From the Head of School
 
Dear MHS Families, 
 
I hope you are all well, safe, and managing to navigate this ongoing situation in good health and in good spirits. I have heard from many of you in the past weeks with updates — thank you for taking the time to reach out. Your news and announcements are always welcome, and I promise to do my best to maintain connections in every way possible.

Distance Learning, Week 3

Today, Miss Hall’s wraps up the third week of distance learning, and despite a few technological bumps in the road, faculty and students report that things are going well. Teachers are buoyed by the eagerness of students to get back to learning, by their resilience in working through challenges, and by their commitment to doing impressive work under less-than-ideal circumstances. Your daughters are amazing young people!

Asked to share their thoughts and questions candidly and directly with teachers, advisors, and trusted MHS adults, students have expressed a desire for more communication and for the time and space to adjust to this new paradigm. We are hearing frustration at the uncertainty of the new world we inhabit and, at the same time, a conviction to working together to create community connections. This is an unsettling time, to be sure, and each of us experiences it in different ways. Dean Lima Jones recently shared this social media post that helps illustrate the different realities we are facing. Please know that we are committed to checking in with all students — individually and in groups — to stay tuned in to how they are doing, the issues they are experiencing at this challenging time, and how we can improve. Please see this survey from the Deans . If you have concerns or feedback along the way, please reach out to Deans Alberti, Higuera, and Lima Jones or directly to me. It takes a village, and we want you to know that your student’s personal team is at the ready. This is a critical learning opportunity for all of us.

The more I hear about the incredible learning going on synchronously and asynchronously as students embrace their academic independence, I am incredibly inspired by our faculty’s ceaseless adapting and use of new approaches to engage students in learning and connection. The thoughtful and compassionate commitments they have made to guide their teaching through the end of the school year speak volumes about the MHS faculty and the value they place on partnering with your daughters throughout these unusual and trying circumstances. As they do this work, there have been formal and informal collaborations across departments about everything from setting up virtual classrooms, to new strategies for assessment, to “Lunch and Learn” conversations around different types of learners. Led by Dean of Academics and Faculty Lisa Alberti and Department Chairs, our teachers model what it means to be lifelong learners and reflective practitioners. 

In Mr. Scullin’s class, for example, students have been reflecting on and responding to their worlds by writing about their experiences and making artifacts in the form of poems, videos, drawings, dance, or other creations that interpret their lived experience. Here’s an example a student shared earlier this week. Dr. Himes’s students, meanwhile, have jumped back into their app design work, eagerly discussing strategy and collaborating around the globe on their business plan. Students on Ms. Pulfer-Terino’s Girls Right the World team are working toward publishing the international journal’s fourth issue, having received more than 300 submissions from 29 states and 15 countries. Likewise, students in Ms. Kulze’s Miss Hall’s Makes digital newsroom project are forging ahead to publish standout student work on our student-curated blog. I delight in these many updates of students digging in, adjusting to the new look and feel of learning, and doing outstanding work.

Contributing Boldly and Creatively

Outside of coursework, members of our indefatigable community continue to live the Miss Hall’s mission of contributing boldly and creatively to the common good. A few examples:
 
  • Cailyn Tetteh ’22 and Truc Hoang ’22 have helped establish a Community Action Fund to help MHS students, faculty, and staff facing financial hardship due to COVID-19. MHS alumnae, families, and friends have committed nearly $40,000 to this emergency fund so farClick here to learn more, to give, and to apply for relief.

  • In February, as the coronavirus crisis was in full swing in China, Elin Chen ’22, Julianna Jia ’22, Dorothy Shi ’22, Kaity Weng ’22, Sammie Yu ’22, Christina Zheng ’22, and Ivy Zhou ’22 launched a fundraising initiative to support the purchase of medical supplies needed by healthcare workers. Supported by the Chinese Culture Club, the Relief Awareness Facts Team (RAFT) donated all proceeds to the Wuhan Tongji Hospital in China.

