COVID-19 Updates and Resources
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted life around the world, and for weeks Roxbury Latin has been monitoring, planning for, and responding to the evolving situation—always with the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff as our top priority. Roxbury Latin launched its remote teaching and learning plan on Monday, March 30, and will continue with this plan through the duration of the campus closure. We will continue to abide by Governor Baker’s orders regarding school closures, which extend—as he announced on April 21—through the remainder of the school year.
For the latest information on school events and cancellations this spring, please refer to Roxbury Latin’s online calendar.
Below is an archive of communications and updates sent from Headmaster Brennan related to the COVID-19 outbreak and its implications on school life this winter/spring.
Message to Families, April 24
While many of us anticipated Governor Baker’s decision to extend school closures through the remainder of the school year, the announcement of that news on Tuesday still was a blow. Though it’s appropriate for students—seniors, especially—to be allowed to grieve the loss of the spring season they had anticipated, this announcement finally allows some clarity about the weeks ahead and what they will look like for Roxbury Latin’s students, faculty, and staff.
Faculty and students are receiving information today about what the end of the year will look like, the calculation of fourth quarter and end of year grades, as well as details related to year-end assessments and final exams. The guidelines provide what I believe is appropriate latitude for individual teachers to determine what is in the best interest of their students and the goals of their courses. These weeks of remote learning are unusual, to say the least, and not without their challenges. We expect that teachers will take into account boys’ hard work and engagement in acclimating to this new format. The Remote Learning Plan document has been updated accordingly.
Despite challenges, Roxbury Latin’s faculty and students have shown remarkable fortitude, flexibility, creativity, and good spirit throughout. Our faculty gather weekly to collaborate and share with one another technological tools and solutions, to ask questions of one another and problem solve together. Boys continue to show that same pluck, determination, and good humor that were commonplace in the schoolhouse and on our fields each day. Just yesterday we were able to honor the school’s eleven new inductees into the Cum Laude Society, with a virtual Hall ceremony. In the last week we heard in virtual Hall from Dr. Stephen Berk, a renowned professor and expert of the Holocaust—who delivered a powerful talk and stayed on with us for a lively Q&A session—as well as from Dr. Esther Duflo, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and co-founder of MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, who spoke about using economic research to alleviate global poverty. Their presentations focused on important and timely topics, and our students proved their interest and engagement through excellent questions. Next week seniors will begin their ISPs—many of which had to be re-imagined. Our seniors rose to the challenge—they were responsible, cooperative, and creative—and we believe the coming month will be instructive, productive, and enjoyable for them. Though we miss our many extracurricular programs, contests, and performances, the life of the mind, and our care for each other—in pursuit of our mission—are alive and well.
Knowing now that Closing Exercises will not take their traditional form for Class I boys and their families, we are continuing to discuss ways in which we can fittingly celebrate our seniors at the culmination of their RL years. We will communicate directly with Class I students and their families as those plans evolve.
You have heard from us about concerns related to our students’ physical and mental health, and I hope you will let us know if we can be helpful on behalf of your sons. Soon advisors will get to work on advisor letters hoping to chronicle well each boy’s year and to amplify and celebrate each’s accomplishments even as there will doubtless be suggestions for ongoing work. I hope that you’ll be in touch with your son’s advisor at any time he or she can be helpful.
Please know that I am thinking of you and your boys every day. I miss them and their unbridled energy. I hope that you are safe, healthy, and well, and—as always—please do let me know if I or any of my colleagues can be helpful as we navigate this spring season together.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, April 14
I hope that you and those you love are faring well. I continue to be impressed by and grateful for the extent to which the boys, faculty, and staff have embraced our remote learning efforts and demonstrated creativity, flexibility, patience, and engagement.
All of us are experiencing different responsibilities, schedules, and stresses from what we are used to. Within our own households we face new challenges as we all learn to both live and work together in the same space. In the spirit of the holistic education to which Roxbury Latin is committed, we are offering some materials and opportunities that we hope will be helpful as we all seek to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I’m grateful to my colleagues who have helped coordinate these offerings, and especially to our consulting psychologist, Dr. Boaz Levy. In response to high demand, McLean Hospital Family Services has developed specialized groups for parents who wish to learn about ways in which to cope with the stresses of the time. These groups are designed to meet the current needs of parents in the community, unrelated to other mental health challenges. The groups will overview an array of skills to cope with stress in general, and within the family more specifically, and also allow for discussion and problem solving around specific issues. Clinicians will be available to answer questions electronically after the sessions. Other services offered by McLean at this time include lectures on the topic, which parents can watch anonymously. Should you wish to participate in the McLean program and require financial assistance to do so, please contact Roxbury Latin’s Director of Financial Aid, Karen Dinon. Please also read, below, very helpful information from Dr. Levy, regarding caring for your family’s mental health—in mindful ways—during this challenging time. As always, if you have concerns about the well-being of a particular student, please be in touch directly with his advisor.
