Communication from the Head of School
May 15, 2020

Dear Miss Hall’s School Families,

I hope this communication finds you healthy and safe and managing this season of COVID-19 with grace, care, and a bit of humor. I write to provide a community update and offer answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we are receiving from MHS friends and families.

By and large, we are well here on Holmes Road and doing our best to settle plans for the end of the school year, to develop schedules and contingencies for the coming year, and to adapt to the ever-changing landscape that has moved much of life to a virtual realm. In the span of just a few short months, many of the systems, routines, and traditions we count on have been upended, and there have been extreme adjustments to all of our daily lives. I want to express my gratitude to all of the students, faculty, staff, families, alumnae, and friends who have been supportive, flexible, empathetic, and understanding while we have all persevered to navigate this highly unusual semester. I am especially proud of how our faculty and staff have risen to the challenges of adjusting curriculum and teaching styles, adopting new technologies and work platforms, and managing all the practices to keep our students safe. Every MHS adult has contributed to this remarkable transition with a singular focus — the health and welfare of our students. For that, I am extremely grateful. 

Community News

As we complete week six of distance learning, we are discovering a great deal about the possibilities and the challenges of delivering an online curriculum. Faculty have invited experts — designers, farmers, social activists, and photographers — into their virtual classrooms to share insights and inspire students. The students, in turn, continue to respond with great work, from the Textile and Garment Design class organizing a project ( Mira’s Masks) to make and distribute homemade masks to students, student families, faculty, and staff who need them, to English students creating and submitting artifacts that mark this moment, such as this video of learning to bake while sheltering in place. We are also finding new ways to maintain the connections that are so central to the Miss Hall’s School experience, and students have connected us in cyberspace by hosting online club meetings and discussions, sharing videos and moments of gratitude, and designing an inter-generational Blue and Gold Spirit Week. Please click here to read our latest news roundup for families.

In recent weeks: 

  • The International Student Alliance, with the help of the Diversity Coalition, re-envisioned the annual Culture Fair, moving it online with a mix of pre-recorded and live events to spotlight the many cultures that make up the MHS community.

  • A Virtual Open Mic saw students and adults submit poetry and essay readings, musical performances, and dance routines — some live, and some recorded — from all over the world.

  • Last Tuesday’s Gratitude Moment in the Greenhouse gave us all a bit of time to pause, express gratitude for what we have, and reflect on what it means to contribute boldly and creatively to the common good. 

  • The Alumnae Relations Team, in lieu of this weekend’s traditional Alumnae Weekend events, is offering a virtual reunion celebration and individual zoom gatherings that have been well-received by alumnae in classes ending in “0” and “5.” 

As we move through the year’s closing weeks, we are committed to continued learning, connection, and the well-being of our community. Though we cannot celebrate with our traditional end-of-year events, there will be opportunities to recognize and honor each other, particularly the seniors, in the weeks ahead. 

Health and Safety Updates

Of course, the ongoing Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect us all. As is the case in most communities at this stage, additional cases of illness within the MHS community have recently come to light, including at least one student. Although we cannot share the identity or the condition of the individuals out of respect for their privacy, Director of Health Services Christie Puz has been in touch with local health officials, and we are following their instructions regarding contact tracing, quarantine, or other measures, including notifying potentially affected members of the community for follow-up.

We still have two students on campus, though they will soon move to a homestay with a wonderful MHS adult. We have been in touch with the students’ families throughout, and are committed to their well-being until they can safely return home or we can be together again as a school community. For the health and safety of everyone, including our adult residents and families, we continue to restrict campus access to essential employees and vendors. Though some jurisdictions have begun to reopen, and Governor Charlie Baker announced Monday steps for a phased re-opening, the Stay-at-Home Advisory remains in effect in Massachusetts until May 18. Further, on May 1, Gov. Baker issued an order requiring the use of masks or face coverings in all public situations where appropriate social distancing measures are not possible, and we are strongly encouraging all essential MHS personnel to wear masks in public spaces on campus. ( One canine member of our team is not wearing a mask these days, and we thank him for sending us these campus updates! )

Frequently Asked Questions

I have received many questions from students, faculty, staff, and families about next steps, particularly as they relate to Commencement, student belongings, and plans for next year. While we do not have all the answers, the MHS Leadership Team and the Board of Trustees are working together, and in consultation with guidance from health experts and local, state, and federal officials, to plan for various scenarios. With that in mind, I share with you the following updates, based on currently available information.

How are we honoring the Seniors? What is happening with Commencement? We are so sorry that we cannot honor the seniors’ accomplishments in person this year, and we all wish that we could be together on campus right now to celebrate them. We also understand the ambivalence seniors and their families may feel about adapting traditions to a virtual setting. Please know that our goal is not to attempt to replace the events we would have had, but to provide our graduates with a sense of accomplishment, connection, and hope for the future. To that end, we are planning to honor the Class of 2020 in several ways: 

  • Each senior will receive a care package with their diploma, charms, tassels, and notes of gratitude and recognition from community members.
  • On May 29, at a virtual Community Meeting, we will announce recipients of all-school awards and news about next year’s school leadership.
  • On May 31, the date of Commencement, we will hold a virtual celebration, which will include messages from faculty and recognition of the graduates.
  • We plan to celebrate the Class of 2020 together on campus on a date to be determined, and we will enlist the help of students in planning this event.

