Dear Members of the Hotchkiss Community,
The safety of the members of the Hotchkiss community is always on my mind. While in many locations across the U.S. and around the world there are indications that the curve is "flattening," the virus nevertheless continues to claim a significant number of lives. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well.

As I described in this week's All-School Meeting, the Office of the Governor of Connecticut released a report on Wednesday that sets forth recommendations for reopening colleges, universities, and boarding schools in the state. The requirements to reopen will be stringent. Some of these, such as an ongoing plateau or reduction in the level of infections as well as the broad availability of testing, are outside the School's control. Others, including changes to how we organize space (classrooms, dining, dorms, and common spaces) and time (the weekly schedule and annual calendar), how we implement meaningful social distancing, and behavioral modifications on campus, are ours to determine.
We are committed to doing everything we can to bring Bearcats back to Lakeville while managing the risk of an outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. I am cautiously but realistically hopeful that a return to campus in the fall may be possible. 
The Report of the Higher Education Subcommittee Reopen Connecticut has been broadly endorsed by Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. The report acknowledges the critical role that colleges, universities, and boarding schools play in the education and economy of the state. It recommends reopening according to a prescribed schedule, provided the following conditions are met:
  • The prevalence of disease must be low enough in this region to safely resume campus operations. 
  • Institutions must have adequate access to testing, personal protective equipment including masks, and the ability to trace contacts. We have been led to expect that the state will provide some degree of support and guidance to enable schools to meet these obligations.
  • Schools must provide for the physical distancing of members of the community, including reducing density in classrooms, dining halls, and dormitories, among other measures.
The report recognizes that each institution is distinctly different and therefore asks each school to develop its own tailored plans for bringing students, faculty, and staff back to campus; for monitoring the health of all community members; for containing any infection that may occur; and for safely sending students home in the event this becomes necessary. 
Provided these plans are in place, at this time and subject to change based on the unpredictable course of the pandemic, the report supports the staged reopening of boarding schools beginning in September. 
At Hotchkiss, focused work on developing plans for all of these considerations has been underway since March. In addition to drawing on expertise from within the Hotchkiss community, we are working in close collaboration with the heads of boarding schools across the state through the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools, as well as the heads of the Eight Schools Association 1 and the Founders League 2 . We are also in contact with public health professionals and experts in infectious disease and epidemiology. While each school and institution must make its own detailed plans, we all face the same set of risks and challenges and expect to come to similar decisions. There is value in collective wisdom as we create the conditions to allow us to bring students safely back to campus. 
This week, one such expert, Dr. Robert Morris '74, a leading epidemiologist, shared insight into the science behind the pandemic in a live-streamed conversation led by Dr. Jared Zelman P'04, Hotchkiss medical director. If you did not have an opportunity to participate, you may be interested in watching the replay .
As we picture what Hotchkiss may look like in the fall, we must be realistic. It will not be the Hotchkiss we are used to. We should envision a hybrid of on-campus and online teaching. On campus this will entail testing, contact tracing, social distancing, the wearing of masks, limits on visits to and travel from campus, many adults continuing to work remotely, and a schedule and calendar that will allow us to reduce the density of people in campus buildings at any given time. The implications for fall sports remain unclear at this time.    

We expect that online teaching will continue for students who are unable to be in residence on campus. They may be international students who face travel constraints or students who become infected and need to continue with their classes while quarantined at home. It is also possible that we could bring students back in a staggered pattern to limit population density, meaning a scenario in which some students would begin classes online. 

The online program will be integrated and synchronous with the on-campus program. Since we began the remote program at the end of March, we have taken significant strides in enhancing and improving this offering. Over the summer months, members of the faculty will continue to deepen their online teaching skills and their engagement with outstanding distance-learning resources in order to deliver an increasingly robust program. 
As we contemplate all of these measures, I find that reflecting on epidemics of the past offers some perspective. Hotchkiss's long history includes outbreaks of scarlet fever, measles, mumps, and polio. During the influenza contagions of 1918 and 1957, Hotchkiss protected itself essentially by operating as an island. We are very fortunate to live and work on a beautiful, large campus in a rural area; this makes it possible for us to limit to a significant degree physical contact and interaction with the world beyond campus. We have done it before, and we can do it again. 
The COVID-19 virus is with us, and we must adapt to it. Until we have immunity due to infection (presuming having been infected makes one immune) or a vaccine, our lives will be more constrained. While we wish that were not the case, we need to be realistic and take seriously the risk of infection of this highly contagious and dangerous virus.      

We are planning carefully, and the guidance from the State provides a helpful and enabling structure. Having said that, I want us all to bear in mind the "gating conditions" the report sets forth and acknowledge that those conditions are beyond our control and are ultimately what will determine whether we can reopen as a residential school in September. We are all in this together, and we will keep you informed as we continue to plan and monitor the situation.  I expect to announce a decision about the fall in the first half of July.   

Thank you for all your expressions of support and your constructive engagement with us as we move forward together. Please stay safe and well.
All good wishes,

Craig W. Bradley
Head of School  
1 The Eight Schools Association includes Hotchkiss, Andover, Exeter, St. Paul's, Choate, Deerfield, Lawrenceville, and Northfield Mount Hermon.

2The Founders League includes Hotchkiss, Avon, Choate, Ethel Walker, Kent, Kingswood-Oxford, Loomis Chaffee, Miss Porter's, Taft, Trinity-Pawling, and Westminster.

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The Hotchkiss School , 11 Interlaken Road, Lakeville, CT 06039-2141,  (860) 435-2591