Finally, I want to share with you this list of resources devoted to physical health and wellness; it includes access to yoga, meditation, exercise, and nutrition resources that we hope will be helpful to you and your family. If you have questions—or additional resources to share—please contact Dean of Students Paul Sugg or Director of Athletics Tony Teixeira. Thank you always for your helpful feedback and support, and I wish you a happy, healthy week.
Kerry P. Brennan
Mindful Coping with the COVID-19 Situation
by Boaz Levy, PhD
COVID-19 challenges us with a unique set of circumstances, converging multiple sources of stress. On the surface, we are adjusting to significant disruptions to daily routines, major functional restrictions, and diminished social contact; while, on a deeper level, many people feel threatened by significant losses, which some have already suffered. These stresses are compounded by the open-ended nature of the situation and the limited control we have over it. In this predicament, how we cope matters, and some guidance may be helpful. Granted, the issue is too complicated to reduce to bullet-point advice, and people are affected by this situation in very different ways; yet, relevant insights and practices can enhance our inner sense of resilience and, ultimately, make a big difference in how we adapt to the challenges that lie ahead.
In the face of ongoing threats or uncontrollable danger, people may feel more drained and become more passive than usual. Some may find it a struggle to keep up with the demands of daily living. To cope with this, it may be helpful to shift attention to the things we can control in the here and now. When stuck, it is better to start with the smaller tasks first—anything productive we can do with the energy we have (even if that means making the bed or brushing our teeth). Staying in motion, however slowly, is important. Doing productive things tend to increase energy and build momentum. For example, simply turning the computer on and typing in the title of the paper changes our ability to take academic work forward. Just putting on the sneakers increases the likelihood that we will exercise. More broadly, small productive actions help us to stop drifting and generate momentum. Action builds motivation. In short, the name of the game is to keep focus, start small, stay in motion, and build up gradually to meet heavier demands. This process does not preclude rest.
Leverage the morning time.
During elevated stress, the morning time is particularly important, as it builds momentum for the rest of the day. Therefore, a highly focused morning routine (e.g., energy permitting, consider adding yoga, meditation, journaling, exercise, nutritious breakfast, organizing things, setting written goals, taking care of something urgent, etc.) can make a big difference in how the day unfolds. In other words, an early rise to a highly productive morning extends the lever we have for lifting the weight of the day. Making a flexible plan for the day is also a great help in focusing our minds on action. It can prevent drifting.
Beware of rigid optimism.
A common mistake during prolonged stress is to grasp for hope by saying that things will get better by a particular time in the future, which we cannot control (e.g., counting on our summer plan to work out as a way to get through today). This tends to weaken us. Instead, we should keep the faith that eventually things tend to get better, especially if we focus on dealing with the challenges of each day the best we can. The hope mostly comes from believing in what we do now, not from an image we have about the future.
Deal with losses.
In the face of actual loss, we need to exercise acceptance. This does not mean we should distract ourselves from pain and sadness, which can be harmful, as losses reflect meaningful things in our lives. It means noticing our resistance to the loss—when we say it is unfair or should not have happened—and the anger, frustration and obsessive thoughts it produces. Acceptance is a slow process but worth focusing on. It is self-preserving and frees the mental energy we need to cope with the challenges of the time and the ones that lie ahead.
See family as the silver lining.
COVID-19 affords us a rare opportunity to spend time with family, which we would not have otherwise. We can do our best to embrace it. The family can play together—board games, cards, puzzles, music—or venture with goodwill into activities outside its norm—like doing online yoga classes, or taking up drawing lessons together. During this time, we have more family meals than ever before. Getting creative with culinary arts can spice up the flavor of quarantine quite a bit. Or, we can simply meet each other and talk. In some way, being physically cornered opens up the opportunity to flex our mental tracks in healthy ways.
Find creative ways to stay in touch.
