March 13: A Brief Update from Dr. Austin

March 13, 2020

Dear Deerfield Families and Students:

I am grateful to have heard from so many of you over the last 24 hours, and I know that you have many questions, so I want to offer this brief update.

Ever the optimist, I remain unapologetically hopeful that we will be able to gather our school community together again this spring. To that end, I have put together a small administrative working group, so that when the time comes, we are fully ready to welcome students back to campus.

Many of you, I know, are making difficult decisions about travel, as restrictions increase and borders tighten. Should you decide to return home to an international location, there is, indeed, a risk of not being permitted back into the United States. The travel restriction landscape seems to change often, and we’re using the CDC and US State Department websites as guides in assessing that risk. Ultimately, the decision to go home should be yours and your family’s. We fully support your shared interest in being together during these uncertain times. It’s within the context of this uncertainty that we’re going to keep online learning available for the entire duration of the spring term, even if classes resume on campus. Likewise, we will ensure that students are able to complete their full academic program, regardless of where they are in the world. Online learning will be available in real time—and asynchronously—to accommodate students in different time zones. All online lessons will also be archived, so students will be able to access them whenever they’d like.  

We want to be as supportive as possible of all families, but we’ve also been thinking a lot about our international families, who face additional challenges. With those challenges in mind, we will offer accommodations to students with unique hardships, such as being away from family with no viable housing alternative on March 22, when spring break was originally scheduled to end. Requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, and any student in this situation should contact Ms. Creagh or me directly. We will be attentive.

Our priority at this time is to ensure that each and every student has access to an internet connection and the resources necessary to learn online. If you need assistance or support in order to access the internet, please reach out to our Director of Technology, Ms. Butz.

We will write to you next week with more details about our approach to our online program. We are fortunate to have a faculty that is creative, growth-minded, and dedicated. They are excited about the prospect of translating their courses into an online format, and we are planning carefully and thoughtfully, and have built in the time to do so. We are well-organized for this challenge, ready to stretch ourselves, and excited about the opportunity to innovate.

Finally, we have compiled some “FAQs” that will be updated regularly in an effort to answer the many questions you have. (We have included, for example, some information about the upcoming ACT and some updates from the College Advising team.) I welcome your feedback and additional questions—those have been useful and clarifying as we chart a path forward.

This is new territory for us—as, I know, it is for you. We are planning intentionally, but I have no doubt there will be stumbles here and there. I thank you for your patience, your flexibility, and your continued support. You will hear from me often.

One final word to the Class of 2020: You have been in my thoughts very much over the last ten days. I don’t know where the next few weeks will take us, but of this I am certain: We will honor your class and your tremendous leadership, either on May 24 (my hope) or at another time and date.

With my best regards,

John Austin, Head of School