The following letter was emailed to students, families, faculty, and staff on Friday, March 20. To see all recent communication about Hotchkiss's response to COVID-19, visit: https://www.hotchkiss.org/community-life/health-wellness/covid-19-updates
Dear Members of the Hotchkiss Community,
I write to thank you for your expressions of support and good will and for your offers to help the Hotchkiss community as we move together through this difficult and uncertain time. None of us finds virtual interaction a satisfying substitute for the learning and life we enjoy together on campus; however, it is evident that the bonds that tie us together remain strong, even from a distance. I am heartened by this and grateful to you for your understanding and flexibility as we chart the way forward in the context of this rapidly developing global public-health crisis. As we navigate the way forward, I am reminded of the wisdom of the Hotchkiss motto: Guided by each other, let us seek better paths.
As I wrote last week, we will begin online teaching on March 30. Members of the faculty are working to prepare to transition their teaching online, and the faculty and departments will spend next week working together (virtually) to build a coherent and high quality online academic experience for students.
In making decisions about online versus on-campus learning, we are guided by a commitment to the health and well-being of the School community and a commitment to doing our part as an institution to help "flatten the curve" of the rate of infection in this region. We do so in accordance with the guidance provided by relevant governmental agencies.
Based on current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the State of Connecticut limiting the size of gatherings to under 50 individuals for the next eight weeks, we will be unable to bring everyone back to live in close quarters on the Hotchkiss campus on April 13, the date I communicated last week. Considering the projected spread of the virus in this part of the world over the coming weeks, it is difficult to fix a date with confidence when we will be able to welcome everyone back.
Even if federal and state guidelines will allow us to reconvene on campus this spring, many of our students who live abroad may not be able to return due to increasingly constrained international travel. In light of that, we plan to continue online teaching through the fourth marking period. We are committed to making sure that all students are able to complete their academic work this year.
We have not yet come to a decision about whether students will be able to return to campus or the potential implications for Commencement on May 29; it is too early to say. As frustrating as it is to leave these questions about the calendar and the program unanswered, I am listening to student and parent voices and weighing the experience of living with that uncertainty against the profound disappointment should we make final decisions to cancel such meaningful events in students' and families' lives and in the life of the School.
We will need to make these choices in due course, and we will. Each day we learn more about the spread of the virus and our preparedness to respond. We will continue to monitor the pandemic and the guidance from relevant government agencies, and make decisions that will optimize the chances for the continuing health and well-being of this community and our society at large.
In addition to the dedicated COVID-19 Updates web page, I intend to write to you at least weekly and, as always, welcome your ideas and support.
Craig W. Bradley
Head of School
Below you will find answers to some frequently asked questions we've been receiving:
What will distance learning look like?
Beginning March 30, live-streamed classes will start on a schedule from 9:30 a.m. to 12:35 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday. Each faculty member will approach distance learning in their own way given the content of each specific course. The revised class schedule will be forthcoming.
Please note, this schedule is designed to maximize the potential for students in a wide range of time zones to engage synchronously. While we recognize that this schedule is not ideal for those on Pacific Time or China Standard Time, it is as inclusive as maximally possible.
There is also discussion of continuing the tradition of Wednesday 9 - 10 p.m. EST for fun school-wide programming.
What happens if I don't have my textbooks with me?
Do not worry. All assigned readings will be provided electronically.
Should I be concerned about my student visa status?
Thankfully, SEVP is being very flexible and is going to make it possible for students to maintain the correct status while engaged in distance learning from home. We expect further guidance from SEVP for seniors transferring records to colleges. Please contact David Thompson if you have any questions about student visas.
What if I do not have access to high speed internet during the period of online instruction?
We are committed to helping students access distance learning. Please send an email to Registrar Heather Mechare with the subject line: "Internet Access."
What about school events?
The School has suspended all School-sponsored events on- and off-campus until we resume our normal schedule.
What is happening to the spring athletic season?
The Founders League's Heads decided unanimously to cancel the spring season of Founders League athletics this year given the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact on all schools in the League.
If we don't end up returning to School, what will happen to my belongings?
In the coming weeks, students will receive a survey about their dorm room needs. While many students may be able to travel to campus and move out later this spring, others live too far away to make this feasible. Once we have an accurate tally of services required, we will be better equipped to offer suitable arrangements for all (including packing, storage, and/or shipping, if needed). Stay tuned for further information on this front.
How will Hotchkiss keep the feeling of community alive for students during this period?
While we practice social distancing, staying connected is more important than ever. School administrators and student leaders are working together to brainstorm and implement a variety of options to keep the student community connected throughout this period of virtual school life. We're all in this together, and we look to one another for encouragement, support, and creative ideas to sustain the sense of community that is a hallmark of the Hotchkiss experience.
Several blocks of "Community Time" will be built into the revised schedule. These will be planned by Dean of Community Life Steve McKibben P'22 and student leaders and will include different community-building events organized by class deans, Director of Diversity and Inclusion Rachel Myers, Director of Student Activities Marci Wistar, School Chaplain Jason Larson, and others.