For fifteen years I have been going to Ocean Classroom sendoffs. We’ve had them in Boothbay, in Gloucester, in Portland, In Boston. There’s the milling around on the docks, the t-shirted students, the nervous parents.
This is a quick note about the Proctor community coming together. Attached to this note are some of the critical steps and practices you must be aware of, take, and maintain if we are to keep our community safe. They are sensible, straightforward, and non-negotiable. I don’t say this to be heavy handed but to keep everyone healthy.
Entering the Proctor community this year, whether in person or remote, will be different from any other year in the history of the school. It is going to require more of you and more from us. Together we will do the work of community during a pandemic, and it will ask of you grace, circumspect, and resilience. The opportunities of Proctor haven’t changed, but the way we go about accessing them on a day to day basis has been significantly altered by the way we will need to adjust to maintain the health and well-being of everyone.
I write today to share the details of Proctor’s return to school plan in a document that follows this letter. Making the decision to reopen in September for face-to-face learning has been and must continue to be a deliberative, not reactive process. We have done our work internally, gotten advice for experts externally. We have partnered with other ISANNE schools to develop what we think of as shared, responsible practices. Reopening for in person learning is a decision that takes into consideration our unique geography, the data within the state, the health and wellbeing of our faculty and staff, and our belief that we can collectively do the work of establishing and maintaining a healthy community.
I am writing today to follow up on last Thursday’s forum which was hosted by Lori Patriacca ‘01 and John Bouton focused on the film Just Mercy. The film - watch it if you haven’t - focuses on the work of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative work Stevenson does to review and exonerate those - mostly Black and on death row - who have been wrongfully prosecuted and convicted. It’s an eye-opening film into a skewed legal system and it prompted good community and self reflection. The forum is part of an on-going series of conversations and listening sessions organized at Proctor since the protests, unrest, and calls for police reform following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Over the last week we have collectively borne witness to the news of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody, have seen the spread of angst and anger in communities, and seen images of protesters across the country. We have seen property damage. We have seen teargas shot into crowds and riot police knocking over protesters. We have seen police kneeling alongside protestors, peacefully. We have seen images of military helicopters intimidating crowds. We have seen journalists attacked and arrested. Amidst all of this (and the pandemic) it is hard for individuals and communities to find a framework for the turmoil that doesn’t make it feel overwhelming. We wonder where and when the healing will begin, when the requisite societal changes will take shape, and who will lead us through this valley.
Oh, the places we go, the geographies we ramble across, the memories we make. When we spend time in a particular setting and then leave, we carry with us the memories of people and adventures, but we also carry within us the geography of place, and that geography is a powerful force within us. Or as Wallace Stegner once noted in reflections about wilderness spaces these places can become “geographies of hope,” entering into the heart.