Dear Members of the Cushing Community:
I write today to update you on the Academy’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and our planning process to resume in-person activities on our campus in anticipation of a decision no later than the end of July.
I am on our campus daily and it is strangely quiet, yet the work of the school’s leadership has never been more intense. Behind this palpable stillness is a constant commitment to our students, parents, faculty, and staff. I am amazed daily by our community and how they have adapted during this time. This level of determination is one that I am accustomed to seeing at Cushing, and it gives me great comfort to know that the spirit of our community is not only alive and well, it is stronger than ever.
The Academy’s response has been multifaceted, as we have had to act and execute on immediate needs, while simultaneously planning for various scenarios of an unknown future. This process has continued as we focus on the here and now over the next few weeks: the end to academic classes, senior week, capping ceremony, and Commencement. Our attention also continues on the longer-term as we plan for the 2020-21 school year. Although no decisions have been made on any alternative operational changes for the fall, the health and safety of the Cushing community will remain our primary area of concentration. We are planning for a variety of options as we create a viable and multi-phased path to open this fall, consistent with local, state, and federal guidelines, and utilizing the knowledge and advice of independent experts. While this will be a unique challenge for Cushing, I am confident in our process and our resolve to not compromise the experience of our students, while always maintaining the strong spirit of our community.
With this in mind, I would like to share the foundation for the work we are setting out to accomplish in the weeks ahead:
- The Academy recently launched a “Bring the Penguins Home” Task Force, which also includes subgroups focused on all aspects of school life: academics, student affairs, athletics, facilities, human resources, dining, and admissions. These subgroups will work with a Senior Steering Committee to inform decisions as they relate to operational changes in the next academic year.
- The Senior Steering Committee will provide oversight, working with each subgroup and approving plans, and it will also act as a bridge for work needed between subgroups on topics such as student arrival, student orientation, and many others.
- The Senior Steering Committee includes a physician with expertise in pediatric infectious diseases and an epidemiologist with experience in the research and risks of infectious and other diseases, as well as our school’s long-time Medical Director.
- Operational experts also sit on the Senior Steering Committee, focused on process and institutional infrastructure changes to ensure the safety of students, faculty, and staff.
- Membership of subgroups will be comprised of various faculty and staff from all departments across campus.
- We have also updated our coronavirus webpage for you to see the details of this framework, along with updates, as available. We know that a safe return to the Cushing campus will require streamlined guidelines for how we live and learn, and we know that this task force is ready and capable of meeting that challenge.
The goal of this work will be to create protocols for the development of a more extensive operations manual to safely open Cushing Academy in the fall. Each department on campus will then implement those parameters into the various tasks that need to be completed on a day-to-day basis.
Initial guidelines will be completed in June for review by the Academy’s leadership and presented to all employees for comments and questions. Timelines for the resumption of various activities will likely vary; however, we are hoping to have a recommendation in mid-July, and at that time we will announce our approach to the fall semester by late July 2020.
On Thursday, May 21 at 7:00 PM EDT,
I will be holding a webinar for new and returning families to discuss this process and some of the initial steps we have taken.
Please click here to register
Underlying our strategy for the return to on-campus learning will be a conviction from our leadership that even a phenomenon as unprecedented as COVID-19 cannot change the essence of who are as a community. Like most unexpected occurrences, its consequences are still unknown, and the path for addressing and overcoming it will take a strategic and longer-term commitment. Our team is ready to meet this challenge head-on while maintaining the commitment to Cushing Academy’s deeply-rooted mission and the promise we offer to students and families.