From the Head of School
March 13, 2020

Dear Miss Hall’s School Community,

I write with an update about our ongoing response to the coronavirus/COVID-19 developments and to answer key questions I am hearing.

First, let me reiterate that there are no known cases of the coronavirus on the Miss Hall’s campus. The School’s Board of Trustees, Leadership Team, and Incident Response Team (IRT) remain fully committed to taking every step we can to keep our community healthy and safe. The IRT meets daily to review local, state, and federal health advisories, and to discuss next steps as the situation unfolds. We are in frequent contact with other schools, universities, and professional organizations to learn about how they are handling this situation and to determine how we might shape or alter our plans. 

What’s it like at MHS right now?
As of this afternoon, students continue to leave Holmes Road for Spring Break, and several took advantage of the cancellation of classes on Thursday and Friday to depart earlier. Approximately 40 students affected by the travel ban are staying on campus for all or part of the break, and we have meals, small group activities, and check-ins planned for them during their stay. The campus is generally quiet, and though there are still concerns and a lot of uncertainty, the decision to cancel classes and provide students with time to focus on Spring Break plans, ask questions of trusted adults, and to connect with each other has helped to ease anxiety. MHS adults and students have been incredibly thoughtful and supportive to each other, as we together navigate this uncharted territory. 

What questions are students asking?
During the course of the past few days, by far the most frequent question has been, “Will we resume school as usual after Spring Break?” My answer has been, “I hope so, and we don’t know.” Given the rapidly changing landscape of the coronavirus pandemic, school is likely to be different from usual. At this moment, we are planning to resume classes on Monday, March 30 , as scheduled, and we are simultaneously planning for distance learning for some or all of our students, if needed. We will continue to assess and evaluate the situation on a daily basis and are committed to communicating with all MHS community members no later than March 23 about the decision whether to resume classes as planned or to delay. As always, it is every family’s decision to make in terms of what is best for them and their student, and we will do all we can to make arrangements to accommodate.

Any news on the international travel visa front?
We are eager to share an important development that became available just this afternoon through our contact at SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. Students leaving the United States to travel home due to COVID-19 and who are continuing their studies remotely, can remain in ACTIVE STATUS . Undoubtedly, this policy change will come as welcome news to our international students and families.

What do preparations for distance learning look like?
On Thursday, and again today, our faculty have been deeply involved in planning and preparing to offer distance learning, whether to a limited number of students who cannot return to campus as hoped, due to travel limitations, or to the entire student body. MHS teachers have been working hard and thinking creatively and collaboratively about how best to engage students in learning, in varied ways. We know that this will look and feel different, and we are dedicated to providing clear, reasonable and equitable expectations for all students and teachers. I have assured students that these developments will not affect their academic standing, and I ask everyone to approach the next few months with patience and flexibility. Learning is important, but more important is making sure that our students stay healthy and safe and connected. Our faculty will lead the way with their example. Dean of Academics and Faculty Lisa Alberti will be in touch after March 23 with more instructions and expectations.

What do you know now about the coming months?
Because our priority is the health and safety of the community, we have also taken a number of steps we feel important at this time, including canceling all school-sponsored trips and large gatherings on and off campus through early May. We will use the break to deep clean many areas of campus, review and update our health and safety protocols, and monitor recommendations of local, state, and national health officials. Further, we have decided that though teams will be able to practice, athletic competition will be paused for two weeks after we return to campus. We still hope to hold end-of-year community events such as Alumnae Weekend, Commencement, and the Tanzania trip scheduled for June. Should circumstances dictate differently, we promise to let you know as soon as possible.

Can we continue to reach out to you during Spring Break?
Thank you to everyone who has written or reached out to give thanks, share ideas, ask questions, and offer support of all kinds. Please continue to do so. The Incident Response Team will continue to meet over the break, as will members of the Miss Hall’s Board of Trustees, to design plans for quarantine and/or isolation on campus should there be a risk of exposure.

To families, I know the worry you feel for your children is real. Please know that we are committed to their well-being above all, whether on campus or at home with you. We are also thinking about ways to foster continued community connection, even if we are not all in the same physical place, and to provide access to students’ personal teams, including advisors, counselors, proctors, hall parents, and favorite teachers. Connections — between students and teachers and students with fellow students — are an important part of the Miss Hall’s experience, and we will do our best to maintain those until we are back together as a community.

A few reminders:
  • Wash your hands frequently, stay home when sick, and check in with a healthcare provider as needed.  
  • Keep us updated about travel plans. We have already collected travel information from students, families, and employees and will be in touch near the end of the break with instructions about which areas, if visited, will require self-quarantine. 
  • Students and employees who are sick should not come to school and should stay home until symptoms subside
  • If you suspect that your student may have been exposed to the coronavirus, please alert the MHS Health Center — 413-395-7074 or Director of Health Services Christie Puz, cpuz@misshalls.org
  • If your family has or will have challenges accessing remote learning for technical reasons, please contact Director of Technology Matt Pocock (413-395-7069 or technology@misshalls.org), Dean of Academics and Faculty Lisa Alberti (413-395-7108 or lalberti@misshalls.org), or your student’s advisor. We will work with you to find a solution.
  • We will communicate regularly, and students have been reminded of the importance of checking their Miss Hall’s School email and www.misshalls.org/resources for updates.

This is certainly a challenging time — for students, adults, and families. At no time in recent years have we faced such uncertainty on local, national, and global levels, and considerable effort is required of us to bring this to a safe conclusion — but I know we can do it. We have done it before. Faced with the daunting task of rebuilding her school after a devastating fire, our founder, Mira Hall, did just that. So important to her was the mission of educating young women that she took bold steps to ensure that the School would continue its mission long after her lifetime. That mission is just as important today, and it inspires each and every one of us at Miss Hall’s to do the very best we can each day. MHS is home for our students, and a spiritual home for our alumnae all over the world. Our commitment to each other will steer us through this crisis.

As always, please do not hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions, and I leave you with this uplifting note. A couple of weeks ago, members of Grace Notes, the School’s a cappella singing group toured the hallways, offering a musical thank you to departments. Click here to watch . It certainly lifted our spirits, and we hope it lifts yours.

Best,

Contacts and Resources


For health questions and concerns: Christie Puz, R.N., Director of Health Services, 413-395-7074, cpuz@misshalls.org   
 
For travel arrangements and Spring Break info: Mary Bazanchuk, Asst. Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life, 413-395-7045, mbazanchuk@misshalls.org
 
For general questions: Miss Hall's School Main Number, 413-443-6401 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 
The World Health Organization
 
The U.S. Department of State