The importance of community deserves special mention for dealing with the current circumstances. Isolation undermines mental health across the spectrum. People who do not live with family are at greater risk. COVID-19 is reducing our contact with the community in significant ways. Many of the social cross-sections that allow us to interact have now been temporarily removed, so we are left to pave new communication routes to stay connected. Figuring out how to reach each other outside our habitual settings requires conscious effort, perhaps even creativity. On one hand, we are a button-click away from one another. On the other hand, many of us are ‘zoomed’ into electronic fatigue by the end of the day, so adding screen time interactions may not always be easy (i.e., talking on the phone might be easier). However, finding the time and channels to remain updated on the details of each other’s lives would probably make a difference in how well we cope with prolonged quarantine.
Seek purpose and meaning.
Viktor Frankl described in his famous book Man’s Search for Meaning how people are more likely to survive prolonged periods of extreme stress by focusing on the most important things they want to live for. Typically, this involves the closest people in our lives, but it can extend far beyond the scope of our inner circle. Gratitude lists, for example, tend to help identify meaning in our lives. They also help to shift attention from negative to positive energy more generally. Keeping our attention on purpose and meaning makes us more willing to endure distress without giving up. Journaling about meaning and purpose is therefore a highly recommended practice during this time.
Many people derive meaning from helping others. At this time, helping others might carry a powerful effect on everyone’s well-being; however, it is not always immediately obvious how to be of service in a quarantined situation, and many venues for helping might already be overcrowded. At the end of the day, there is no doubt that providing actual help is very important; yet, it is critical to recognize that the positive mental transformation already begins with the quest for service. Here, too, attention sets the mental process into motion. Basically, becoming aware of where our attention goes is a game changer. It ultimately determines how well we cope and the extent to which we can help others. This is true in general, and it is all the more consequential during a time of crisis.
Attention is a vital resource. Watch where it goes.
Attention is one of the most important resources we have to cope with COVID-19. We project attention outward from our mind like a nourishing beam of energy. The things that receive our attention grow and develop; the things that we take our attention away from wither. This is true for schoolwork, relationships, work, health, athletics, and every other aspect of life we care about. The beam of attention also works in the other direction: It vacuums anything it touches into our consciousness. We cannot help but process the things we focus on. Therefore, where our attention goes matters a great deal. It simultaneously affects our external and internal world.
During this time, setting our attention mostly to productive things we can control maintains the structure of our lives. At the same time, it creates an increasingly vibrant state of mind that reduces stress. While setting the intention to remain productive, we need to find the middle ground: adjust the work we do to our energy level, yet remain mostly within the productive boundaries, including rest. Noticing resistance to losses allows us to shift attention back to current challenges and preserve much needed mental resources. Embracing family time can decrease a sense of isolation and enhance a sense of meaning, as can finding creative ways to stay in touch with our community and seeking ways to be helpful to others. Finally, journaling about purpose and meaning and generating gratitude lists can shift our mental energy from negative to positive frequencies and thereby help us endure adversity. Stay focused.
Monitor the distress of your teenagers.
Students may initially experience some decrease in stress, because they are now much more available to complete their academic work and even enjoy some free time to do what they like. At the same time, they still feel the general uncertainty of the time. Over time, the isolation could affect them, and some may be afraid of losing sports seasons, summer trips, year-end events, or other personally important plans and programs. Some degree of distress is a completely normal reaction to the situation, although it can be mitigated by a vibrant, cohesive family culture. In general, when assessing for subtle signs of distress, we typically look for changes in eating and sleeping habits, energy level, social engagement, etc. However, all of these might be altered during this time. Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep) tends to be a red flag, but it needs to be differentiated from an altered sleep schedule, which is more related to the preference to stay awake late at night (which is not healthy, yet different from acute distress). It is sometimes easy to miss insomnia in teenagers, especially if they go to bed late, so you can simply ask them about how well they slept. Gaining weight may indicate emotional distress, although the sedentary circumstances should be taken into account here. Uncontrolled eating of unhealthy foods or loss of appetite would be more worrisome signs to note under the circumstances. Likewise, uncharacteristic disengagement from schoolwork should be heeded. Social withdrawal is difficult to assess during quarantine, but it might be good to ask your teenagers about how they are staying in touch with friends and, if possible, let them tell you about how their friends are doing. Overall, relative to normal times, they may look less energetic, a bit low, and sometimes agitated. However, if the degree of discomfort seems exaggerated to you (based on knowing your child), it may indicate a problem. The best way to assess how your teenager is doing is to be in touch with him or her as much as possible. If you are home, try to have as many interactions and conversations with them as possible. Observe if they respond to fun activities well and, most importantly, ask them very directly about how they are doing. Feeling low or agitated for one or two days in a row is not abnormal. However, it presents a good opportunity to intervene with lifestyle changes and talking. If an elevated distress persists every day for over a week, you may consider reaching out for consultation. Feeling depressed or not being able to enjoy the things they typically enjoy, every day for most of the day over two weeks, typically requires professional care. If you have concerns about your son’s well-being, please do not hesitate to contact his advisor, classmaster, or other school administrator, including Mr. Brennan, Mr. Pojman, or Mr. Sugg.
