then the food will be delivered to the rooms where the students will be eating. Students can bring food from home, but all food must be nut-free since students will be eating throughout the campus and we can’t designate nut-free areas.
  • Who gets contacted if there’s a case?

    Please see our response flow chart.
  • Will the locker rooms be used during P.E.?

    There have been many questions about athletics and team sports. Our goal is to prioritize the health and safety of our students while enabling them to move and exercise. We are loosening up uniform rules on P.E. days, so they won’t need to use the locker rooms for class. Locker rooms will just be used as bathrooms and with limited occupancy.

    On P.E. days, students should wear shorts, leggings, or some form of comfortable legwear underneath their kilt and tennis shoes so they don’t need to go into the locker room. They can take off their kilt and leave it in a place that is designated for them during P.E. class. Please make sure your student’s name is written on their kilt.