Alumni Matter #2
The second in a series of open letters from the head of school to the alumni community.
Hello from a sunny, beautiful, but largely empty Pomfret School campus. The tulips and cherries have sprung, and yet the Quad is eerily and sadly missing the normal buzz of students enjoying these spring days.
Our Distance Learning Program continues in full swing. Our seniors have just over two weeks until they complete their academic program, and with it, their Pomfret careers. This has been a particularly difficult time for the Class of 2020, as they mourn the loss of their Senior Spring. In the absence of a true Commencement, we are in the process of developing a virtual Class Day celebration that will take place on May 24, and we are working to find ways to keep many of our traditions alive for our seniors even as we acknowledge that we cannot replicate virtually what transpires here on campus. On a fun note, the “Cosmic Bandana,” the symbol for a Head of School Holiday, made its annual appearance last Friday. This year it took a different form; because we don’t have “live” classes to cancel, we delayed the sharing of weekly assignments by a day and reduced the workload expectation for all students in all classes for the week by 50 percent. It was a happy respite for students and teachers alike.
Another of those great traditions that we are maintaining are Senior Chapel Talks, a graduation requirement for all students at Pomfret. Seniors are approaching this creatively and thoughtfully, and while some students have opted to simply write a talk and submit it to me (a concession we decided to make, given the unusual circumstances), most seniors have chosen to make recordings of themselves giving their talks, and with profound effect. It is a great measure of these seniors’ resilience that they want to keep that great tradition alive, and watching the videos that come in is a real highlight of my week.
I am also sensitive to the fact that many of you (including one member of the great Class of 2015 who lives under our roof) are sad that as this letter hits your inboxes, you were supposed to have been here on campus with your classmates celebrating Reunion Weekend. We can’t wait to welcome you all back next year for what should be a truly enjoyable event, one that will combine the energy from the “0s” and “5s” with the spirit of the “1s” and “6s.”
Last week I wrote to parents to announce that we would be providing credits and/or refunds to our tuition-paying families for the spring term. We spent time identifying the variable cost savings that were directly attributable to COVID-19, and we came up with a formula to offer money back to our families. For families of boarding students not receiving any financial aid, the amount of the credit or refund will be $2,800. For families of day students not receiving any financial aid, the amount of the credit or refund will be $1,400. These both compare very favorably with our peer group of boarding schools. The amount of financial aid a family receives will factor in the final amount of the credit/refund. Importantly, we also asked families who were not feeling the financial impact of COVID-19 to consider taking their refund or credit and turning it into a gift to the Pomfret Fund. So far, approximately forty families have agreed to make gifts to the School, a wonderfully generous gesture on their parts.
Last week I created our “OpenPomfret” Task Force, which consists of five working groups focusing on the following specific, though ultimately interrelated, topics: Academics & Program, Communications, Health & Safety, Finance, and Social Distancing & Campus Density. The groups are chaired by an administrator and consist of a mixture of faculty, administration, and staff. The goal of the task force is to develop actionable scenarios for the reopening of Pomfret in the fall. Our default and starting position is that we will be open for business, if not business as usual. We must prepare, however, for scenarios where we may not be able to open fully in September, and we are aiming to have several scenarios fully developed that we can share with families (and the State of Connecticut) by the middle of June. We know that much can and perhaps will change between the middle of June and September 1, but the basic structures of the various alternatives to the “normal” Pomfret experience must be established early. It is a rather monumental task, but the good folks at Pomfret are more than up to it!
Finally, I want to encourage all of you dedicated and Pomfret-loving Griffins to remember that our Annual Day of Giving is on May 19 this year. Called “Stand Up for Pomfret,“ this year our Giving Day is particularly relevant and important. This has been a difficult time for everyone, and I imagine that there are few, if any, members of the Pomfret family who have not been impacted in some meaningful way by the many tentacles of the coronavirus beast. And yet, here on the Hilltop, our faculty and staff are working harder than ever as we try to navigate the uncertainties brought about by this pandemic. Every day, our faculty are reimagining themselves as educators while attending to their students in hugely compassionate ways as their young charges struggle with the challenges of distance learning and separation from Pomfret, their home away from home. I am asking you to Stand Up for Pomfret at this time. Even if you have made a gift this year, please consider making an additional donation to your School. We are strong and determined to weather this storm, but we need the support of many to make it all happen. I thank you in advance for your generosity.
Stay healthy, stay well.