Letter from our Executive Director, July 14, 2020
Dear COBS Community,
While our basecamps are quiet and we miss our students dearly this summer, we’ve been hard at work preparing to run courses this fall. Our staff, our Safety Committee, and our national risk management team have been assessing internal and external factors and planning for our approach to mitigating risk at our basecamps and in the field.
The health and safety of our staff, students, and communities remain our top priority and we are hopeful that we will be able to run courses starting in September. As with most businesses and institutions, there will be new guidelines and protocols in place to do so. If you are a currently enrolled student or family, please click here to read more about our revised program protocols.
2020 has brought many opportunities for action, innovation, and reflection and every day, I am reminded of the importance of tenacity, resilience, and compassion – especially among our youth. I am also reminded how important Outward Bound is to our community. The support of our staff, alumni, donors, and partners has been astounding. We look forward to returning to serve our students and families and to continue our mission to change lives through challenge and discovery.
Executive Director, Colorado Outward Bound School
Letter from our Executive Director, originally published May 22, 2020
Dear COBS Community,
It has been a challenging few months for Outward Bound and this week, in particular, marked a critical decision point regarding our summer courses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a broad-reaching impact for Outward Bound, our communities, and society as a whole. We are still in the learning stages of how businesses will resume and educational organizations like ours can best deliver upon our mission.
The Outward Bound system, including regional schools, national safety and risk committees, and admissions teams, has worked together for the past three months to determine paths forward while keeping the health and well-being of our staff and students as a top priority. Based on our analysis and criteria developed through that process, combined with our own program and safety considerations at COBS and the current status of local and state guidelines in Colorado and Utah, the Colorado Outward Bound School has decided to cancel all courses for the summer. If you or someone in your family is enrolled on one of our summer courses, please refer to the email you received on May 21 for next steps.
This decision, though extremely difficult to make, takes into account a holistic view of the organization including staff and student safety, general risk management, social and community responsibility, the uncertain trajectory of the coronavirus in the coming weeks, and the uncertainty of outside regulatory factors.
What we do carries an inherent level of risk. Although we are leaders in managing risk, the presence of COVID-19 presents an additional level of risk and uncertainty that would require significant modifications to our courses and ultimately impact the Outward Bound experience. Some of the current recommended practices like social distancing, for example, can’t reasonably be implemented on our courses at this time without fundamentally altering the course experience.
We are also impacted by public lands and gateway community closures in areas where we operate. As land use permit requirements are adjusted, access to our wilderness classroom is limited. And we are wary of our impact on the resource-stretched rural communities we rely on to support our courses.
While travel restrictions remain unclear at this time, we recognize that Colorado and Utah are destination locations, often requiring travel by plane to get here. We realize there may be a resurgence of the disease that further limits travel and, ultimately, our students’ ability to get to course. We also recognize our social responsibility to our communities to limit sources of additional exposure to COVID-19.
We wholeheartedly believe in the importance of Outward Bound in this time of uncertainty for the world. The values learned through an Outward Bound experience are needed now more than ever. We know we have a lot to offer our students and communities and we look forward to reconnecting with our students as soon as we are able. In the meantime, this has been a difficult time for our staff and our organization.
Even though we are scaling back our operations significantly, our fixed costs combined with the loss of tuition revenue will have a serious financial impact on us. Your generosity at this time will allow us to come back stronger in 2021. Any donation made to COBS by clicking here or by participating in our virtual Black Tie & Get Outside campaign (starting in August) goes directly toward supporting our mission to change lives through challenge and discovery. This option is tax deductible for you and will make a tremendous difference to COBS as we work through this very difficult time.
As we head into this next phase for COBS, we encourage you to lean into your communities, stay connected, and pursue your passions. We look forward to keeping you in the loop, involving you in some of this work, and proceeding ahead towards our objectives.
Thanks for your support. Our mission and conviction are indefatigable and we will emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient, as a society and as an organization. As we look ahead, we have embraced the reality that there is no “back to normal” -- but there is forward to better.
Executive Director, Colorado Outward Bound School
P.S. Please see below for the official announcement from Outward Bound USA and click here to read a letter from OBUSA’s Executive Director.
For the remainder of 2020, Outward Bound in the United States will offer limited programming that meets strict pandemic response requirements established by OBUSA in coordination with regional Outward Bound Schools and aligned with the regulations and public health guidance at local, state and federal levels. In light of the numerous and significant challenges of managing the threat of COVID-19 to students, staff and our communities, Outward Bound summer programs will be significantly reduced.
This decision has unique implications for each regional Outward Bound School. We acknowledge and empathize with those shouldering the impacts and repercussions: our Schools, our staff, our communities and our organization as a whole. There will be reductions in operations and students served, community impact and likely further reductions in staff. We make this decision together, knowing it is the right thing to do and with the utmost regard for the safety and well-being of those affected.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic is the very definition of uncertainty in the face of significant challenge. While a great deal remains unknown about the virus itself and how communities across the country will continue to be impacted and respond, what is abundantly clear is that it has never been more important for Outward Bound to demonstrate leadership in assessing, mitigating and managing risk.
Outward Bound is ideally positioned with teaching locations in diverse and remote areas across the U.S. and a range of program types where the number of students, days in the field, types of activities can vary widely. With the guidance of Outward Bound USA Safety and Risk Committees, working in partnership with Outward Bound Schools, those courses, activities and locations that meet or exceed a risk management threshold will be offered.