FAQ Page

March 5, 2021

While this is an uncertain time, we have been planning for our 2021 season for many months now, and it is starting to come into shape. We are all in this together, and we have appreciated hearing from many people in the Star Island family. We know you have questions, and we are committed to answering them here, as we are able, based on the information we have at this point.

We will continue to update this page as we receive more questions, and as we finalize plans as we get closer to the season.

Questions about . . .

Health & Safety Registering for a Conference Other Overnight Guests

Information for Employees Volunteering on the Island Day Visitors

Island Living Dining Recreation & Programming

Star Island Corporation

Health and Safety

Do I have to wear a mask on Star Island?

Yes – everyone who comes to the island will be expected to wear masks at all times when:

  • Indoors (except when in your bedroom, while eating, brushing teeth, shaving, and taking a shower)
  • On porches, decks, and boardwalks
  • Outside whenever social distancing isn’t possible
  • On the pier and float docks when boat passengers are in line, embarking, or disembarking boats (and possibly at other times)

Will social distancing be in place?

6’+ social distancing from people outside your household will be required indoors and outdoors whenever possible.

Will vaccines be required?

At this time, we strongly recommend that all conferees and employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to coming to the island. We recognize that this might not be possible for everyone. We are continuing to look at this issue carefully, and we expect to make a final policy decision by May 1.

What if someone exhibits COVID-19 symptoms while on the island?

We are creating detailed protocols for how to address the situation (including contact tracing) where a guest or employee exhibits COVID-19 symptoms on island. Any person exhibiting symptoms on island will be evaluated by medical staff, tested, and required to quarantine in their guest room or a designated on-island quarantine area until their test results are known. Any person testing positive for COVID-19 will be evaluated by medical staff and a decision will be made on a case-by-case basis regarding whether that person can stay on island.

Do I need to get tested before I come to the island?

All overnight guests and staff will be expected to furnish a recent, negative COVID-19 PCR test result immediately prior to arrival on the island. This includes those who have already received the vaccine (see below for more information about vaccinated people and testing).

Why do I need to get tested if I’m already vaccinated?

We are still learning about the ability of fully vaccinated people to transmit the disease, and therefore we are still requiring overnight guests and employees to furnish a negative test result immediately prior to arriving on Star Island. We have received some questions about recommendations from the CDC related to testing and vaccinations. Some people are interpreting these recommendations to say that testing is not required for people who have received a vaccination. However, it is important to note that these CDC recommendations apply to vaccinated people who have been exposed to COVID-19, but not to screening efforts. Star’s requirement for every overnight guest and employee to provide a negative test result is a screening effort.

From the CDC: “Although COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick, scientists are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you do not have symptoms. Early data show the vaccines do help keep people with no symptoms from spreading COVID-19, but we are learning more as more people get vaccinated.” More information can be found here.

From the CDC: “Experts need to understand more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines provide in real-world conditions before making that decision. Other factors, including how many people get vaccinated and how the virus is spreading in communities, will also affect this decision. We also don’t yet know whether getting a COVID-19 vaccine will prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to other people, even if you don’t get sick yourself. CDC will continue to update this page as we learn more.” More information can be found here.

Will there be health screening on the island?

We are in the process of considering the most effective way(s) to screen people on the island. What we know now is that all people coming to Star Island, including day visitors, will be required to go through a simple self-check screening process prior to arrival and each day they are on the island.

What if I have a non-COVID-19 related illness or injury?

The First Aid Station (FAS) will be fully staffed, as normal, and will not be seeing patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. There will be a separate FAS field station set up for COVID-19 response, and we have hired additional medical staff this year to focus on this response (including helping develop and implement our protocols and run the FAS field station).

What other resources are available to me?

Here are some good resources to help you stay informed:

Will there be day visitors?

