February 1, 2020

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I am writing again today to share an update to the message I sent a week ago, about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. With the status of this epidemic now declared by the World Health Organization as a Global Health Emergency, I feel the need to again update you on Cushing's practices for illness prevention. 

As many of us have seen from news reports, this has been a difficult time in the global community, and especially in China, as  99% of the global cases have been there . I would like to acknowledge the difficulty that many of our alumni and current and past parents in China are facing at this time, and ask everyone in our greater Cushing community to keep these members of Penguin Nation in your thoughts and prayers. 

Here in Ashburnham, nothing is more important than the safety of our on-campus community. As a result, we are continuing to monitor the situation and share accurate and up-to-date information, particularly as it is related to our own community. As such, we will make decisions and manage our approach in a manner that is conservative, yet also not disproportionate to the level of threat to our school.

Last week, I communicated that in addition to best practices which are normally advised during flu season, such as regular washing of hands and advising students not to share personal items, that we have also temporarily suspended admission visits from applicants traveling from China and Hong Kong. That ban remains in effect and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Also, the additional hand-sanitizing stations on campus remain in place, as will the extra efforts placed on cleaning "high touch" areas on campus. I have also decided on the following additional measures:

  • We have canceled all admission and development related trips to China and Hong Kong for the foreseeable future. No Cushing employees will visit China until the State Department's Level 4 Travel Advisory is lifted. All other travel, fundraising, and recruitment effort will proceed as scheduled. 

  • For the upcoming Winter Free Weekend, any student planning travel to China or Hong Kong will not be allowed to return to campus until approved to do so. Please confirm your plans for the long weekend with the Office of Student Affairs.

  • In a few weeks, we are planning to host our Winter Family Weekend, and we are looking forward to a fun and productive weekend for you and your Cushing student. We have decided to put a "no hand-shaking" rule into place for the event (a good practice during the flu season) and ask that all guests honor that request.

  • Although spring break is still several weeks away, we would like all students from mainland China and Hong Kong to begin planning and thinking about alternate destinations for this two-week period as the US has now imposed a travel ban, denying entry to foreign nationals who have traveled to China within the past two weeks. If this is a hardship for any of our families from China, please let us know and we will be happy to assist in the search for finding alternate destinations.

  • All other Academy operations and day-to-day business will continue as normal, including academics, residential life, athletics, performing arts, admission recruitment, and fundraising. 

  • As always, we expect any student who is feeling ill to report to the health center, and we also ask that parents reinforce this request in conversation with their children. 

Please know that we are considering many aspects of potential risk and have the goal of being a leader in the prevention of any possible transmission by instituting the aforementioned changes to our usual practices and operations. We feel that these are proactive, appropriate, and proportionate to the "low" risk level for Coronavirus infection in the United States. We also are taking these measures knowing that this is a fluid situation, can change at any time, and that those changes may be unpredictable. We will continue to adapt as needed. 

As Benjamin Franklin's famous quote states, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Although he was referring to fires in Philadelphia, I would rather keep this sentiment in our approach, because  " should be fine" is not a phrase I use when it comes to student health and safety. I know you share this sentiment. Although we cannot prevent this virus from reaching our campus, we can  minimize our risk and exposure

Randy R. Bertin, Ed.D.
Head of School
Cushing Academy
39 School Street
Ashburnham, MA 01430