Campuses at St. Johnsbury Academy and Lyndon Institute are about 50 percent more crowded at the start of the school year compared to last year as the independent schools return full student bodies to the classroom, after a COVID year of educating half the students in-person at a time.

Both schools begin the academic year maintaining protocols aimed at preventing widespread contraction of the virus, but they’re doing so while welcoming all students onto campus. The students alternated days in the classroom last year, with 50 percent of their time online and the other half on campus.

Enrollment numbers for both schools are down compared to the start of the school year prior to the pandemic two years ago, but there have been better numbers compared to last year when the pandemic had an impact on the boarding student population.

The Academy’s enrollment at this point is 917 students. Among them, 186 are boarding students, which is up from 141 last year, said Assistant Head for Advancement Tammi Cady in an email. The freshman class this year has 209 students.

“Overall, we are extremely happy with our enrollment,” said Nicole Biggie, director of admissions. “Our day enrollment exceeded our projections and our boarding enrollment has bounced back in our traditional markets after many obstacles during the height of the pandemic last year.”

Two years ago the Academy’s enrollment surpassed 1,000 students with 236 of them attending as boarding students. They came from 30 countries.

This year 22 countries are represented at the Academy. They are Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Germany, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Japan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand and Turkey.

Dr. Sharon Howell, Academy headmaster noted in an email the importance of the Academy’s boarding program.

“The benefit of having international students at the Academy — particularly their diverse cultural backgrounds and their courage in coming to us from far away — is really incalculable,” she said. “Having students from so many different countries is extraordinary in the boarding school world, and a tribute to the team’s creativity and vision.”

Added Cady, “A diverse population provides all students, day and boarding, the opportunity to learn from each other every day.”

Students from the United States who are living on campus come from Vermont, New Hampshire, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia.

Cady said major problems related to travel restrictions and consulates impacted the boarding program, and it hasn’t been smooth sailing this year either.

“We did see some students have trouble getting Visa appointments which caused some delays in their arrival,” she said.

Cady credited the efforts of the school’s admissions and marketing teams with solid recruiting efforts in challenging times.

“We instituted a number of virtual events, prerecorded a number of presentations we shared with prospective students and families and produced tours in different languages,” she said.

LI says it has boarding students from eight countries without specifying the total enrollment number. Pre-pandemic two years ago the school boarded students from 18 foreign countries. At the time it was described by Assistant Head for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Adam Norwood as “quite possibly the best ratio of total dorm students to countries represented in quite some time.”

Total enrollment at LI is 445, which is lower by about 55 students compared to the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 school year.

Chief Operating Officer Mike Lowe said this year’s numbers are in line with projections for the year.

Only a couple of weeks into the school year, both the Academy and LI were still processing applications and expect their numbers to increase some in the near future.

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