June 5, 2020
Dear MHS Families,
The school year started much like others before it, with the welcoming of new students in the fall; success in the classroom, on the fields, and on the theater stage; traditions such as Ring Dinner, Holiday festivities, and other events that mark the rhythm of life at Miss Hall’s School.
With the onset of a global pandemic in January, we were forced to adjust lesson and travel plans overnight, make decisions with little idea of what the next day or week would bring, and find ways to stay connected as a community while living in a virtual world. And, yet, we did it. Certainly, there were hardships, and hardships that disproportionately affected members of our community, but it is a testament to the strength of our bonds as a school that we successfully completed the 2019-2020 academic year.
Then came the senseless killing of George Floyd, the latest in a torrent of murders and injustices that demand a re-examining of our culture and our priorities. Ours is a world crying out for compassionate leadership, bold and creative thinking, and global citizens who are self-aware and courageous participants in a multicultural society. Last week, Dean of Equity and Inclusion Paula Lima Jones questioned if it was appropriate to speak out in the midst of celebrations, and she reminded us that as a school committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion , we can do no less. 
Our Strategic Design , the document that guides our work, calls upon us to value diversity and cultural competency and to commit to engagement, and I asked as much in my communication earlier in the week . Our recently graduated seniors, as School President Ayla Wallace ’20 pointed out in her remarks at Sunday’s celebration, are already there. “As a society, we have an open opportunity to re-write the rules,” Ayla said. “In times like these, it’s easy to forget who we are. We are Miss Hall’s graduates, which means we are ready to be the change.”

In times like these, it is Ayla and her classmates, as well as the MHS alumnae who came before them, and the graduates who will follow them, who give me hope.
Honoring the Class of 2020 and the 2019-20 Academic Year
Last weekend, we graduated sixty bold and creative contributors to the common good. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and families! As April and May unfolded, I am not sure any of us knew how we were going to celebrate our seniors with the MHS community stretched around the globe, but Sunday’s ceremony, reimagined in so many ways, was touching and inspiring. I have heard from many in the community — we reached more than 1,000 viewers via Zoom and Facebook! — who sent well wishes, support for the seniors and the School, and love and admiration from near and far. We are so proud of this class and their contributions to the School during the last four years, and we look forward to seeing what marks they make in the wider world.
The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reimagine other aspects of school life, as we adjusted to a new paradigm. Community Meetings went virtual. We gathered via Zoom to share updates and news — and even sing Happy Birthday to each other. The Senior Show moved online, as did the Sending Forth Ceremony, which took the form of a poignant video of MHS adults sending students forth with words of wisdom. During the final week of school, we presented seniors with Department and All-School Awards, and the ninth-, tenth-, and eleventh-graders sent seniors off with wonderful tributes. 

We heard election speeches from candidates for School President and Vice President — congratulations to 2020-21 School President Hannah Holt ’21 and Vice President Chelsea Canal ’21 — and learned of next year’s Proctors and Admissions Ambassadors. Through it all, we remained connected as a community. Perhaps in some strange way, the distancing forced many of us to pay closer attention to the connections we most hold dear.
Distance Learning at MHS
The last months of the school year featured successes and lessons learned. Forced to move to remote learning in April, our faculty adjusted their entire curriculum on the fly, and collaborated in so many ways to overcome the challenges of technology and time zones. Our teachers truly raised the bar in finding ways to engage and connect with each student. The students, who could have found it easy to disconnect, instead dug into their studies and continued creating inspiring work. And, of course, we know that distance learning provided unique hardships for students. It challenged our commitment to providing an equitable education experience for all of our learners, some of whom balanced competing home demands, technological hurdles, and/or financial struggles more than others. 
At the end of the semester, we surveyed students and faculty about their experiences with distance learning. We discovered that students appreciated the flexibility of the faculty and the places where we could provide consistency and clarity. We learned about the problems with synchronous, interactive experiences across multiple time zones and the challenges of balancing home and school commitments. We heard a call for a reimagined schedule, weekly updates, and a policy for turning in assignments in the virtual realm. Further, we learned that the “freedom” of an online curriculum posed time-management challenges for some students, while others grew in those skills because of the experience.
Using this feedback, faculty dedicated the year’s closing meetings to developing a set of principles to guide their work should the fall dictate that we commit to further distance learning and/or a hybrid classroom/distance learning experience until we can all be together again on campus as a community. This work will continue during the summer, with these principles rooted in our mission, values, and Strategic Design. They ask us to:
  • further our student-centered program through a growth-minded curriculum;
  • establish a schedule of learning that supports students across time and place; 
  • employ flexible assessment to promote student ownership of learning; 
  • provide appropriate technology to support program and teaching goals; and 
  • focus on exploration to empower students.

We will share these principles with students and families in coming months, as we communicate with you about plans for the 2020-21 academic year.
• What will the summer and fall look like at MHS?
The number of COVID-19 cases in Berkshire County and Massachusetts appears to have leveled and, in many regions, is dropping. The state, using health metrics and statistics, has begun a limited reopening of nonessential businesses and officials, watching the metrics to gage any potential resurgence in illnesses. Massachusetts is currently in Phase 1, of reopening, and, provided the metrics hold, is scheduled to enter Phase 2 next week.
To maintain the health and safety of residents and employees on campus, the School is still restricted to essential personnel. Employees who can work from home will do so through at least the end of this month, when the state is scheduled to move into a third reopening phase. Everyone on campus, however, remains healthy, and we have learned of no further cases of COVID-19 in the MHS community. We will continue to be cautious as we move toward a “return to normalcy,” and the School’s leadership and Incident Response Team (IRT) continue to monitor local, state, and national updates as we make decisions.
To that end, beginning Monday, students and families can come to campus to pick up belongings .

The pick-ups will be done by appointment and with a series of safety guidelines in place. Please see this important communication from Director of Residential Life Mary Bazanchuk for more details. 
As of yet, the state of Massachusetts has yet to release guidelines for the reopening of schools statewide, but several MHS community members are working on plans — and contingency plans — for a safe reopening in the fall. These include examining our program, the calendar, schedule, and our spaces, with an eye toward a “normal” reopening with appropriate safety restrictions, and a “phased” calendar that could include a hybrid classroom/distance learning model. 

Our commitment to you is to communicate these details more fully in July, as I know families are eager to make arrangements for the fall. We will also continue regular communication with you, and there will be opportunities for question and answer sessions via Zoom during the summer.
This spring asked a lot of all of us — students, families, and MHS adults — and I am proud of and grateful for how this community responded. I do not underestimate the toll it has taken on everyone. And, even though we are no longer in “emergency” mode, our global world is still in crisis on a number of levels. I have called on our faculty and staff to view these moments as opportunities to double-down on our commitment to the mission and the vision and goals of our Strategic Design and am confident that they will rise to the challenge.
I wish everyone a summer of health and rest. And, as always, should you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.