We are pleased to welcome day visitors to Star Island this summer. Day visitors will be required to follow all relevant health and safety protocols. In order to keep day visitors separated from conferees and employees, we expect to designate specific areas for their use. Day visitors will not be permitted in most buildings or on porches, decks, and boardwalks.

Registering for a Conference

When will conference registration open for 2021?

Registration for conferences happening in June, July, and most of August (up till August 28) will open on March 10. Registrations will be processed starting May 1, after which date people who registered will hear back on whether or not they are accepted into the conference(s) they registered for. Registration for September conferences will open in early May.

Why do some conferences that normally start on Saturday start on Sunday?

Most conferences taking place prior to August 28 will be one night shorter in duration creating a “gap night” with no overnight guests between conferences to allow adequate time for thorough cleaning and disinfection.

How many overnight guests will be on island at once?

Our current plan is to cap overnight guest capacity at 170 people (vs. a normal overnight guest capacity of 280+) – this is roughly 60% of our regular guest capacity. Additionally, we are reducing the number of employees we have on the island by about 30 positions, bringing our employee population to roughly 75% of its regular size.

What if I need to cancel my registration?

We recognize that this is an evolving situation and that some people may want to cancel after they’ve registered. We have a forgiving, low stress cancellation policy this year. You may cancel up to the day before the conference starts to receive a full refund. Due to anticipated limited overnight capacity, we are asking that people only register for a conference if they feel it is likely they will attend. Please help out your fellow Shoalers by not registering if you are unlikely to attend (as you might box somebody out).

Why is the pricing for 6 nights the same as it was for 7 nights last year?

The combination of extraordinary COVID-19 related expenses necessary to implement health and safety protocols, along with the related need to reduce conferee capacity, has caused a significant negative impact to our budget for 2021.  We haven’t raised rates from what they were in 2020, but we are also not adjusting rates for conferences with a gap night. In other words, conferees will pay the same amount for room and board they would have paid in 2020 (pre-pandemic), even though many conferences will have one less night on island.  By not reducing our rates, we can reduce the negative impact of these income losses and expense increases, while at the same time not asking individuals or families to pay more than what they would have paid prior to the pandemic.

Is financial assistance available?

We understand that the circumstances of this past year may make a stay on Star a financial strain for some people. To help support our Star Island family, we have increased funding for Financial Grants and encourage people who may need aid to apply. This is a confidential process. Please apply here after you register for your conference. If your conference begins before August 28, please apply by May 1. If your conference begins on or after August 28, please apply by July 1.

Is there a discount program this year?

We will not be offering a discount program in 2021 (though we anticipate doing so again in 2022). For people who would have qualified to receive a discount in 2020 under a multi-year discount (such as the Former Pelican and You Will Come Back! discount programs), you may apply for this discount by emailing Mike Bray, Island Registrar

Other Overnight Guests

What is a Conference Overnight Guest?

A conference overnight guest is someone who registers for a conference for only a few days during the conference week.

Can I be a Conference Overnight Guest in 2021?

Although we appreciate people visiting the island in different ways, we will not be allowing conference overnight guests in 2021 due to limited capacity on the island. We encourage you to register for a whole conference.

Can I pay for the whole conference week and only stay for a few days?

Yes, you could register for a conference week and leave early, but you must pay for the whole week. You cannot register for a conference week and arrive late because you are required to attend orientation.

What is a Pel guest?

A Pel guest is an overnight visitor hosted by one of the Pelicans (seasonal workers).

Can I be a Pel guest in 2021?

We will not be allowing Pelican guests in 2021 due to limited capacity on the island. We encourage you to register for a conference if you would like to visit a Pel on island.

What is a Personal Retreater?

Our Personal Retreats offer an opportunity for people to stay on the island while not being a part of a conference.

Can I be a Personal Retreater in 2021?

We will not be offering Personal Retreats for the 2021 season.  We encourage you to register for a conference or come out on a day trip via the ferry companies that serve Star Island.

