HMI Semester Update: Campus will remain closed through the end of Semester 44; April 17, 2020

Dear Semester 44 families and students:

I’m writing to let you know that we have decided to continue distance learning at HMI through May 20, the end of Semester 44. This is obviously a difficult decision to make; we work at HMI–we love HMI–because of interpersonal interactions and the opportunities to watch students grow before our eyes. Yet, the past month has surprised me. Though our campus is empty, my heart is not. Our employees, apprentices, and students are heroically bringing our mission to the virtual world. Yes, Semester 44 is the canyons and quigloos. It is also, however, Sydney training with us to Beyonce, Sam inviting us to shabbats, Amy and Jess holding very funny fireside chats, and everyone getting dressed up for virtual spirit weeks.Semester 44 is many words still unwritten.

As sad as it is, making the choice to continue remote learning on this date is the right one for HMI and Semester 44. We have simply run out of time: the logistics of bringing our community together from across the country in the current environment would take longer to implement than the time Semester 44 has left together. Knowing this choice has been an increasingly likely possibility, we have been developing interesting and mission-relevant programming for the month of May. We have wanted so badly to return for a final expedition in Utah, but it is time to acknowledge the canyons give us something to look forward to on another day. We now want our teachers and students to focus whole-heartedly on the possibilities of our May Plan. 

For the reasons listed above, we are extending distance learning through the remainder of Semester 44 before Colorado’s governor requires schools to do so. We are in good company, however. Other boarding schools in Colorado are making the same decision this week as well. In addition, our physician advisor, Dr. Zwerdlinger, helped us understand what was possible and not in the coming weeks. We made this decision with the support of our Board of Trustees and local public health officials.

We are facing more questions than answers as a nation, as a community, and as individuals in this unique time. Given the consequences of this news, I fear contributing in the short run to this imbalance. We can anticipate some of your questions, however. Here is our first attempt at answers, and thank you for your patience as we arrive at others.

What is May Plan? Please join us on Monday at 6:00pm MDT for a virtual family community meeting during which we will share our plans for next month. We can let you know now that classes as you know them will conclude as planned on May 1. I am excited and inspired by what I have seen so far for our May initiatives. Faculty have been working so hard on them, and my initial belief is much of what we employ during May Plan will become part of our program in some way for years to come.

Will there be an opportunity for Semester 44 to get together again at HMI? Yes, as soon as seems practical, and yes for years to come. We plan to welcome Semester 44 back to HMI in June of 2021 for a special reunion. We are prioritizing locking in this date so you will have it in your calendars.

Will HMI offer any tuition refunds? Yes. We will determine an amount of our per student cost savings this semester once we have more complete information and will be in touch about options regarding a refund. Know that, while we have saved on some expenses, such as food and transportation, most of our costs as a boarding school are invested in people and remain fixed. We also understand that the pandemic has created financial difficulties for some of our families and that everyone is experiencing additional costs with your children being at home instead of at HMI. We honor this, so stay tuned for more information to come. Of course, we will also return unused portions of student accounts at the end of the semester.

What about belongings left at HMI? We will create a plan to reunite students with their belongings next week and get everything back to families as soon as possible.

I wish I could conclude this note with breezy optimism: remote learning is exactly the same as being here at HMI; May Plan will replicate every aspect of the third expedition; this will all soon pass. Such words I cannot offer today. But I can share determination. HMI will always be here for Semester 44. Our community will continue to surprise, inspire, motivate, and support its members. There is a lot more learning to be done, and we will do it. Together.

I look forward to seeing you during our family meeting next Monday, and to continuing the conversations with you all about HMI, Semester 44, and the ways in which we can aid one another in this incredibly challenging time.

With gratitude and solidarity,


Daniel O’Brien

Head of School

High Mountain Institute