In response to the pandemic, Verto Education has expanded our risk management planning in alignment with our worldwide partnerships. As always, the safety and wellbeing of Verto Education students remains the core priority. In keeping with our promise to keep our students informed, we’re pleased to share an overview of our travel risk management plans and student expectations.
Offering international education programs, particularly in today’s world, requires a unified and collaborative approach among all stakeholders including our students, their families, Verto staff, and our local partners within each region where we travel. Even with the best designed plans, the effectiveness of risk management planning is reliant upon individual and collective cooperation and accountability with all stakeholder groups.
Undoubtedly, Verto Education takes primary responsibility for creating a safe environment for students and staff. This starts by designing quality programming, partnering with responsible service providers, and ensuring the destinations of our semesters are as safe as possible. We do this by focusing on four ongoing components.
We remain updated on regional hazards and trends through trusted agency networks including the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, various government State Departments (U.S., Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, New Zealand), Overseas Safety Advisory Council (OSAC), and AXA Travel Assist, amongst others. Utilizing multiple resources provides a balanced and varied perspective to provide our team an accurate picture of global safety status at any given time.
We only work with reputable and responsible organizations and service providers (accommodations, transportation, and activities) within each country. We perform and support our partners in completing comprehensive business assessments evaluating organizational insurance and business licensing, staff hiring and training processes, equipment and vehicle maintenance/repair structures, Child Protection policies, risk management protocols, emergency response systems, and so forth. This ongoing evaluation ensures our partners are aligned with Verto’s stringent safety protocols and focus on student safety.
We recognize that each student has individual needs, preferences, and interests. We spend the necessary time to listen, learn, and work collaboratively to ensure we’re aligned with and equipped to manage individual considerations such as medical conditions, mental health needs, food preferences, and so forth. If situations arise that we’re unable to manage, we’ll help guide you in finding an appropriate experience suited for your needs.
Our incident response framework is based on a modified version of the Incident Command System, which is used by law enforcement, fire departments, and state and federal governments. Our programming team is regularly trained on protocols to manage known or anticipated incident types, our Crisis Response Team performs exercises to test planning procedures, and we engage with AXA Travel Assist and our Mental Health advisor regularly to ensure full alignment in securing student safety.
Covid-19 Specific Planning
To prevent the spread of Covid-19 and respond to potential infection, we’ve developed stages of planning to address this specific concern. It’s important to note that vaccinations and testing are the primary methods available for preventing the spread of COVID-19 amongst students, staff, and the communities where Verto operates. Social distancing, wearing of masks, and performing healthy hygiene practices are also extremely impactful for reducing community transmission. These actions work in combination with each other, and all staff and students are expected to abide by these measures throughout the program.
Verto Education has a set of guidelines that must be met to allow a semester to run in a particular location.
- The destination’s borders must be open to American student travelers.
- Air travel to and from the destination must be regularly scheduled and available to travelers.
- Covid-19 testing must be available within the region of travel for non-residents.
- Group gatherings of 30+ must be allowable in the destination.
- Local medical facilities must not exceed 75% capacity within two weeks from arrival into the country / location.
Verto Education Responsibilities
- We will ensure all staff working with students are tested for Covid-19, perform daily temperature and symptom checks, and limit potential exposure to the virus (ie, not attending large gatherings) for 10 days before student arrival.
- We will ensure all service providers, including accommodations, transportation, and activities, meet or exceed CDC guidelines for daily cleaning and disinfecting.
- We will maintain response protocols that align with local health agencies and AXA Travel Assist’s medical team should illness or exposure to illness impact a semester. This includes isolating and supporting the infected individual(s), performing contract tracing to identify potential exposures during infectious periods, and quarantining those exposed to the illness.
- We will maintain communication protocols to keep students, parents and guardians, Verto staff, and our local communities informed should an outbreak or exposure occur.
- We will conduct a series of safety webinars before the start of the semester providing student and family updates on the regions of travel, potential adjustments in protocols, personal responsibilities of students and staff prior to travel, and actions that should be taken to limit exposure before and during travel on a Verto semester.
- All students who participate in Verto Education global programs during the 2021-2022 academic year must be fully vaccinated. Students may seek a medical or religious exemption to the vaccination requirement, however specific exemption criteria must be met. Read more about Verto’s Vaccination Policy here.
- Student travelers are required to adhere to government-mandated COVID-19 traveler vaccination and testing requirements – respective to ongoing travel regulations and country-entry requirements. Verto is not in control of country-specific COVID-19 travel and testing requirements, although we will work to provide guidance to students regarding their specific program country travel and entry requirements, and monitor country information to provide updates when necessary. It is important to understand that COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements vary depending on the specific program location, and are updated by program host countries as they see fit – respective to evolving in-country COVID-19 conditions.
- Student travelers may need to need to demonstrate proof of complete vaccination status prior to arrival in country, and/or a negative COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours before travel.
- Students are required to submit proof of vaccination documentation with Verto Education before program acceptance and travel (via the secure student portal).
- Students are expected to perform daily temperature and symptom checks, and limit potential exposure to the virus (i.e. not attending large gatherings) for 10 days before the start of the semester.
- Students are required to attend mandatory pre-departure Health and Safety webinars conducted by Verto Education before the start of the semester.
- Students are strongly encouraged to receive an influenza vaccination prior to travel as a preventative measure to spreading illness to Verto’s local communities.
During The Semester
- Students and staff will maintain proper health and hygiene practices including frequent hand washing, mask wearing as requested (regularly during the initial 2 weeks of the semester, when interacting with local communities, and if an illness is suspected within the group).
- Students and staff will perform daily temperature and symptom checks during the initial 14 days of the semester and sporadically thereafter.
- If an illness is contracted, whether a suspected COVID-19 case or otherwise, students must follow the guidance of their program leaders.
- Students will be required to provide their own supply of masks and hand sanitizer for the duration of the semester. Verto Education will provide backup supplies, however these should not be relied upon by students as a primary resource.
- Students must agree to monitor their symptoms over the course of the semester, and remain open, honest, and communicative with their program leader(s) when feeling ill, symptomatic, or if they have an elevated temperature.