Volunteering on the Island

Volunteering on the island will look different this year. For spring volunteering, weekends will be much smaller than usual this year as we adjust to this unusual season. Most spring volunteering will happen during the week (arrive Monday, depart Friday). Volunteer projects will be limited to those that are absolutely essential for opening the island (cleaning guest rooms, grounds work etc.) Social distancing guidelines will be in place, masks will be required, and volunteers will be asked to bring their own bedding (sleeping bags etc.). Check out our spring volunteer page to apply.

At this time, there will be limited opportunities to volunteer during the conference season. Some exceptions will be made, for example, the First Aid Station and Shops on Star.

Island Living

What will showers be like?

We anticipate that only members of the same household will be permitted in shower rooms at any given time. Shower times will likely be scheduled in advance, and we will anticipate expanding shower room hours to allow shower times to be spread out in this way.

What will housekeeping services be like?

Bathrooms and showers will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular basis throughout the day and evening. Bedrooms will be cleaned and disinfected in between conferences, though employees will not enter your room during your stay (except in the event of an emergency). This plan is to ensure that you (and members from your household) have a private guestroom with no other occupants during your stay. Fresh sheets, towels and blankets will be delivered to your room prior to arrival – blankets will be kept in storage for a week between guests. You can leave a trash bag outside your bedroom door for pickup mid-week. High-touch surfaces like railings and tables will be disinfected regularly. Disinfecting supplies will be provided in bathrooms and shower rooms for individual use (in addition to cleaning/disinfecting performed by the staff on a regular basis).

With whom can I share a room?

Only members of the same household – as defined as people currently living under the same roof – may be in the same guestroom. Your private guestroom is your space (and yours alone) to use for sleeping, resting, reflecting, etc. – you and members from your own household will be the only people able to enter your space (except in the event of an emergency). Separate outdoor and indoor spaces will be created and provided for socializing.

We are looking into a few additional housing options but are not committing to them at this time: (1) grandparents who have been vaccinated (and can provide proof of receiving a vaccine) housing with grandchildren who have not been vaccinated; (2) people from different households who have all been vaccinated (and can provide proof of receiving a vaccine). We anticipate making a final policy decision on this by May 1.


What will mealtimes look like?

Dining will be modified to provide outdoor seating whenever possible, and indoor dining with appropriate spacing and other precautions (including when it’s raining outside). The main dining hall’s normal capacity is 320, and by limiting our occupancy in 2021 to 170 – and possibly having auxiliary dining areas like Elliott Hall in play – we anticipate being able to offer indoor dining for all guests (though we also anticipate many of you will want to eat outside). Indoor seating will be with members from one’s own household, and there will be limitations on how many people can sit at a table (such as one individual/housing group at one end of a table and another individual/housing group at the other end of the table, likely with a plexiglass barrier in the center of the table, as well as other protocols).

What about my food sensitivities and how will I access the food I bring?

As always, we strive to do our best in accommodating needs and provide vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options at every meal. Individuals with food allergies should note specific allergy needs on their registration. If you bring food to the island, we can store it in the kitchen, and you can access it during meals by asking a waitrae or outside of meals by asking at the front desk.

Will the Snack Bar and Island Grill be open?

The Snack Bar and Island Grill will be open. There will be mask wearing, social distancing while waiting in line, and a number of other precautions will be in place. The Island Grill, being outside, will be similar to past years. The Snack Bar, being indoors, is expected to have some new protocols in place which are in the process of being developed. But yes, you will be able to have a Lime Rickey on Star Island in 2021.

Recreation and Programming

How will conference programming be different?

Conference leaders are re-envisioning workshops, lectures, youth programs, performances, and other activities so that they can happen outdoors, or in some cases indoors with appropriate spacing and other precautions. We have been working with conference leaders for several months, and we are grateful for their collaborative spirit and can-do attitude in the face of uncertainty.

Can I visit Appledore? Go on a sunset cruise?

