March 2: International School-Sponsored Travel Canceled

Dear Deerfield Community,

Over the weekend, we wrote to families updating them on Center for Service and Global Citizenship (CSGC) spring travel and, given the growing concerns about the spread of the COVID-19 virus, advised them to consider alternative plans for our upcoming break.

Today, I write to inform you that after careful consideration we have decided to suspend all school-sponsored international travel for Spring Vacation. Since we wrote to you, we have continued to track the advisories of the leading health organizations, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control , and we have consulted extensively with other professionals in the fields of risk, education, and global health. Given the high level of concern among health professionals; the CDC’s recent recommendation that colleges and universities consider cancelling or postponing international exchange programs; scientific and medical uncertainty about a virus that is difficult to detect and that spreads rapidly; reported shortages across the world of medical resources necessary to combat the virus and questions about the capacity of host countries to respond effectively to an outbreak; and the possibility of further travel disruptions, including enhanced screening and quarantine restrictions, we have decided that this is the most prudent course of action in order to keep our students and staff safe. As Head of School, the safety of your children and my employees is always my first priority.

Please know that we stand ready to support families in making alternative plans for spring break. Should you have questions, please contact our Student Life Office. They are ready and eager to support you, as is the CSGC team, who will soon be in touch with details about trip refunds for affected families.

Based on current information, including the fact there is currently no CDC advisory against domestic travel, we plan to go forward with all school-sponsored domestic athletics travel and with our trip to the American South—even as we monitor what is a dynamic and quickly-changing situation. We continue to coordinate closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and others to keep our students healthy and well, and we will continue to educate the community about the simple steps they can take to mitigate the risk of illness and ensure healthy habits of self-care. I encourage families to refer to the advice, guidelines, and COVID-19 travel alerts provided by the CDC. Please check their website often because it is updated regularly as new information is made available.

Throughout my career in education, I have seen the tremendous value of global education and international travel. These experiences can be transformative, deepening our appreciation of cultures different from our own and expanding our students’ powers of empathy and understanding. So, I made this decision reluctantly, knowing, from experience, that these trips might well proceed without incident. I hope that hindsight will prove this decision to be an overly cautious one and that the spread of this virus, and the fear that has come with it, quickly abate. As global citizens, our hearts go out to all of those whose lives and sense of security have been affected by this virus.

I thank you for your understanding, flexibility, and patience as we have come to this decision. We will, of course, keep you updated. In the meantime, I wish you and your families the very best for what I hope will be a restorative and joyful spring break.

John Austin, Head of School