COVID-19 Updates for the Phillips Academy Community

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May 05, 2020

Class of 2020 virtual and in-person celebrations affirmed

Interim Head of School and Trustee President-elect highlight June 7 and future plans

Dear Class of 2020 students and families,

I write to respond to concerns raised by a group of parents in a letter to the Board of Trustees regarding commencement for the Class of 2020.

Before I do, however, I want to thank you all for your amazing resilience and spirit. We have heard so many stories of our students stepping up to help their families and communities in this difficult time. I know that you are grieving for the things that you have lost and in many cases worried about the health and well-being of the people you love. Some of you have experienced illness and death and others, severe economic hardship. I am therefore all the more impressed with your courage and creativity.

With respect to plans for your commencement, I am sorry that confusion has arisen. As Peter Currie and I stated in our March letter and Jim Ventre reaffirmed in his recent letter, the school has always intended to host an in-person commencement ceremony on campus when it is safe to do so.

One of the hallmarks of an Andover education—and therefore an Andover commencement—is Youth From Every Quarter. The truly global network of friendships garnered at Andover is a powerful asset for our students that will last a lifetime. At this time, however, it adds a measure of complexity to all of our responses not shared by many of our peer schools. Your commencement ceremony will necessarily convene people from many states and many countries and across many generations. We must be sure that we can protect not only the students but also parents, grandparents, and campus adults. And we must comply with the laws restricting travel both internationally and across state lines.

Before we can plan the type of commencement we all want for the Class of 2020, we will need to see, at a minimum, a lifting of all travel bans, state closures, stay-at-home advisories, and social distancing guidelines. While we hope and pray that the current easing in many states and countries will not result in a rebound of the virus, we will need to see evidence that this is the case. Once we are sure that we can host a large gathering safely, we will need to give families and the school sufficient time for planning.

Given our desire to celebrate the Class of 2020 fully and safely, I would anticipate a ceremony is most likely to occur in the Spring of 2021.

We appreciate your concerns about preserving the many commencement traditions that we all hold dear. We know how disappointing it is for seniors and their families not to be able to gather on the Greener Quadrangle and pass diplomas around an ebullient Andover circle this June 7th. The hearts of all of your teachers, advisors, coaches, mentors, and the Board of Trustees will be with you on that date and looking forward to our future celebration. Above all, though, we treasure the values that define Andover—non sibi and inclusion—and the people that you have become. With generous hearts and sensitivity to the needs of all of our families, we will undoubtedly hold a memorable commencement for the Class of 2020—perhaps made more so by the sacrifices that preceded it.

With regards to you all,

Amy C. Falls ’82, P’19, ’21
President-elect, Board of Trustees

_________________________________________________________________

April 30, 2020

Dear seniors and families:

I am excited to share an update on our plans to honor the Class of 2020. Those plans include both an upcoming virtual experience for students and families and a future celebration in person.

Please continue to save the date—Sunday, June 7, at 10 a.m. ET. While we regret that we will be unable to physically gather, we will premiere a tribute to the Class of 2020 and mark your “commencement” at this important time. As some schools opt for a virtual ceremony, a number of our families have shared that this approach would not suffice. Honestly, I know we can do better. And in order to do it the Andover way, we need your help. Please stay tuned for ways that students and families can contribute to this virtual experience.

Further, as promised when I first wrote in March, we’re also focused on a future celebration to take place at a time when it is safe to convene in large groups. Concepts for how to do this well—in Big Blue style!—will be discussed by senior class leaders and campus adults.

Seniors, from the moment you were selected and you chose Andover as your school, you earned a place in a storied 242-year history. You took this incredible opportunity, forged your own path, discovered new passions, and found mentors and friends for life. You charted a course that has included triumphs and moments when you leaned on others for strength. Each of you has persevered through a senior spring unlike any other.

You have accomplished so much, Class of 2020, and you have my commitment that Andover will deliver in honor of you.

With appreciation,

Mr. Ventre ’79

Categories: Campus Life, Leadership

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