We are very pleased to report the successful completion of our Spring 2021 high school semester (HMI Semester 46) and Gap programming. HMI Gap students departed from Leadville on May 13; HMI Semester students departed on May 23.
The 49 students of HMI Semester 46 arrived on January 27 after completing a two-week quarantine and testing negative for COVID. Students and faculty alike were tested on the first day of the semester, and then again ten days later. Students were broken up into isolated groups of 9-10 upon arrival in the airport. After the second round of tests came back negative, and the students completed their 16-day backpacking expedition, they returned to campus. Over the course of the semester, the students participated in two more backpacking expeditions and did not return home for spring break so as to reduce the risk of travel-related exposure.
Although the cohort did experience a COVID outbreak in early April, all cases were mild, and the students were able to resume programming as normal within a few weeks. All HMI staff were fully vaccinated by early April, and all HMI students (with the exception of some who had recently recovered from COVID) were fully vaccinated by mid-May, allowing us to celebrate the final week of the semester without masks or social distancing.
HMI Gap ran two cohorts of twelve students each. Both sections ran with entirely domestic–and entirely new–itineraries. Gap programs started in late February with an expedition in the KOFA Mountains of southwest Arizona. From there, each program followed a different itinerary that included rock climbing basecamps, rafting and hiking in the Grand Canyon, and a spring ski expedition near Leadville. No Gap student or instructor tested positive for COVID over the course of the program and nearly every student and staff member was vaccinated before the program end.
Our faculty and staff deserve the highest praise for facilitating such extraordinary experiences while navigating an ever-changing set of COVID health and safety precautions. We are all now looking forward to some rest and relaxation over a well-deserved summer break.