General Information

Health, Safety & COVID-19 FAQ


What is Putney? What is their involvement in this program?

The Columbia Climate School is working with Putney Pre-College to offer this Climate School experience. Putney programs are designed and operated by Putney Student Travel, a family-run organization that has provided transformative travel programs for young people since 1951. These programs are designed for motivated high school students who are curious and passionate about the world around them. Whether in the U.S. or abroad, Putney programs combine pre-college enrichment and travel, taking you beyond the standard summer class model. The Putney Pre-College experience prepares you for that all-important next step into college—both academically and socially.

Who is eligible to apply for this program?

The Climate School is designed for and open to students in grades 9-12 across the United States, as well as rising 9th grade students.

Where is Castleton University? What is the campus like?

Castleton University is located on a 165-acre campus, nestled between Vermont’s Green Mountains and the Lakes Region and surrounded by small Vermont towns. Castleton’s rural nature and collegiate environment make this campus the ideal place to host a climate-focused summer experience. In addition to ample learning spaces, from classrooms to labs and studios, lecture halls and theaters, there are a wide range of campus facilities available for our exclusive use including a beautiful outdoor covered pavilion, sports fields, tennis courts, fantastic hiking and biking trails, and more. You can see the Castleton campus for yourself by taking a virtual tour here!

What will the accommodations be like?

We stay in dormitories at the heart of the Castleton University campus. Rooms are spacious singles and doubles, with shared bathroom facilities on the floor. Dormitories are equipped with ample social common areas, as well as laundry facilities and a small kitchenette. Staff reside on the dormitory floors with students.

What will the meals be like?

Each day we take our meals in the campus dining hall, with the occasional lunch in town or picnic on a field trip. The campus kitchen at Castleton and our program staff are able to accommodate many medical and dietary needs. Please call us to discuss your specific situation.

How physically active will I be at Castleton?

Days are filled with movement—walking around campus with your fellow students and staff, participating in a hands-on activity, or enjoying an afternoon swim or hike.

What are the rules at Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains?

We expect our students to maintain high standards of personal behavior. We impose very few rules other than those designed to ensure that students can live in a safe, friendly, and constructive environment. Instead, we support an open atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and consideration. Since students are encouraged, within the context of our programs, to take leadership roles and to make some of their own discoveries, students whose parents require them to be under constant surveillance or who are likely to act irresponsibly, use drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, or behave in a disruptive manner, should not apply. Any student whose attitude or behavior is in violation of our rules or is otherwise prejudicial to the maintenance of standards or to the successful operation of our program will be dismissed from the program at our sole discretion and travel home at their parents’ expense.

Will activities and lessons take place off campus?

Program content will be delivered in a variety of formats and modalities throughout the program to maximize every student’s learning potential. If the State of Vermont health guidelines permit, 0ff-campus experiences will be offered daily to help students solidify their classroom-based learning experiences with real world examples of climate impacts and climate action.

What is your current thinking on the novel coronavirus?

The Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains program is a collaboration between Columbia Climate School and Putney Student Travel. Since Putney’s founding 69 years ago, we have approached each participant’s summer experience with the same attention to safety and security that we give our own children. This summer is no exception. In that spirit, we are monitoring diligently the spread and containment of the novel coronavirus locally and globally. We developed our Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains program at Castleton University in Vermont to allow our small campus community to engage in relative isolation, in a state where the spread and impact of COVID-19 have been well managed. Our program will follow guidelines outlined by the State of Vermont, with input from the CDC, the American Camp Association, and our own sources. Find more information about Putney's approach to navigating COVID-19.

What are the safety protocols at Pre-College Vermont given the COVID-19 pandemic?

Our ability to run a safe program relies on both increased health and safety protocols and proven leadership from our staff on campus. The following is an outline of enhanced health and safety guidelines for this summer:

  • Program Structure—Our Vermont program follows a “pod” structure in order to follow state guidelines and limit exposure, while still ensuring a high quality program and social experience for our students. Each pod has its own housing, dining hall space, classrooms, and meeting spaces. Students and program staff within a pod can interact directly, while cross-pod interactions will follow social distancing guidelines.
  • Arrival on Campus—The process for student arrival on campus is designed to provide peace of mind for families and ensure, to the extent that we can, that coronavirus is not brought into the campus community. Arrival will involve pre-program isolation and testing protocols.
  • Dorms—Students will be housed in spacious single or double rooms. Our Columbia Climate School community has exclusive use of our dormitories, common space, classrooms, and labs on campus.
  • Eating—Students and instructors eat all meals in the dining hall during program-specific time slots with their pods. All dining areas will be disinfected between groups served.
  • Cleaning—Bathrooms, common spaces, and dorm kitchenettes will be cleaned and disinfected twice daily. All dining areas will be disinfected between groups served.
  • Health Checks—Any student or staff who has symptoms consistent with a cold, flu, or coronavirus will be evaluated by an on-campus nurse, isolated from other participants, and administered a rapid test for coronavirus.
  • Leadership and Staff—Our director and instructors will be trained in proper hygiene and social distancing protocols and procedures. The program director will facilitate open lines of communication with staff, with the campus community, and with parents as needed. An on-campus nurse will have regular office hours and be available on-call 24/7. Additionally, we will have a dedicated residential staff member whose purview will be to oversee and assist in the implementation of all COVID-19 practices and procedures.

How do I stay healthy at Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains?

As always, the best way to stay healthy during your program continues to be to start your summer well-rested and to pay attention to your eating, sleep, and hygiene habits. Our director and staff provide guidelines and reminders about the importance of hygiene and how to stay healthy during the program.

What if I get sick?

It is important to be open and tell our staff members if you are feeling unwell. We will have an on-campus nurse with our Columbia Climate School community at Castleton. Any student or staff who has symptoms consistent with a cold, flu, or coronavirus, such as fever, cough, body aches, etc., will be evaluated by the nurse, isolated from other participants, and brought to a local health clinic to determine treatment. Health decisions are made as a team based on input from the student, parents, the director, and our home office in Vermont. All students are required to carry their own medical insurance.

What happens if a member of the campus community tests positive for coronavirus?

We will follow the guidelines issued by the State of Vermont. This includes closing off affected areas, cleaning and disinfecting areas, communicating with staff and parents, and consulting with the contact tracing team at the Vermont Department of Health.

What if I have specific dietary or medical needs?

The campus kitchen at Castleton and our program staff are able to accommodate many medical and dietary needs. Please call us to discuss your specific situation.

Could Columbia Climate School in the Green Mountains get canceled?

Yes, it could. If guidelines from the State of Vermont change or the current local health situation veers from its current course showing significant progress, we could cancel the program. If we do cancel the program, we will refund 100% of your tuition payment and application fee.


Important Links

More information about Putney’s approach to navigating COVID-19
Putney Admissions Details
Castleton University campus virtual tour