Fall 2020 Registration & Youth Program FAQ

What do I do if I get to the end of the FAQ and still have questions?

  • For questions about registration, payment, medical form & waiver, scholarships, or questions that don’t fall into other categories – Office@VermontWildernessSchool.org (Elissa Pine & Ash Young). 
  • For questions about groupings and what happens DURING the program, including discussing dynamics within your child’s group –  Program Director (Amy Hyatt or Bob Etzweiler)


How will the program be different because of COVID-19?

  • Youth and staff will follow VWS’s COVID-19 Prevention Protocols, which include small group sizes (9 people max), social distancing, mask use, sanitation, and more. After using these protocols for 10 weeks of summer camp, we have learned how to both stay safe and have fun!
  • See this letter from program Co-Director Amy Hyatt that describes what a “Day in the life of a fall 2020 student” may look like.
  • We will host a family orientation in mid-September, via Zoom, Please bring you questions about these protocols, or anything else.  Date TBA.
  • If you have further questions please attend our parent orientation, or contact us.


Fall 2020 Groups

What size will the groups be?

  • We will start in September with a group structure of: 1 adult Lead Instructor, 1 Intern Instructor (adult or teen), and 6 youth. We may make adjustments to that on a case-by-base basis and some groups may end up looking slightly different.


Will the groups mix?

  • The groups will generally maintain at least 30 feet from each other.  Vermont regulations do allow up to 25 people to be in the same group, so it may be possible for two groups to meet up for larger games— We would only allow this after the smaller groups have demonstrated that they can do an excellent job following our COVID prevention protocols.   


Will siblings be attending the same day, and will they be in the same group? 

  • Our intention is to keep siblings attending on the same program day unless you indicate a desire to have them attend on different days.
  • In most cases, we will likely have siblings in different groups UNLESS you request they be in the same group.


Can my child be with other specific children?

  • Because of the reduced group size, accommodating these kinds of requests will be harder this year. On the other hand we understand that part of the reason families come to our programs is to be with their friends, so we will do our best to accommodate them. Please include any requests in the registration form, unless you have already sent them.


Can my child switch groups or days later on?

  • Big Maybe….
  • Program Directors will strive to create groups on the different program days that we believe will create a good experience for all involved.  We are aware that with limited exchange between the small groups that having good small group chemistry is even more important this year.
  • We may be able to do some tweaking of groups if it just isn’t working — especially in the first four weeks of the program.  It all depends on where there are openings.
  • Switching groups or days later on may be possible, but we ask that parents not make this kind of request lightly. The smaller group sizes make this kind of request harder to accommodate. Clearly if scheduling conflicts or group dynamics make one group or day unworkable we will work with you. 


How many days of the week can a child attend?

  • We have over 100 youth wanting to attend Great Blue Heron Community School this year. If all goes well with staffing, we only have 90 openings over the 4 days.  Because of the high demand, we will only be allotting one day per child on the list.  If there are any slots left after all 100 people have had the chance to register, we will open up the possibility of youth attending a second day of Great Blue Heron.



What is the registration timeline?

  • Today through Tuesday, September 1st (5pm) –  Registration open for returning families.
  • Tuesday, September 1st (5pm) through Friday, Sep 4 (5pm) – Registration open for families on the waitlist
  • Friday, Sep 4 (5pm) – Registration open to the public.


How do I register?

  • Returning families will receive an email with a link to the registration form.
    • They will need to fill out one form for each child enrolling. The child’s spot will be secured once we have received: 
      • a completed registration form for each child attending,
      • a completed medical form & waiver, and 
      • a payment. 
    • If we do not receive these by the end of your registration window, your spot will not be secured. 
    • If you are mailing a check and are concerned that postal delays may make you miss the deadline, send an email to Elissa at bookkeeper@vermontwildernessschool.org.
    • Be sure to save the automated confirmation email that you’ll receive after you complete the form! That is your proof of registration.
  • As it becomes clear how many spots we will have, waitlist families will start to receive emails with a link to the registration form on Tuesday, September 1. Your spot will be reserved according to the same terms described above.


Are families required to sign up for the full year, or are there other choices?

  • We suggest reviewing our updated cancelation & refund policies. When you register you are committing for the whole year. The one exception is if you opt for the 4-week trial period (see below).  


Will there be a trial period option?

  • Yes, a 4-week trial period is available on request. 
  • A trial period would involve a $250 payment, the youth attending the first four sessions of the program (late Sept-late Oct), and then making a decision about the remainder of the year. To request this option:
    • Indicate your interest on the registration form and send in your $250 payment for the trial period and medical form & waiver. (If you are requesting scholarship funds and a trial period, send in a $100 refundable deposit instead.  See below for more details.) 
    • The student will attend the first four sessions of this program (late September to late October) and make a decision about the rest of the year at that point. We encourage youth to attend all four sessions before deciding. 


