We continue to work closely with Outward Bound USA and the other regional OB schools to coordinate our response and messages to our communities. Please visit this page to read their COVID-19 statement.
SHOULD I STILL SIGN MYSELF OR MY CHILD UP NOW OR WAIT AND SEE HOW THINGS PROGRESS?
Outward Bound is committed to serving our students. Should it be necessary to interrupt programming to protect students, staff or the broader community during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will return to normal operation as soon as it is prudent to do so.
At this time, all international and domestic programs offered by Outward Bound in the United States will be suspended through May 31st, 2020. For the widest selection of course offerings starting after May 31st, 2020, we do recommend enrolling on the course of your choice though the risk of course change or cancellation cannot be discounted.
We are happy to thoroughly discuss our Cancellation Policy and recent updates to address COVID-19-related issues. If you are comfortable with the timing of your payments as they relate our Cancellation Policy and our current course delivery status, we'd love to assist you with your application for a course.
COULD OUTWARD BOUND STILL BE CANCELED?
We hope not, but the answer is yes. Our decision to open has been made after careful reflection on risk versus reward. As we gather new information and assess the most current information on disease spread, we reserve the right to cancel programming if we feel that is the safest option for the health and safety of our students and staff. We are also following state guidelines. Should MN or TX see a significant rise in disease spread and implement additional directives, we may not be able to run programs. Both of our basecamps in MN and TX are in remote areas that have not yet seen significant numbers of cases.
COVID-19 - Pre-Course Policies
WHAT IS OUTWARD BOUND DOING TO REDUCE THE LIKELIHOOD OF SOMEONE BRINGING COVID-19 TO COURSE?
During screening, and in the communications from Admissions and Student Services leading up to course, OE applicants are asked to disclose any travel or contact history that would put them in a higher risk category for contracting or transmitting COVID-19. Travel history includes any travel from/through high- or medium-risk areas as defined by the CDC at the time of the conversation. Contact history includes close contact with anyone with a confirmed or presumed case of COVID-19 or anyone with an acute respiratory disease AND a relevant travel history.
We have updated our Cancellation Refund Policy to include a course credit for specific COVID-19-related circumstances that will make it easy for students and families to disclose such histories, defer to later courses if they’re not feeling well, and sign up for Outward Bound courses in this time of uncertainty. This makes it easier for people to disclose risk factors.
We are working closely with our group course clients and partners to reduce the risk of an infectious student arriving on course. Because of the course length and/or the size of the group, it may not be practical to get travel and contact histories for everyone prior to course start.
On courses that include a course start health check, staff will ask students about signs and symptoms of respiratory illness and their travel and contact histories. Students who have symptoms or high- or medium-risk factors will be assessed and staff will consult with local health authorities before including the student on course.
WILL THERE BE NEW PAPERWORK TO FILL OUT?
All students and parents will need to sign an additional COVID-19 Statement of Understanding that outlines your responsibilities and commitment to making sure that you are able to arrive at Outward Bound healthy.
WHAT DOES PRE-OUTWARD BOUND SELF-QUARANTINE MEAN?
Self-quarantine means limiting exposure to non-family members, wearing a face mask around non-family members, avoiding large crowds/gatherings, and limiting unnecessary travel for 14 days prior to the start of your course. You will be required to self-quarantine prior to course-start in order to minimize your exposure to communicable disease.
WHY DO I NEED TO GET TESTED AND WHAT ARE THE CONDITIONS?
Once you and your group begin your expedition, you will be living and acting as a family unit while on the expedition. This means that you won’t need to practice social distancing or other preventative measures for the whole course because your group will maintain isolation for the well-being of the whole group. Assuming that everyone in the group begins the course having tested negative for COVID-19, we can be relatively confident of maintaining the integrity of the overall group’s health.
WILL MY CHILD BE DENIED ACCEPTANCE TO OUTWARD BOUND IF THEY HAVE UNDERLYING HEALTH CONDITIONS?
Having an underlying health condition would not automatically exclude anyone from participating in Outward Bound. All students undergo a medical screening process to make sure that they are safe and fit candidates for their specific course. Students with underlying conditions are advised to check with their physicians about any additional risks of contracting a communicable disease.
Other Items To Consider Before Arriving To Course:
1. Consider getting a flu vaccine prior to your course. By getting vaccinated for the flu, you support your community's health and could decrease the incidence of symptoms very similar to COVID-19 appearing on course.
2. If you have previously tested positive for COVID-19, findings have shown that you may still test positive within the few months following your original diagnosis. If you believe you have had or you have a previous confirmed positive test for COVID-19, you may consider getting tested 14 days prior to course start. In the event that the test results return positive, after 10 days from the test collection date and if you are not showing any signs or symptoms of COVID-19, you would be considered to be negative for COVID-19 according to current medical guidelines. In this event, we would be able to have you on course (proof of a positive test result at least 14 days prior to course start would be required). Any positive test result with a collection date inside of this timeline without proof of a previous positive test would result in needing to cancel your enrollment for your upcoming course.
COVID-19 - On Course Policies
What preventative measures will be taken during the course to prevent the spread of communicable disease?
We are using the concentric circle of infection prevention model. Outward Bound has always been a group-centered model where students and their instructor are on an expedition together with climbing days, resupplies, and check-ins interspersed throughout the course. This has made our program very adaptable to the new ACA (American Camp Association) guidelines. When students arrive at the drop-off point, they will have all been previously tested for COVID-19 and screened by our staff, reducing the probability of a student being COVID-19 positive.