  • Nine shipments of life-saving personal protective equipment have been donated by students’ families in China, totaling some 5,000 surgical facemasks, 480 protective masks, nearly 700 N95 respirators, 175 gowns/scrubs, more than 1,000 pairs of exam gloves, and 30 medical face shields that have been distributed to the Miss Hall’s Health Center and to Horizons partners in need, including Berkshire Medical Center, Dr. Brian Dempsey’s office, Fairview Hospital, and the Berkshire Food Project.
  
Recently, The Berkshire Eagle , wrote about these efforts , and I shared with the reporter how honored and thankful I am to be part of an international community committed to global citizenship. I am so proud of the MHS community members pitching in to help others through this crisis. Thank you all for the role you play every day to support your student in living this commitment.

Meanwhile, our Incident Response Team Leadership Team and Trustees continue to meet regularly to discuss end-of-year plans; our Campus Services team is taking advantage of spring weather — when it is not snowing! — to tackle a variety of projects; and we are reaching out to students — especially the Class of 2020 — to collect ideas for recognizing their achievements. I hope to share more information with you soon about those plans.

Health and Safety Updates

On campus, much is quiet. We have five students still here, and all have been making plans to travel home or to host families in coming weeks. All are in good health and eager, as many of you are, for life to return to something more approaching normal. 

The Governor of Massachusetts has extended the mandatory closure of all schools in the state through June. While the Incident Response Team made this decision for MHS several weeks ago, we will continue to act in accordance with local, state, and health guidelines regarding prolonged closure. In addition, we have learned of an additional person in the MHS community testing positive for the coronavirus/COVID-19. As stated previously, we will not we will not share information about the individual’s identity or condition, except to say that the individual has been off campus for more than a month, is recovering, and has been receiving appropriate care and support. 

Given the rapid spread of the coronavirus, the limited availability of testing, and the percentage of asymptomatic people who later test positive for the virus, it is quite likely that there are additional cases that we are not aware of. I extend my care and concern to any MHS community members who may be ill or caring for family and loved ones who are ill. Please continue to keep us informed of your family’s health status so we can support your families as needed. Our Health Center nurses and School Counselors are also able to help you connect with medical and other resources should you need them.

Although the pandemic appears to be leveling off in many areas, I urge you to remain vigilant in maintaining social distancing, washing your hands, and limiting contact outside of your household, as well as in continuing to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations to keep yourselves healthy and prevent the spread of illness.

MHS Strong

I am extremely proud of how our students and adults are navigating this time, how we as a school community are connecting and staying consistent with our mission and values, and how, from the Board of Trustees to every member of our faculty and staff, we are doubling down on our strategic goals related to innovation, inclusion, collaboration, service, and flexibility. I am reminded again and again that Miss Hall’s School is not just a campus and not just a school. It is a community, it is an ethos, and it is a way of being that is bigger than the institution itself.
 
We needn’t look far for inspiration. In February of 1923, Miss Hall’s School burned to the ground in a devastating fire. A school employee, Agnes Coote, died in the blaze. At the time, Mira Hall was fifty-nine years old and had led her school for nearly a quarter of a century. By all rights, she could have retired. Instead, she doubled down. The School took up residence in the Curtis Hotel in nearby Lenox, with graduation exercises moved that year to Sedgwick Hall at the Lenox Library. In the meantime, Mira Hall incorporated the School and formed a Board of Trustees so that her school would continue long after she was gone. In the span of twenty months, Mira Hall built a modern, fireproof school that remains the heart of the MHS campus today.

Perhaps it is fitting then that we marked Mira Hall’s 157 th birthday this past Tuesday. Like many special occasions these days, we unfortunately could not celebrate together as we normally would — with strawberries and ice cream — but I instead ask you to reflect for a moment on what Mira Hall’s school means to you. For me it is the undeniable resilience of this community and lasting relationships built and strengthened here.
 
I look forward to the day when we will all be together again. Until then, be well and please do not hesitate to reach out to me with questions and concerns. 
 
My best to you and yours,