When can students pick up their belongings? Thanks to our hardworking adult residents, we have packed all student belongings and are safely storing them on campus. Because Massachusetts is still under a stay-at-home advisory, we cannot allow students or families to come to campus to pick up belongings just yet, but we are developing plans for shipping belongings to students and, for when families can safely travel to campus, scheduling pickups while maintaining the health and safety of the community.

Will the School offer partial refunds for the current year? We are honoring our enrollment contract and are asking families to do so as well. The tuition dollars paid for the current year ensure that MHS can continue to employ the exceptional faculty, staff, and administrators who have made the rapid transition to distance learning, continue to offer advisory and virtual community programs to support students, and keep school operations running in the current year and in preparation for next year. We truly appreciate your commitment to Miss Hall's and the school community during such challenging and uncertain times.
What will the calendar be for next year? Will MHS open on time? We are planning to open as scheduled in the fall, and we are crafting alternative plans in case there needs to be a modification to the calendar for any reason. Our hope is to reopen and resume on-campus programming as soon as possible, but there are still many unknowns. As always, we remain committed to ensuring the health and safety of all community members, and we will base our decisions on the best information from health experts and local/state/federal guidelines. We will communicate with families in July about any significant shifts to the calendar.

Will we continue with distance learning in the fall? Will the curriculum change? If the campus is not able to open in September as planned, distance learning will continue until all students can safely return to campus. Due to uncertainties regarding travel, health advisories, or other potential developments, we are planning a combination of on-campus and distance learning in case we must adjust our plans. Our first foray into distance learning at MHS has been largely successful, especially given the abrupt nature of our transition after Spring Break, and we have learned a lot from students, families, and faculty about what works well and where we can improve or amplify. Additionally, members of our Academic Affairs Committee, which includes department chairs, are discussing plans for hybrid learning models that will provide all students with opportunities for exploration, intellectual growth, and deep connections to teachers and classmates, wherever they are. We are 100 percent committed to faculty and administrator professional development that supports this work. 

If we can’t be on campus for part of the year, will there be refunds? If it is necessary to delay the opening of dorms or make major shifts to the school calendar, the Board of Trustees will determine a fair and fiscally responsible plan for boarding refunds/credits. We will share more information in the summer, should this be the case. Regardless of how the start of the 2020-21 year unfolds, we are committed to providing students with a transformative educational experience and bringing students and faculty to campus as soon as safely possible.

What will MHS do to ensure health and well-being next year?Health and safety continue to be our top priority. The Incident Response Team (IRT) has created three task forces — one focused on reopening, a second committed to student/adult well-being, and a third centered on communication — to guide planning for next year. The MHS Board of Trustees has also engaged an advisory committee to support the School's leadership in implementing plans for the coming year. We promise to communicate with you as these plans take shape.

How will new students and returning students reconnect after time apart? One of the hallmarks of the MHS community is our profound level of connection. I have been thoroughly impressed with how students and adults have found creative ways to remain connected throughout the disorienting nature of this pandemic. We are in the process of electing a School President and Vice President for next year and selecting the Bigs and Proctors, who are eager to explore ways for us to reconnect. Together, we are finding a way forward. Looking ahead, MHS adults are committed to working closely with student leaders to ensure there is a sense of community as we begin the new school year. One sentiment I hear over and over from Miss Hall’s alumnae is how they can return to campus ten, twenty, and even sixty years after graduating and pick up conversations with classmates as if they had only been away for a weekend — so strong are the bonds they develop between students and adults here. I know that the students and faculty are as eager as I am to be back on campus together, and I have zero doubt that we will pick up where we all left off.

Our family is experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Can MHS help? Just before Spring Break, two students proposed a relief fund to help friends struggling to adjust travel plans as the virus spread across the United States. Their idea — now known as the Community Action Fund — was to band together student contributions and class gifts, plus support from MHS alumnae, family, and friends to make a direct impact on the lives of students and the Miss Hall’s community. The fund, now at more than $62,000, is available to help students, families, faculty, and staff facing financial hardship due to COVID-19, and we have a committee reviewing requests for help and awarding funds as we speak. Click here to learn more.

In closing, I want you to know how deeply I am committed to the well-being of everyone in our community. Of course, my goal, and that of the Miss Hall’s Leadership Team, is to bring everyone back to campus as soon as possible. However, it is important that this happens only when it is safe to do so. And so, we must remain flexible. We don’t know what will happen next, but as a small and innovative school, we can be nimble and quickly adapt. In the meantime, we will take care of each other and do our best to keep the community whole, joyful, and connected. 

To this end, we plan to schedule Zoom conversations and updates in the coming weeks, and we will be in touch to share further details.

I am frequently reminded how strong the bonds are in this special community and how seriously we take our commitment to the School’s mission every day — inspiring and encouraging each student to pursue the highest standards of learning and character; to contribute boldly and creatively to the common good; and to seek a purposeful life based on honor, respect, growth, and personal authenticity. In the midst of today’s global turmoil, never has that mission been more important.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns.