March 14: An Update for Employees from Dr. Austin

Dear Colleagues,

I write to you with a further update on the steps we are taking as a school in the wake of the most recent news about COVID-19, including the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic and yesterday’s announcement of a National Emergency.

Our mission as a school community during this time remains unchanged. We seek to:

  • Ensure the well-being of all members of our school community and their families;
  • Limit the possible spread of COVID-19 in the Pioneer Valley through some commonsense and now widely-practiced social distancing measures;
  • Serve each of our students and their families and meet their unique needs, even as our educational program moves online;
  • Maintain as much as possible our existing operations and prepare for a hoped-for resumption of school when that day comes.

It is important for you to know that, as of now, there are no known cases of COVID-19 on campus, or even in Franklin County. It is my great hope that this will not change, and I am relieved to understand from medical experts that many populations are proving resistant to this particular virus. Nonetheless, this virus continues to spread, and I know that many of you are worried about family members and friends, especially those who are vulnerable to this virus and who may be at home with you. I hope the steps described below will prove reassuring and supportive.

You will find more detail in the FAQs we have provided for your reference, but there are a couple of items I wish to emphasize. We believe these modest steps will support the dedicated health care workers and public officials across the state, the country, and globe who are on the front lines of efforts to stem the spread COVID-19.

  1. Beginning on Monday, we will be asking some employees to work from home—at least until April 12, perhaps longer. If you are scheduled to work on Monday, please report to campus as usual; your supervisor or department head will speak with you during the day regarding future arrangements. In all cases we will work to ensure that you have the technology necessary to continue your work on behalf of the school and its students. It may take a couple of days to make this transition, but each of your supervisors will be working creatively to support your work, answer your questions, and help you obtain the appropriate resources. I am grateful for their leadership.
  2. We ask all faculty to be available and back on campus for meetings beginning on Monday, March 23. As we prepare to resume teaching and learning online, we will schedule structured meeting times when we can work together as colleagues in a face-to-face setting. We ask that all employees now limit meetings to 20 or fewer attendees. Our full faculty and employee meetings, when those are necessary, will move to a digital platform. Faculty have received Ivory’s first email regarding planning for online learning, and more information will follow.
  3. We ask all employees who have been traveling internationally or to one of the currently known domestic areas of community outbreak (Seattle/King County, Washington; Westchester County, New York; Solano County, California) over the break to please contact Sara Cahillane directly before returning to work.
  4. We ask that all employees postpone domestic and international travel for the Academy until further notice.
  5. I encourage each of us to follow the commonsense social distancing measures described in our earlier communications and to practice self-care. Please remember: should you have any concerns about your health, please immediately contact your medical provider.

As I wrote to students and families yesterday, this is a dynamic and fluid situation—one that changes with great speed. I have been meeting with the COVID-19 Working Group daily for the last week to plan, prepare, assess and re-assess, and we will continue to meet as events unfold, striving to be as responsive, as nimble, and as flexible as the situation demands.

The measures we have outlined above could well change in the days and weeks to come, so I thank you again for your continued good will, flexibility, and patience—as well as for your questions and concerns. Your questions and feedback help us learn more about a rapidly-evolving situation from your perspective, clarify our approach, and enable us to better support each of you. You should never hesitate to reach out directly to me.

Thank you again for all that you do for our students and colleagues,