March 31, 2020

A Message from the Interim Head of School

Jim Ventre ’79 shares updates on spring term, Commencement, and Reunion

To the Andover community:

I write today, earlier than expected, to share a series of significant updates around Andover’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic. With the guidance and support of the Board of Trustees and our leadership team on campus, we have decided to continue online learning for the remainder of the Spring Term. Sadly, it has also become clear that the ongoing risk to public health prevents us from celebrating Commencement and Reunions as planned this June. I am very sorry.

We recognize, for the Class of 2020, that your senior spring at Andover has not materialized in the way anyone would have hoped, and you deserve our best efforts to celebrate your class. We will work with the leadership of the Class of 2020, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees to develop a future Commencement when we can see you together again on campus.

You also have our commitment to find an effective way to celebrate at the end of classes this June. Please know that seniors who fulfill their diploma requirements will, in fact, graduate at the end of the term, despite a delay of the Commencement ceremony.

To our alumni in a reunion cycle this year: We look forward to welcoming the “0s and 5s” who would have celebrated their reunion this June along with the “1s and 6s” in June 2021. We will be in touch as these plans unfold.

We understand that these tough decisions will bring disappointment and exasperation. Let’s do our best to summon our most unbreakable Big Blue spirit and not let the collateral damage from this pandemic define Phillips Academy.

I hope you find strength in your loyalty to one another, your love of Andover, and your optimism for our future. Thank you for your kindness and your enduring support.

With appreciation,

Jim Ventre ’79
Interim Head of School

The following FAQs are intended to help with questions and concerns prompted by these momentous decisions. We are here to support you, and remain ready to assist with any additional questions.


What is Andover’s commitment to students and families?
We are committed to graduating every student with their designated class.

How are faculty and students prepared to go online?
From March 23 to 27 faculty engaged in training and practice to prepare for online course delivery. We are working primarily with Canvas, our Learning Management System (LMS), Zoom, and other resources. Students received specific course information from their teachers and should expect to have information accessible through each course’s Canvas site.

What are the guiding principles as we approach this new experience?
Teachers will learn and collaborate to deliver our academic program as best as they can, guided by the following principles:

  • Equity: All students will have the same access to materials.
  • Connections: Students will continue to have strong relationships with their teachers and other faculty on their team. We will continue to support the wellbeing of students.
  • Less is more: We will have to do less, and we will plan to do it well.

Is the school cancelling any courses/sections?
No. We are confident that teachers will provide a meaningful experience. No course will deliver exactly what was originally planned. Phillips Academy is designed for small in-person classes. While this experience of remote education will inform all of us (instructors, students, administrators, and staff alike) of our preferred methods, when the time comes to return to in-person classes, we will have a better understanding of ourselves.

We expect point people to connect with their students synchronously on a regular basis. Students will need this type of connection with adults and peers to support their learning and socio-emotional wellbeing.


Can I retrieve my personal belongings from my dorm room?
We know that many of you are anxious to retrieve your belongings. At this time, we are unable to open the campus to students and families for any sort of move out process. Please know that your instructors will post online any academic sources and materials you will need. If you do not have your laptop, please reach out to your cluster dean. We will be in touch in the weeks ahead with more information about packing, storing, shipping, and moving out processes.

Will our family be issued a partial refund for the spring term room and board?
In a commitment to support our teachers and staff as well as the nation’s struggling economy, the Academy will continue paying the regularly scheduled hours for our employees. Our goal is to ensure that, in addition to the current health crisis, our dedicated faculty, staff, and administrators don’t face an additional financial crisis. Recognizing that some families are facing new financial difficulties, over the coming weeks we will develop a process to request a prorated partial room and board refund for the spring term boarding portion of tuition paid to the Academy. At the same time, we ask families who can support our effort to ensure that all employees continue to get paid at this time to consider not making this request.

Will I still be considered a graduate of Phillips Academy, with a conferred diploma, even though I have not walked in a traditional Commencement?
Yes! Seniors who fulfill their diploma requirements will in fact graduate at the end of the term, despite the delay in the Commencement celebration. Diplomas will be mailed to graduating seniors this summer.

Will the economic downturn jeopardize my financial aid package?
The Academy will honor the financial aid commitments that it has made to current and recently admitted students.

Will the fall term (a) open on campus on time, (b) open on campus on a delayed schedule, or (c) be held online?
Our goal is to deliver an Andover education in the traditional sense, in person, this coming fall. We also acknowledge that this decision will depend on the longer-term effects of the pandemic. We will continue to monitor the latest public health mandates and recommendations, and will be in touch once we have better information upon which to base these decisions.

How is the College Counseling Office operating?
We will continue to work closely with seniors and uppers through the spring in both one-on-one and group settings. Students should remain in contact with their college counselors and use the sign-up genius to schedule meetings (information will be sent out). Additional information about college counseling is available on The Hive.

As a parent or guardian, how can I best support my student right now?
In the days and weeks ahead, to the extent that it’s possible for your family, please help your student establish structure and routine. Encourage your student to stay connected (virtually) with peers and trusted adult mentors. Communicate with your student’s point person if you have concerns about their progress and engagement. Reach out if your student needs more guidance, support, and/or resources.


How will Reunion plans change?
Reunion Weekend 2020 is being postponed, and all alumni who graduated in the “0 and 5” years are invited to celebrate their reunion on campus in June 2021, along with the “1 and 6” classes. While we share classmates’ disappointment in not returning to campus this June, we are excited about the opportunity to connect across classes next year. The Office of Alumni Engagement will be working with planning committees from all affected classes to craft programs and plan celebrations.

Where can I go for more information and the latest updates?
Jim Ventre has assembled a team of community partners dedicated to serving various groups. These colleagues are connecting primarily via email, and are ready to assist with individual questions. Please visit and don’t hesitate to reach out:

Families and students – Linda Carter Griffith, Jenny Elliott, Amy Patel

Staff and administrators – Ferd Alonso, Amy Patel, Chris Joel, Leeann Bennett

Faculty – Clyfe Beckwith, Jeff Domina, Raj Mundra

Coaches and student-athletes – Lisa Joel

Seniors and uppers (college counseling) – Sean Logan, Kassy Fritz

Newly admitted students and families – Jill Thompson

Alumni – Thom Lockerby, Tracy Sweet

Town of Andover – Ferd Alonso, Chris Joel

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