Message to Families, April 1
There’s a poignant irony on campus right now: With the beginnings of spring, I dare say our campus has never looked more beautiful, and yet there are no students, faculty, or staff here to enjoy it and infuse it with the energy we come to expect each April.
As quiet as the campus is, however, the Roxbury Latin community most assuredly is not. We are now three days into RL’s remote teaching and learning plan, and I am extremely grateful to our faculty and our technology team who spent a majority of their spring break planning and adapting for what this new model would mean. Our faculty and students both have already exhibited such creativity, dedication, flexibility, and goodwill as we reimagine what effective gathering, teaching, and learning looks and feels like. Some of our faculty were connecting and engaging with our students even over the break: Head track and field coach Erin Dromgoole provided virtual Zoom circuit training sessions for her athletes—to keep spirits and strength up, and sprint times down! I have heard from a number of boys and faculty in these last few days about how grateful they are to see and hear from each other once again. We were able to celebrate our Opening of Spring Term together, while apart, from an empty Rousmaniere Hall this morning. Our school community is alive, and engaged, and it’s heartening to see.
As Governor Baker has ordered, Massachusetts schools are to remain closed to students until at least Monday, May 4. Given the situation and uncertainty, there’s a chance that these school closures could extend beyond that date. As you’re aware, the spring athletic season continues to be on hold throughout the ISL and around the state. My colleagues and I have been in conversation about the state of Roxbury Latin’s many celebratory, spring events, and we have unfortunately had to decide to cancel or postpone many already—including the prom and A Cappella Fest, the Junior Play and Parents’ Auxiliary Yard Sale. If we are able to find alternative dates for some of these events, we will do so and communicate that to you. For an up-to-date listing of all events, you should always check Roxbury Latin’s online calendar. We have not yet made a decision regarding Closing Exercises in June, and we hope desperately to gather on June 6, as planned, to celebrate our graduating seniors in the fitting, ceremonial way.
I know this crisis has disrupted the financial situations of so many households, and that the uncertainty of what’s to come causes additional burden. I hope you all had the chance to read my recent email, reminding you of Roxbury Latin’s ongoing commitment to making this education possible for your sons, for meeting you where you are, and supporting you through this challenge in any way that we can.
Finally, I want to share my gratitude for every member of the Roxbury Latin community on the front lines of this pandemic and its devastating effects. So many in our parent community are responding to the call with courage and compassion, in an unimaginable deluge of need during this crisis. On behalf of the entire Roxbury Latin community, thank you. I hope that you are managing the stress, anxiety, and uncertainty undoubtedly present in every family. Your son’s advisor stands ready, as do others of us, to help ensure that your son is feeling alright. Please communicate with us directly if you have a concern.
As I have mentioned before, we will do all in our power to maintain the support and vitality of this caring and inspiring community. I have been in regular, helpful contact with my fellow heads of school, and I am grateful for their goodwill. While aware of what other schools are doing and how they are responding to this challenge, we will continue to do what we believe to be in the best interest of our students and our particular mission. As I have more information to share with you, I will do so. In the meantime, I wish you and your families well in the coming weeks, and—as always—thank you for your care and support.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 17
First, please know that we at Roxbury Latin are thinking of you—your sons, your families—in this challenging, increasingly unpredictable situation that we’re all facing. Despite the long shadow that the COVID-19 outbreak has cast over the start of March break, I do hope that you have been able to spend some meaningful time with your family.
In accordance with Governor Baker’s order to keep schools throughout Massachusetts closed until Tuesday, April 7, we will be enacting as of Monday, March 30, at the close of Roxbury Latin’s spring break, the plan for remote teaching and learning that we developed with our faculty prior to the break. You and your sons will receive more details regarding these plans and processes via email next week.
We know that many of you are paying close attention to communications from various government and private organizations about the state of things, and how different institutions are responding. We, too, are continuing to closely monitor the latest news and changing guidelines, at the local and national level. We are also in regular conversation with other school leaders, and we will continue to act responsibly, as a school, guided—as always—with the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff as our top priority.