We don’t plan to offer the sunset cruise or Appledore tours this season.

Will the Rutledge Marine Lab be open?

Yes, we will be opening the marine lab for the season. We are currently making plans for how it will be available to conferees and day trippers. There will be  shortened hours and a limited capacity. We will continue to offer bird, geology, botany, and low tide walks and will encourage outdoor education throughout the season.

Will Vaughn Cottage Museum & Library be open?

Yes, we will be opening Vaughn for the season. We are currently making plans for how it will be available to conferees and day trippers. There will be shortened hours and a limited capacity. We will continue to offer our history and ghost tours.


Swimming with social distancing will be permitted (including polar bear), possibly with masks. We are in the process of developing these protocols.


We’re planning to have softball games with a few safety modifications (wearing masks, avoiding sharing gloves, switching to a new ball every inning, no handshakes at the end of the game, etc.).

Social/Fellowship Hour

Social/fellowship hours will be held outdoors, under porch roof or tent cover in inclement weather. We will work with conference leadership on protocols for these events.

Hall Monitoring

We don’t plan to offer hall monitoring services this season.


We don’t plan to offer massage therapy on the island this season.


Our policies about singing and wind instruments will follow State of NH and CDC recommendations. This may mean that wake up singers, musicale, talent show, Pel show, conference choir and other singing events will have to take place outdoors with masks and additional physical distancing.


Occupancy will be limited, so some chapel services may be held in alternate locations, including outdoors. We will work with conference leadership on protocols for chapel services.

Where can I hang out with my friends?

We recognize that hanging out with old friends and meeting new friends is a big part of the Star Island experience, and we are working hard to provide meaningful (and safe!) ways for people to hang out. Most of this will happen outside, though there will also be a few indoor spaces with appropriate social distancing, mask wearing, etc. There are so many places on the island to hang out – on porches and decks, in rocking chairs, on the lawn, at a picnic table, in an Adirondack chair, on the rocks, walking the perimeter road…the list goes on. We will set up some specific areas around the island for people to socialize.

What if it rains? What if it’s cold?

We recommend bringing lots of warm clothes, even in the summer, so you are comfortable being outdoors. Extra rain gear, activities to do on a quiet rainy day such as crafts, a good book, activities for kids, boots to go out and splash in puddles, etc.

Star Island Corporation

Will Star Island open in 2021?

We certainly hope it will. We have been working with a team of experts to determine what it would look like to open safely for overnight guests. We have also been working closely with conference leaders, committees, and others on modeling various scenarios, and establishing policies and procedures to facilitate a safe and healthy 2021 season. We plan to make a final decision by May 1 and to communicate with the Star Island community throughout this process. Regardless of the outcome, we are committed to the health and safety of everyone that comes to Star Island, and to the long-term health and vitality of our precious island.

Will Star Island survive?

This is a critical moment in Star Island’s history. Not opening for the 2020 conference season meant losing nearly all budgeted operating income, and we have months to go before we will be able to earn room and board income again. Recognizing the severity of the current circumstances, many in our community have risen to the challenge by increasing their charitable support for Star Island, including hundreds of first-time donors. We have also received generous support from local businesses and public and private grant funding. In the months ahead, we will continue to rely on extraordinary support from our community as we build our resources to hedge against the continued uncertainty we face this year and beyond.

So yes, Star Island will survive. Star has held strong through many significant challenges, including the 1918 influenza pandemic, two World Wars, and the island opening late in 2007. In this historically challenging time, our community is showing exactly what Star Island means to all of us.

How can I help?

We are so grateful for the dedication of our community, and our shared sense of stewardship for Star Island. At this pivotal time for Star, your generosity will make a big difference. With your support, we will get through these unprecedented challenges and We Will Come Back!

Please click here to make a donation today. If you have questions or would like to discuss your giving plans, please e-mail our Development Director, Peter Squires.