I know better than to think you’re feeling great right now, but I hope you and your families are at least safe and well. These are challenging times and, unfortunately, they coincide directly with your famed “senior spring”—months that are supposed to be the best of your Deerfield Experience. I sincerely wish things were different. I’m so very fond of you all, and I know many of you are struggling to make sense of this new world we find ourselves in.
I’m writing now to provide some information about your belongings and also about our plans to honor you and your contributions to Deerfield at the end of the school year.
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 at least through May 18.
- 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 and ship your things to you. 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 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.
“Senior Spotlight,” End-of-Year Celebrations, and Commencement
As we look ahead to this rather unexpected end of the academic year, we’d like to recreate some of the celebrations that traditionally mark this milestone. To that end, I welcome your contributions.
Between now and the end of classes, we’d like to dedicate a section of The Friday Common Room to you, our seniors. Please share with me your ideas for this “Senior Spotlight”—a space designated specifically for the Class of 2020.
The May 22 edition of the Friday Common Room and Common Room Live! will be dedicated in large part to you. Please send me your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions. In addition to Faculty Farewells and awards presentations, what would you like to see there?
As Dr. Austin mentioned during his Zoom with you last week, we’re planning for a postponed Commencement. In the next week, you’ll receive a survey designed to collect your input so we can make the most of your return to campus. We’re already looking forward to having you back!
Of course, you should always reach out if you need anything at all. I care about you very much and would welcome any opportunity to show my support.
With warmest wishes,