After a bit of a delay due to a few stubborn COVID-19 tests, we released our dorm pods Saturday morning and jumped right into action with our 9th graders heading into the woods for an overnight camping trip as part of an abridged Wilderness Orientation experience. Meanwhile, soccer, field hockey, and football players practiced and a new masked-normal began to emerge over the weekend.
At the very tail end of two remarkably smooth Registration Days (thank you parents for following directions and doing your part to arrive on campus prepared!), the student crew of Ocean Classroom 2020 arrived on campus for their COVID-19 tests. The motto that will guide every decision aboard Roseway over the next nine weeks is simple: Ship, Shipmate, Self. The application of these words to our on-campus community has never been more important than it will be this year.
We last had students on campus on March 6. Snow covered the ground as student scurried to busses and hugged each other good bye. The excitement of Spring Break overshadowed the fears of COVID-19 that had begun to creep into our lives during the weeks prior. While we knew the Spring Term might be disrupted a bit (a delayed return for classes and maybe we would have to cancel Project Period?), few of us could have predicted what the next six months had in store: lockdowns, masks, remote learning, a remote graduation for the Class of 2020, a pandemic of racial injustice, and so much more.
Usually a time of quiet reflection and rejuvenation, summer at Proctor took a different form this year. Navigating simultaneous pandemics of racial injustice and COVID-19 within the context of financial uncertainty and a politically polarized nation has reminded us our work connecting with, supporting, and educating our students never stops. Neither does the institutional work required to safely welcome students back to campus next week, while actively addressing the need to dig more deeply into the work of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice at Proctor.
We each have a story that led us to work at Proctor: we went to school here, grew up in the region, were attracted to a specific program or the school’s educational philosophy. For Proctor’s newest member of the community, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Coordinator Will Wamaru, his journey began as a nine year old on his first mountaineering adventure with NOLS on a summit attempt of Mount Kenya’s Lenana Peak (16,355 feet), just twenty minutes from his family’s rural farm. This early exposure to the philosophy of NOLS and the notion that learning, relationships, and the outdoors could be inextricably woven together through a formal program, and not just in his daily life in his village, planted a seed that led to his continued involvement in NOLS as a student, and eventually, a teacher over the next two decades.
As we ready ourselves to begin a school year like no other, Proctor’s counselors wanted to reflect on the emotional well being of our immediate and extended Proctor Community. On Monday, employees were given our COVID tests. The experience was striking in many ways. It is fair to say that none of us could have imagined that this scene would unfold on our campus to begin a school year. As we stood in the socially distanced line, we all processed in our own way, this completely new scene. Leaving the testing site, I felt relieved, impressed (by the organization and efficiency of the effort), and most importantly energized. Our Proctor community is showing up; showing up eager to engage, eager to problem solve, eager to do something slightly uncomfortable, for the sake of reconvening as a community, physically together.
Proctor's 5,000 alumni live worldwide, and while their time in Andover spans generations, their shared experiences living at Proctor creates a lifelong connection. Through the Proctor Alumni Association, alumni around the globe are able to connect with each other, and as we navigate a global pandemic, ironically these connections have never been stronger.
In less than two weeks we welcome students back to Proctor's campus for the first time since March. The ability for in-person instruction and regular daily routine of classes, afternoon activities, and nightly study hall is something we all desperately crave. As we transition back to campus and settle into our new normal, afternoon activities will be a part of our routine.