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.
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.
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.
For our new boarding students, the notion of sharing a dorm room with a roommate is either the most exciting aspect of starting at Proctor, or the most anxiety-inducing. Will they snore? Will they be messy? What if they like to stay up too late? What if they don’t take safety precautions seriously? These questions are valid, especially as we plan to return to school in an environment unlike any other we have experienced.
For nearly 175 years, Proctor Academy has played a central role in the day to day operations of the Town of Andover. Originally a town academy serving children of all ages, Proctor’s evolution to a boarding school in the 1930s initiated growth in both physical plant and the seasonal population in town. Today, Proctor serves as the town’s largest employer and annually welcomes students from more than 25 states and 13 countries to campus. Just as COIVD-19 has shifted each of our lives, the role Proctor plays within the Town of Andover as it seeks to reopen for the 2020-2021 school year must also shift.
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.