By far most importantly, I hope that everyone is healthy and safe in these turbulent times. That so much continues to evolve moment to moment, makes it feel especially challenging for everyone to remain vigilant, balanced, sensible and calm. Pacing is another watchword that seems appropriate to keep in mind, too. All of us are trying to process a lot of information, while simultaneously adjusting to significant changes in our habits of life. We need some time and space, which is why pacing is so important. To that end and in an effort to consolidate all the information regarding Westminster, we have built a dedicated web page
where you will find school-related information about the COVID-19 situation.
Given all that is occurring and in consultation with trustees, we have decided to close the campus for the entire spring term. This decision considered recent guidance from the CDC about avoiding gatherings of more than 50 people for at least the next eight weeks (subsequently in federal guidelines to groups of 10), the increasingly complicated logistics accompanying travel, and, again, most importantly, our urgent concern for the health of our school community. We will continue with online classes so as to assure students academic credit. However, other than brief campus visits to collect belongings, which should be coordinated with advisors, students and their families must not return to campus this spring. The only exception is for students with extraordinary logistical or personal circumstances that demonstrate a compelling justification for temporary residency on campus, such as international students who reside overseas. These students must complete the petition process through Nancy Spencer.
Plenty more information from campus will follow as we move forward, including plans about the deserved recognition for the achievements of the Class of 2020, in lieu
of a formal commencement, and plans for prorated reimbursements, such as on expenses not incurred. Again, we appeal for your patience as we sort through these, among many other complicated topics. For instance, we must also prioritize our commitment to sustaining employment through this school year of the faculty and staff who devote their lives to teaching, coaching and advising students, and also those who support our programs in critical ways, whether in the health center, as office assistants, as custodians or as grounds personnel. All of us have a lot to process; again, pacing is essential. We will attend to these important matters, but not all of them right away or at once.
As we promised, Monday afternoon, you received from Bill Sistare, Director of Studies, and Mark de Kanter ‘91, Dean of Faculty, information about our distance learning program which will begin next week. Mr. Sistare and Mr. de Kanter, along with Department Heads and department colleagues, have collaborated impressively to prepare this modified academic program. In fact, we held our first online full faculty meeting last week and another is scheduled for this week. My colleagues’ selfless commitment to accommodate our changing circumstances should offer you considerable reassurance that we will navigate this situation successfully together.
With regard to athletics, Director of Athletics Tim Joncas ’00 has already shared with you that the Founders League agreed unanimously to cancel this spring’s season. Because athletics are such an important component of our program and really important to many of our students, I feel so badly for all of our teams and all of our athletes who had eagerly been anticipating this spring’s season. This decision follows upon similar decisions by intercollegiate and professional leagues, but that perspective does not diminish what we will miss.
As I emphasized in my last spring advisory, I feel especially sad for the Sixth Formers who were anticipating their spring term together here on Williams Hill. My colleagues and I relish the keen sense of accomplishment that permeates the spring term of the Sixth Form year. We also feel disappointed for all students who will be unable to pursue a host of school activities that they were looking forward to this spring.
I remain so grateful for your understanding, especially considering the disruption that everyone is managing in all aspects of their lives. To emphasize, we always move forward best together. As we adopt practices of social distancing and are not physically together, my colleagues join me in affirming that our students and their families remain very much on our minds and in our hearts.
With lots of Grit & abiding Grace,