Letter to Returning Students Regarding Belongings and End-of-year Announcements

April 30, 2020
The letter below was sent to returning students regarding retrieving belongings and other matters related to the end-of-year experiences.


Dear Returning Students,

I hope this letter finds you and your families safe and well. These are unprecedented times, and you’ve been in my thoughts frequently. Deerfield is not the same without you here.

In writing to you today, I hope to provide some helpful information. Boarders, you’ll learn about plans for your belongings and the process for next year’s housing. You’ll all find details about advising and advisor selection.

Belongings (for boarders):

Throughout the spring, it has been our hope to bring you—or those of you within driving distance—back to campus so you and your families can pack your things in the usual manner. Packing up can be a personal, private process, of course, and it’s best left to you. This is also the most efficient option for everyone involved.

Understanding we’re not in control of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has created, we’ve also been planning for contingencies, just in case we’re not able to bring you back to campus. To that end, we consulted with other schools and colleges; we’ve partnered with moving and storage companies; and leadership teams have met several times to consider a wide range of options.

We’ve delayed our final decision to allow the greatest chance for you all to return and manage your own things, but the delay can’t continue indefinitely. The Physical Plant staff undertakes important work in the dorms each summer, starting in early June. They paint, lay new carpeting, replace windows, and fortify insulation and streamline ventilation systems—to name just a few of their many priorities—all with an eye toward an exceptional residential experience for you, Deerfield students. As you might imagine, rooms need to be clear for these projects to begin.

Last week, shortly after Governor Baker announced that all Massachusetts schools—public and private—must remain closed through June 28, we determined that window of opportunity for bringing you all back to pack your belongings—even on a staggered schedule—had to close, and we made the decision that your rooms would need to be packed in your absence. Here are some of the factors we considered in coming to this decision:

Massachusetts is currently a COVID-19 “hot spot.” Strict social-distancing measures remain in place and are likely to remain in place for some time. In the interest of health and safety, we must adhere to these state guidelines, which currently prohibit non-essential travel and activity.

  • According to MA state restrictions, those who enter our state must remain here in self-quarantine for two weeks before departing again.
  • Dr. Benson would need to screen all students and families upon their arrival and before their departure.
  • Each time someone enters a dorm, afterward all surfaces must be cleaned and disinfected. Since we’re all under “stay at home” orders here in MA, we don’t have a custodial staff on site to do this.
  • If we allowed a staggered schedule of return for those within driving distance, that would delay us in packing rooms for those who don’t live within driving distance. And, remember, we need to have the rooms clear by early June.
  • We have people on campus who fall within the CDC’s “vulnerability index.” We want to be vigilant in protecting these community members. Bringing students back to campus presents a risk.
  • While we’d like to accommodate individual—and perfectly reasonable—requests for items, we want to be equitable and consistent. Allowing some of you to gather belongings would be unfair to others. We need to consider the scale of this situation: Deerfield has 574 boarding students.
  • Finally, and candidly, we understand that it will be hard to keep you apart from one another once even a small group of you is here on campus together. As is often the Deerfield way, you’ll want to be together, enjoying one another’s company after being separated. This is a natural instinct, but, unfortunately, it’s also a dangerous one right now.

While the considerations above could make this seem like a simple decision, I assure you it was not. In fact, we’d hoped to avoid it. We understand your concerns about privacy, and we know a small number of you is also concerned about the consequences for contraband in your rooms. (As a reminder, contraband will be handled within our Sanctuary Policy and will not lead to disciplinary action.) We’ve done our very best to honor those concerns, but now—due to factors well outside our control—we find ourselves without viable recourse. As with so very much of the spring, I wish things were different and that we could just do “normal.” I’m truly sorry we can’t.

So this brings me to our next steps, and they involve you. We’d like each of you to fill out this form. It will allow you to offer us some guidance with regard to your belongings. Please fill it out by Sunday, May 3. This is a firm deadline. Once we have your preferences in place, Boomerang Storage will begin to pack your things, and then they’ll either ship them to you or store them here on campus until you return. Deerfield will cover all costs. And please rest assured: special care will be taken with all your belongings, including valuables.

If you have any questions about packing, storing, or shipping, please contact Mr. Kelly. He has experience with moving companies and will oversee this phase of our process.

I’m sorry this is not the decision many of you sought—it’s not the one I’d hoped for either—but I hope you can find reassurance in knowing that we came to it only after no other alternative was viable.

Housing (for boarders):

Though we do refer to randomly-assigned numbers, Deerfield’s housing system is not a straight lottery. It is a hybrid process that weighs these numbers, student preference shared through the Housing Preference Form, and an interest in heterogeneity across halls.

In previous years, returning students have completed a paper Housing Preference Form and then drawn lottery tiles in the Student Life Office. This year, due to COVID-19 and students’ absence from campus, we’ve had to adapt that process: You must complete the Housing Preference Form online by Friday, May 15, at 4:00 pm (EDT) and “lottery” numbers will be assigned through a randomizing software created by Mr. Bakker and Mr. Lawlor. (Please note: You may only submit your form once.)

You may sign up as singles or in groups of two or three.

Week of May 25:

Starting with rising seniors and working in ascending order by “lottery” numbers, the Student Life Office will house you based—in part—on your housing request forms. As noted above, final housing assignments will not be based on lottery pick alone.

New student housing assignments will be completed after those of returning students.

Friday, June 26:

Housing assignments will be emailed to you and new members of your grades. (This is a target date and subject to change.) Incoming ninth-graders will receive their hall assignments in August.

Other considerations:

  • Proctor housing will be released on Friday, May 8.
  • Each housing request form includes a comments section wherein students, particularly those signing up as singles, may include a list of others with/near whom they’d like to live.
    • Please do not list students with whom you’d prefer not to live. Such comments will not be considered.

Here are your options by cohort. Please note: this is subject to change.

  • Tenth-grade girls: Harold Smith, John Louis, Mather. Please note: HS houses only returning tenth-graders.
  • Tenth-grade boys: John Williams, Louis Marx, Scaife
  • Junior/senior girls: McAlister, Pocumtuck, Rosenwald/Shumway,
  • Junior/senior boys: Barton, Bewkes, DeNunzio, Field, The Mods, O’Byrne-Curtis

Accommodations are available for our gender-expansive students. Please speak with a member of the Student Life Office or a trusted adult to learn more.


Advisor surveys and request forms will be distributed via email in early May. Please complete them. You will not be permitted to request an advisor for next year—even if you plan to remain with the same person—until you have offered feedback on your advising experience this year.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about housing or advising; it’s always nice to connect with you. And thanks to you all for your attention to these details during such a challenging time.

With warmest wishes and fondest regards,
Ms. Creagh