Students will be met by their instructors who will also have undergone the same testing & screening process. Both instructors and students will do the CDC self checker (temperature and symptoms check) prior to starting their course. Only instructors will drive their student group to their backcountry entry point where they will begin the course. Your group will be considered a family unit for the remainder of the course. There will be some interaction with outside staff (Course Directors and Support Instructors) for rock climbing days, check-ins, and end of course activities. We are following industry standards in practicing good hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and social distancing to the greatest extent possible in a wilderness setting.
Staff also teach and supervise hygiene behaviors on course, including:
Handwashing or, if soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizing
Sanitary food preparation and dish sanitizing
Not touching one’s face with unwashed hands
Covering sneezes and coughs in the crook of an arm or, if available, a disposable tissue
Not sharing utensils or personal care products
Given how closely students and staff on most courses live and work together, effective social distancing within the group is not practical; however, groups may be effectively isolated from each other and from the public.
Will I be required to wear a face mask while at Outward Bound?
You will be asked to wear a face mask in specific situations at specific times; however, you will not need to wear a mask for the vast majority of your Outward Bound experience. We have structured your Outward Bound course so that your group can distance itself from other non-course staff and groups. You will be required to wear a mask at the drop-off location for the start of the course and periodically throughout the expedition if you are unable to socially distance from people outside of your expedition brigade. You and your group will also need to wear masks if someone within the group presents symptoms that cannot be attributed to another illness, or if you need to leave the course for any health reason to visit a doctor. We have added two washable cloth face masks and a buff to the packing list.
Will staff be required to wear masks?
Staff will be required to wear masks when they need to interact with people outside of the immediate group and social distancing is not possible.
What will the sleeping situation look like?
Each student will be sleeping in single tents if they are on canoeing courses in the Boundary Waters. Students on course in Texas will be sleeping under tarps and will be physically distanced. Your group will be considered a family unit for the entirety of the course.
WHAT WILL YOU DO IF A STUDENT OR INSTRUCTOR EXHIBITS SIGNS OF COVID-19?
Despite pre-course-screening, social distancing requirements, good hygiene, and careful measures, it is impossible to guarantee that you will not contract COVID-19 while at Outward Bound. We will take every precaution to keep you healthy while you are on your course. If a student or instructor exhibits COVID-19 symptoms during a course, we will evacuate them to our basecamp for testing. Depending on the situation, our goal would be for the rest of the group to continue with their expedition during this time. Upon receiving a negative test, the student would be able to return to the group.
We have set aside specific cabins and tents at our basecamps to be used as places for a student or staff person to isolate if necessary.
What happens if someone in the group tests positive for COVID-19?
If a student does test positive for COVID-19, the student would need to leave the course permanently, and parents or friends would be required to pick up the student within a 48-hour window. If a staff member tests positive for COVID-19 they would leave the course permanently and be replaced by a staff member who has been supporting the group.
Depending on the situation, our goal would be for the rest of the group to continue with their expedition during this time.
What is your quarantine plan?
Each basecamp will essentially be isolated. Only essential visitors (health inspectors, camp doctors, food delivery, etc.) will be allowed on property for the duration of the season. Visitors will wear masks and practice social distancing while on site.
We have also set aside specific cabins and tents at our basecamps to be used as places for a student or staff person to isolate if necessary.
Will VOBS support staff also be tested for COVID-19?
All program staff with direct interaction with students will be tested. The frequency of testing will be triggered by the prevalence of COVID-19 in the local area.
WHEN WOULD YOU CANCEL A COURSE AS IT RELATES TO COVID-19?
If travel or other challenges result in enrollment dropping so low that the group size is below what we believe is necessary for the valuable interpersonal dynamics of an Outward Bound course, we will seek to transfer students and combine groups. If this is not possible, we may be forced to cancel a course.
ARE THERE OTHER COVID-19-RELATED EVENTS THAT MIGHT RESULT IN COURSE CANCELLATION?
If local health authorities make a recommendation against, or a restriction that applies to our programs, courses that haven’t yet started will be cancelled and courses underway may be ended early.
WHAT IF OUTWARD BOUND HAS TO CANCEL A COURSE MY CHILD IS ENROLLED ON? WILL WE GET A REFUND?
If Outward Bound needs to cancel a course due to COVID-19 your Course Advisor will assist you in transferring to a future Outward Bound course OR issue a course credit for a future Outward Bound course OR issue a refund in full.
WILL YOU ISSUE A REFUND IF WE ELECT NOT TO RISK SENDING OUR CHILD ON COURSE DUE TO COVID-19?
If you elect not to send the student on course and they have not been directly exposed to nor contracted COVID-19, you can cancel without penalty if it's more than 90 days out. Otherwise, we will not process a refund for cancellations less than 44 days out. See our cancellation policy here.
DOES COURSE CREDIT APPLY TO OTHER COURSE TYPES/AREA? CAN I USE IT WITH OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS?
This course credit MAY be valid for other course types or areas within Voyageur Outward Bound School's programming and possibly even transferable to other family members. Please speak directly with our student services team: firstname.lastname@example.org; 1 (828) 239 2376
COURSE CREDIT MUST BE USED BY DECEMBER 1, 2021. DOES THAT MEAN I NEED TO APPLY TO THE NEW COURSE BY THEN OR DOES THE NEW COURSE HAVE TO START BY THEN?
Course start must be on or before December 1, 2021.
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