Roxbury Latin Opens Its 376th School Year Amidst a Pandemic

After months of planning and preparing, Roxbury Latin opened the fall term of the school’s 376th school year on Monday, August 31. This year’s opening was not typical: Headmaster Brennan delivered his address to a largely empty Rousmaniere Hall. There was no all-school handshake—only hope for one in the future. No boys infused the hallways and classrooms with an energetic buzz. However, faculty were on campus and in classrooms—dressed in their first-day best—and students attended Hall, classes, and homeroom remotely anticipating their physical return to these spaces. On September 1, boys will return physically to campus as RL commences this school year with a cohort system; the student body, split into Cohort A and Cohort B, will alternate weeks spent on campus and weeks spent learning from home, in order to de-densify campus spaces each day. Boys in Cohort A will descend upon the campus tomorrow, using particular entrances assigned by class and remaining largely with their campus “neighborhoods.”

In Hall, Mr. Brennan welcomed new members of the RL community—students, faculty, and staff—and focused on the meaning of the word community, and on the rights and responsibilities we should all take seriously as being part of one.

“Often people use this term to describe a geographical and political concept—a city, a town, a neighborhood,” Mr. Brennan began. “However… a community is also a group of people who agree to certain concepts of what it means to live, to live well, to live peacefully and productively together. One person has a stake in another person’s life. Because a community often suggests a relatively intimate group of people, they tend to know each other. And even if literally they don’t know each other, they know each other based on presumptions that can be made within the community about a basic standard of values, mutuality, and care.” Sharing personal stories of community in action, and communities moved to action—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in the wake of the killing of George Floyd—Mr. Brennan talked about the ways in which we’re all having to re-imagine how we live in community these days.

“In considering what it takes to be a valuable member of a community, we ought to imagine seizing opportunities for generosity, kindness, or defense of another. In our school, to my mind—if done well—the quintessence of community, we often treat each other as brothers and sisters, as lovable neighbors, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we intentionally are selfish or self-absorbed or vindictive… or we fail to act, fail to intervene when we should.

“In late July, Congressman John Lewis died. He had done amazing things in his life. He was kind, gentle, persevering, and principled. He was someone whom everyone loved and admired. It was not just, however, because he was kind that he was looked up to. It was because he acted. He lived his beliefs… His example begs the question, ‘What will you do?’”

Finally, Mr. Brennan reminded students, faculty, and staff that, as we begin this school year—with new health and safety protocols in place—we are dependent on one another in an even greater way than we were before. He urged everyone watching “to adhere to the guidelines, to focus, to care, to sacrifice, to do something. In your actions and your words, help all of us to create anew a community that is not only brimming with friendship and love, but that acknowledges that what we do and how we do it can indeed be a matter of life and death. Please do your best… When all is said and done, when we look back on this era, when we remember the 375th and 376th years of the school’s storied history, let’s make sure that others will say that because of all of us, because of this glistening community, because of who we are and what we will do that this was one of RL’s finest hours.”

View the entirety of this year’s Opening of Fall Term Hall.

Learn more about Roxbury Latin’s Fall 2020 Reopening Plans.