Read about what Cottonwood Institute is doing to support students and community members during school closures here!

A letter to the Cottonwood Institute Community

Dear CI Families and Community Members,

The safety of our students and staff are our top priority, and the following plan outlines our efforts to reopen our programs as safely as possible in the context of COVID-19. We cannot completely eliminate the risk of exposure to COVID-19 on CI programs, but we can take the following steps to protect the health of our communities. These protocols were designed in consultation with local, state, and federal health authorities; our educational partners; and other youth and outdoor organizations. We are working closely with our partner organizations and will share updated guidelines as they become available. Please contact CI Executive Director Ford Church at 303-447-1076, ext. 700 or at with questions about specific CI field programs.

Before your program:

  • If your student or a member of your household shows symptoms consistent with COVID-19 during this time, please DO NOT send your student on their CI program. Participants who display symptoms may participate if they have received a negative COVID-19 test AND are symptom-free for 24 hours preceding the trip OR if they have no fever or other symptoms for 72 hours AND 10 days have elapsed since the first onset of symptoms.
  • Please be aware that CI may be forced to cancel, reschedule, or reduce the size of its programs prior to or during the trip if we are unable to maintain the required instructor/student ratio. CI will notify families of any changes as soon as possible.

During your program:

  • Upon arrival, find the on-duty instructor to complete a pre-trip health assessment. Students will have their temperatures taken and will complete a verbal health screening. Anyone who displays COVID-19 symptoms will be asked to stay home. All participants will wash or sanitize their hands upon arrival.
  • At the beginning of each CI Field Program, Instructors will review best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19. Students and Instructors have the option to wear masks while being transported in vans, where a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained, and otherwise depending on conversations with our educational partners. All students and instructors will wash or sanitize their hands regularly throughout the program. High touch surfaces will be sanitized multiple times per day. CI can provide a mask for anyone who does not have one.
  • On multi-day trips, Instructors will perform daily verbal health screenings. Students or instructors displaying symptoms consistent with COVID-19 will be isolated (within sight of the group) and arrangements will be made to remove them from the program.
    • In the case that a student is removed from a trip with COVID-19 symptoms, all families will be notified, though the name of the student will not be shared. The instructors and CI staff will make a decision on whether to continue the trip based on instructors’ level of comfort and the risk of further spread.
  • On overnight programs, students may be asked to share tents. Students will not be required to wear masks in their own tents.

After your program:

  • Please monitor your student for 14 days following a CI program and contact CI staff if they develop symptoms consistent with COVID-19, so that CI can complete mandatory reporting and assist with contact tracing.


Ford Church

Executive Director, Cottonwood Institute

(303) 447-1076 x700