We will continue to communicate with you via email as new information comes to light that has implications for the operations of Roxbury Latin. I assure you that—despite this enormously challenging situation—we will do all in our power to maintain the support and vitality of this caring and inspiring community. Though we are not gathering in the ways that we’re used to—formally or informally—I urge you to check in on one another, connect with one another in the myriad ways that technology allows these days. With so many events and plans cancelled or postponed, with so much seemingly out of our control, be assured that our relationships, our care for one another, are still very much within our control.
Spring is typically a vibrant and busy time in school life, and we understand that the uncertainty surrounding what this spring holds is unsettling. With our circumstances changing daily, it’s difficult to plan concretely for events scheduled this spring, but once we are able to make decisions on whether we’re able to move forward with those events and celebrations, we will certainly communicate our thinking. Some of you have inquired about the impact on summer immersion trips—a beloved and important part of our modern language program. We will continue the conversations that we’ve been having for several weeks now with our travel partners to determine the appropriate route forward with those trips, as well.
We are all well aware now of the federal and local government mandates regarding social distancing, and the responsibility that we all have to adhere to those mandates. In that spirit, campus buildings and athletic facilities will continue to be closed to all students for at least the next three weeks. Please do not allow your son to come to campus for any reason.
As I mentioned in my email on March 13, should we learn that any immediate member of our community—any student, faculty, or staff member—has been diagnosed with COVID-19, we will communicate that to you via email, while maintaining the privacy of that individual.
Finally, we understand that this situation is putting various pressures upon many families and individuals, including financial pressures for some. If your family has particular concerns in this regard, please contact Karen Dinon, Director of Financial Aid.
Please reach out to each other. I wish you and your family fortitude, patience, good humor, good health, and much love in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for your care and support, and—as always—please contact me directly with any concerns or questions you may have.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 13
As spring break has begun for Roxbury Latin’s students, I want to update you on some plans the school is enacting in the coming weeks in response to the situation regarding COVID-19. These plans are consistent with our goal all along: prioritizing the health and safety of our students, faculty, and staff.
- All varsity athletic practices will be cancelled for the second week of spring break. This decision is consistent with that of other ISL schools.
- The fitness center, and all indoor athletic facilities, will be closed for the duration of spring break.
- All rentals of our facilities to outside groups have been cancelled for the next two weeks.
- Roxbury Latin will host no revisit sessions for newly admitted students this spring. This decision was made in agreement with a consortium of other Boston-area independent schools.
- The campus will be closed entirely (including to staff members) this coming Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday so that the industrial cleaning firm that we have contracted with can complete a thorough cleaning of all the school’s classrooms, offices, buildings and facilities. We plan to repeat this deep cleaning process the weekend of March 28 and 29, as well.
- Should we learn over the break that any immediate member of our community—any student, faculty, or staff member—has been diagnosed with COVID-19, we will communicate that information to parents, faculty, and staff members via email. (In adherence with federal law, we will do so in a way that maintains the privacy of that individual or individuals.)
- Should we decide to shift all classroom instruction to remote teaching and learning methods at the conclusion of spring break, we will communicate that to all parents, faculty, and staff members, as well. As I instructed the boys in Hall just prior to the start of the break, they were to bring home with them all technology and materials that they would need to continue their coursework, in the event that we cannot gather back together on campus on March 30. We have confirmed that each of our students has both the hardware and software necessary to connect with his teachers and fellow students, in order to continue classroom instruction and assignments remotely.
This situation is drastically changing daily life for many people around the world and in the United States, and all indications suggest that it will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. As a school, we will continue to respond, plan, and communicate in ways that are consistent with the advice of local and federal agencies, and—as always—with the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff in mind.
I thank you, again, for your support during this challenging time, and I wish you and your family well as we all navigate this situation.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 11
After considering many factors—including Governor Baker’s remarks to the Commonwealth yesterday, and the trend in recent days toward “de-densifying” within our communities—I have decided to begin spring break for our students a day early, at the end of the regular school and athletic activities today. Classes, athletics, and other activities will be cancelled tomorrow—Thursday, March 12. This decision was not made due to any increased risk of COVID-19 infection to our school community, real or perceived.
This morning the faculty met to discuss planning for the possibility of teaching classes remotely after the break. We will use the additional day that we will gain this week to continue those conversations; ensure that our faculty are familiar with and comfortable with the technologies and tools available to them; and allow our technology team to provide further tutorials that address departmental and individual needs.
