After a very unique and challenging 2020, Verto Education is excited to reintroduce our Spring semesters abroad in 2021. In order to do so safely, we’ve 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 International SOS, 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 International SOS and our Mental Health advisor regularly to ensure full alignment in securing student safety.
COVID-19 | Semester Timeline
In the final 30 days leading up to your departure, make sure you do all the following to ensure your health and safety while traveling.
- Attend your virtual pre-departure orientations
- Receive your Verto Health & Safety packet in the mail
- Monitor your daily temperature, perform symptom checks, and limit exposures*
STUDENT TAKES COVID-19 TEST
3-5 days prior to your departure, you’ll take a COVID test using your at-home Test Kit (included in your Verto Health & Safety packet)
Depart for your Verto semester as planned.
Remain at home in quarantine until medically cleared to travel, then join your cohort when it’s safe to do so.
Verto Education will remain in contact with you and make reasonable accommodations to provide semester orientation remotely until the student is able to rejoin their cohort. Costs associated with travel adjustments are the responsibility of the student.
ARRIVAL AT YOUR VERTO DESTINATION
What will you be expected to do during the first two weeks of the semester?
Follow local guidelines and current conditions of your new destination, including a 14-day quarantine** if applicable.
Rest assured knowing that Verto’s local staff will have completed self-isolation and COVID-19 testing before your arrival.
- Monitor your temperature and symptom check daily.
- Take reasonable precautions:
- social distance
- wear a mask indoors
- practice good health and hygiene throughout the semester.
- Take a COVID-19 test within 24 hours of arrival and (possibly) again on Day 10.
STUDENT TAKES COVID-19 TEST
For the first 14 days of your semester, our trained staff members will help administer tests. It’s important to note that staff will take an abundance of caution and follow local guidelines, including potentially quarantining** the cohort for 14 days from the date that a student tests positive or exhibits symptoms of infection until recuperation or until the symptoms are confirmed as not COVID-related.
Your on-site orientation and coursework begin! These will be hosted outdoors or within areas of continual air exchange (windows open, fans circulating airflow).
Initial test, within 24 hours upon arrival
Verto staff will help support you while you self-isolate*** until the second round of testing returns as negative or no signs of fever are present without the use of medication. You’ll likely be able to log in to orientation sessions and coursework virtually!
Who else is informed?
With a positive COVID-19 test, there are a few other key players that Verto will need to inform.
Parents and guardians will be notified if their student has tested positive for Covid-19 or if they have been exposed to a confirmed case.
International SOS will be contacted as well as local medical authorities in the event of a positive case. Verto will follow recommended guidelines, consult medical professionals, and support each student to determine if medical assistance is needed.
TRAVELING ON YOUR VERTO SEMESTER
Once we’ve established a Covid-free space, students will continue on the semester as planned including all activities listed within the itinerary. There are still precautions that you’ll need to be aware of throughout the semester.
- Monitor your health and let your Verto staff know if you exhibit any symptoms.
- Expect to wear a mask whenever in public spaces.
- Follow social distancing and personal hygiene practices.
If symptoms of illness appear, here’s what you’ll do with the support of Verto staff.
- Self-isolate*** until the illness is diagnosed.
- Have your symptoms monitored and diagnosed by local medical professionals and International SOS’ medical team.
- Receive support and treatment until medically cleared for return to the program activities. Your coursework will be provided virtually with personalized support and allowances made for deadlines depending on individual circumstances.
- If Covid-19 exposure is suspected, begin the quarantine** with your cohort.
*Limiting Exposure means that the student will avoid contact with those not within their immediate household, not attend social gatherings such as parties, concerts, and mass gatherings, and will restrict visitors from entering their household. These measures will greatly reduce the student’s risk of Covid-19 exposure in preparation for their Verto semester.
**Quarantine means that anyone potentially exposed to an infectious person remain away from others while monitoring symptoms and to prevent unknowingly spreading illness.
***Self-isolation means that the infected person is kept separated from others to prevent the spread of illness.
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 testing is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of Covid-19 amongst students, staff, and the communities we visit. Social distancing, wearing of masks, and performing healthy hygiene practices, however, are the second and most impactful line of defense. These actions work in combination with each other and all staff and students must 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.
- The destination must not be rated as a “Level 4 – Do Not Travel” location by the U.S. State Department.
- 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.
- Covid-19 testing must be available within the region of travel for non-residents.
- Air travel to and from the destination must be regularly scheduled and available to travelers.
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 International SOS’ 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.
- You will need to perform a Covid-19 test with negative results within 72 hours before travel. Test results will need to be shared with Verto Education through the testing portal.
- You will need to perform and log daily temperature and symptom checks, and limit potential exposure to the virus (ie, not attending large gatherings) for 10 days before the start of the semester.
- You will attend the series of webinars conducted by Verto Education before the start of the semester.
- You must acquire travel medical insurance with Covid-19 coverage before travel. All costs associated with medical care, including quarantine support, will be the responsibility of the student.
- You are strongly advised 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 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 back up supplies but should not be relied upon as a primary resource.
- Students must agree to remain open, honest, and communicative with their program leader(s) when feeling ill, symptomatic, or if they have an elevated temperature.
After The Semester
- Upon return from a Verto semester, students should continue to monitor their temperatures and symptoms for 10-14 days.
- Students should self-quarantine for 10 days after returning home and limit outsider visitation to their household during this time.
- If becoming symptomatic, contact your doctor right away.
- If diagnosed with Covid-19, please notify Verto Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or by contacting your Student Success Coordinator.