2020-21 Planning Update from Dr. Austin

Dear Deerfield Families,

As we approach the final week of school, I want to offer my thanks and my gratitude for your patience, flexibility, and support during this extraordinary Spring Term. This was not the spring term any of us imagined. Each of us has been touched by this moment, and for our seniors it has been a particular trial. As a Head of School, I am proud of the way our community has come together and met the challenges the last weeks and months have presented. It has, I believe, deepened the spirit of our community, strengthened our collective resolve, and affirmed the values that have long defined Deerfield.

I wrote to you on April 15 with an update about how we are thinking about the next several weeks and months. Our primary goal remains unchanged: to be together as one community on campus in September. Within that context, we have well-defined short-term goals, and we are committed to maintaining Deerfield’s unique culture and ethos. Given the uncertainties we face, we will continue to monitor what is a rapidly changing health landscape, plan for a range of scenarios, and adapt accordingly—even as we remain true to our mission as a residential school uniquely dedicated to educational excellence and the growth and well-being of our students.

We continue to consult widely with leaders in public health, higher education, and our peer schools throughout the country and in the world, so that the decisions we make are the best ones possible for the health and safety of our community. As we have faced important decisions over these last weeks, we have tried to be as patient as possible, on the assumption that, by waiting, we can make decisions that are considered and informed by the most current data and information.

Further decisions await—not just for Deerfield, but for all schools, colleges, and universities—so I wanted to use the opportunity of this letter to give you a sense of our communication plan over the next few weeks and into early summer.

  • In early June, I will write to you to update you on some of the steps we will be taking specifically to protect community health. As you know, standards of care are just now emerging for schools, and each day brings new information, data, and reports of possible medical and technological advances. Our medical team at Deerfield, led by Dr. Benson, has been working closely with the State of Massachusetts and other public health experts to enhance our existing protocols for the protection of our community, and to develop a robust and comprehensive approach to screening and testing that is in keeping with the highest standard of care, including increased staffing, external support, and enhancements to our existing health facility.
  • I’ve heard from a number of you recently with questions about the fall. We will announce details for the Fall Term, including any modifications to program that this moment may require of us, at the end June.
  • We will schedule a DA Parent and Guardian Forum following both of these June communications and throughout the summer, as necessary.
  • Finally, after polling seniors and speaking with members of the Class of 2020, we are tentatively planning for an early August Commencement. We will confirm that date with you no later than June 15, pending the guidance and direction we receive from the State of Massachusetts. Should that August date prove impossible, we will work with our seniors and their families to develop alternative plans.
I look forward with confidence and optimism to when we are all together again, and in the meantime, I thank you again for your good will and support. Should you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out directly to me.