Will there be anything other than a weekly option?

  • We are only offering a weekly option at this time. 
  • Because of COVID-related limits on the number of people permitted on site, we cannot add additional children once per month as we have in the past.
  • However, our Wild Turkeys program meets monthly on Saturdays and is very similar to Great Blue Heron programs. 

Cost and Scholarships

What is the cost for the 2020-2021 program year?

  • This cost is a sliding scale between $1500-$2100. The true cost is $1700.
  • VWS will not break even on these programs, due to the cost of operating under COVID conditions. We will continue to fundraise to cover the gap, and we will continue to offer as many scholarship dollars as we can afford. 
  • If you are able to pay higher on the sliding scale, please do. 
  • If paying at the low end on the scale is the only way your child can attend, please do that. 


Why did the cost go up this year?

  • The new cost amounts to about $60 per day. (Previous “at-cost” was $50/day).  This increase is largely due to COVID. We have had to hire more staff, and we have increased their wages to acknowledge the extra work and personal risk of teaching under these conditions.  Other expenses on the rise include insurance, overhead, and PPE supplies. 
  • Even with the price increase, VWS will not break even on these programs. We will continue to fundraise to cover the gap, and we will continue to offer as many scholarship dollars as we can afford. If you are able to pay higher on the sliding scale, please do. If a scholarship is the only way your child can attend, please apply for one. 
  • To make our programs more financially accessible we are offering both scholarship & payment plan options. Our scholarship offers tend to range between 10%-30% of the low end of the sliding scale, but we consider all requests and occasionally offer larger scholarships.
  • Families are encouraged to reach out to us if they wish to attend but would be unable even with the above scholarship options.


How do I apply for a scholarship?

  • On the registration form, select the low end of the sliding scale. You will be directed to a section where you’ll request the amount of scholarship funds and add any other information you choose to share.
  • You will need to send in a $100 deposit to hold your space. This deposit will be refunded if you decide not to attend the program. If the deposit amount is an obstacle please contact us.
  • Once most or all spaces in the program have been reserved VWS will allocate our scholarship budget and reach out to you individually with an offer. This will happen in early-to-mid September.
  • In that message you will be given an amount of time to consider the offer and either accept it and commit to attending the program OR let us know that the offer is not enough for you to attend the program. 


Withdrawal, cancellation, and refunds

If I need to withdraw my child during the program year will I be refunded? 

  • If you register for the trial period you may withdraw after 4 weeks with no other costs.
  • If you withdraw during the program year, VWS policy is that you will not receive any refund.  However, because we have a waitlist for Great Blue Heron Programs this year, we will be able to refund you for any remaining sessions, if there is someone from the waitlist able to take your spot.  See our Refund & Cancellation Policy for more details.
  • If you wish to withdraw and there is no one who can take your spot we may not be able to give you a full refund, but we will work with you to reduce the financial impact to your family as much as possible.


Payment Plans

What are the payment plan options?

  • If you cannot pay in full, you may request a quarterly plan (4 equal payments) or a monthly plan (8 equal payments)
  • You can make this request on the registration form.


How do I pay?

  • Visit the page where you registered to pay online by card or via a Paypal account (includes a 3% processing fee).
  • Mail us a check (or packet of pre-dated checks if you are doing a payment plan) to Vermont Wilderness School, PO Box 2585, Brattleboro, VT 05303.


COVID Policy Updates  

What happens if the program is forced to close again due to COVID-19?

  • We may offer families who wish to stay connected to their friends & instructors ways to keep in touch via distance-learning options, as we did last spring. We are happy to discuss the ways to do this that can minimize screen time.
  • We have added make-up days at the end of the year which we will use if we have to cancel multiple program days. If the number of weeks we have to cancel exceeds the number of make up days we can use, we’ll offer you a refund for those missed days, minus one. See our Refund & Cancellation Policy for more details.

What if is VWS’s make-up policy in regards to children needing to quarantine due to community exposure, etc.?  

  • Our policy for individual families needing to quarantine is that it is an illness absence.  There will not be a refund.


Marlboro Mondays

How is this day different from the others?

  • VWS is partnering with Marlboro Elementary School (MES) to offer one day of the Great Blue Heron program in Marlboro on Mondays.  For now this program is open only to children who live in Marlboro or attend MES. If they don’t fill the program we can open it up more broadly. 

My child lives in Marlboro or attends MES – how do I register and/or request a scholarship?

  • You can register here


Name Change

Why did the name of the program change this year from “Oyase” to “Great Blue Heron”?