We will be enlisting an industrial cleaning firm over the break to deep clean our buildings and facilities so that these spaces are prepared for when our students and faculty return to our regular school rhythms.
Tomorrow was to be Roxbury Latin’s annual Maru-a-Pula Day, typically characterized by creative costumes and a somewhat raucous atmosphere on campus. We will make plans to reschedule the festivities for a day once school is back in session.
I understand that this change in the week’s planning will perhaps be disruptive to some, but, in consultation with several of my colleagues, I believe that this is the right thing to do at this time. I want to thank you for your support—especially this week—as we have processed the new and changing information about this very fluid situation and responded in ways that we deem to be in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff. This is, in some ways, uncharted water, and it has, in some moments, reminded me of the best of our Roxbury Latin community.
As always, if you have questions or concerns, please reach out to me directly. Even though plans have changed, I wish you a restorative break.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 10
We learned this morning that a Roxbury Latin student has been identified as a close contact of an individual recently diagnosed with COVID-19, and that our student has been instructed to quarantine at the direction of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. That student himself has not been diagnosed, nor has he shown any symptoms of the virus. We have been in close conversation with the Department of Public Health regarding this situation, and they have not indicated to us that we should alter any of our regularly planned school activities at this time in light of this information. We share this in particular because we understand that we have immunocompromised individuals in our community, or people who may have immunocompromised individuals in their households, who might have particular concern regarding any potentiality of exposure. As always, those individuals should consult with their health care providers if they have any specific concerns. Should you have concerns particular to your situation, please do contact me or our school nurse, Keri Maguire, directly.
As I mentioned to the School in Hall this morning, we will continue to monitor, and make decisions as guided by, information from our local and national public health agencies, and we urge everyone in our community to act with and advocate good hygiene and good common sense to help mitigate the spread of any infectious disease. We are grateful for your support as we continue to navigate this challenging situation together.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 9
With concern about the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) growing, I want to share with you further steps we are taking and decisions that we have made here on campus, in our best efforts to keep our students, faculty, and staff both safe and prepared. Our special committee is convening regularly to discuss the existing and potential impacts of this evolving public health challenge to the Roxbury Latin community. We are faithfully monitoring other schools’ situations as well as communications from government agencies and health care experts. We have no current concern of an active exposure in our community, but we are—like other schools around the country—acting with great thought, caution, and balance in addressing this challenging situation.
Spring Break Trips
This morning we made the decision to cancel the Class V trip to Quebec. In light of Governor Baker’s request that schools cancel all international travel plans, and because news of the virus’s spread shifts daily, we feel that this decision is in the best interest of our students and faculty. We are communicating further with those Class V families affected by this decision. We previously cancelled the Glee Club’s concert tour to Austria and the Czech Republic.
Travel Over Spring Break
We are again asking all members of the Roxbury Latin community planning to travel over the March break to follow CDC and U.S. State Department travel guidelines. If you are planning to travel to other countries during the break, please closely monitor CDC travel notices.
We do hope that no members of our community have plans to travel to any Warning Level 3 or Alert Level 2 countries, as indicated by the CDC, over the break. Any member of our community traveling to a CDC “Warning Level 3” area, however, will be subject upon his or her return to a 14-day period of self-quarantine away from school. If your plans include traveling to an “Alert Level 2” country, we suggest that you reevaluate your plans in the event that country is elevated to Level 3 status at a later time, and keep in mind that individuals returning from these countries may be subject to a period of self-quarantine, as well.
We insist that any member of our community—including boys and their families—traveling to an area of the world (internationally or within the United States) identified as an area of increased COVID-19 infection risk, communicate that directly with our school nurse, Keri Maguire, RN, prior to the conclusion of the break, so that we can determine—in concert with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health—the responsible course for introducing that individual back to campus.
Planning for a Potential School Closure
This week our faculty is finalizing plans for conducting classes remotely in the event of a school disruption or closure. We will require our students, faculty, and staff to take home with them over the spring break any technology and materials that they would need to continue with regular classwork after the break. We have plans in place to enlist our current classroom management software, with which your child is familiar, as well as Zoom conferencing technology to conduct much of the regular curriculum, lesson plans, and school activities virtually. Our faculty will be meeting to discuss these plans on Wednesday, March 11, and we will communicate further details about this potentiality with families in a timely way.
If your son will not have access to his own dedicated laptop-style device or computer at home, please contact Director of Technology Nate Piper, and the school will provide one prior to the break. In addition, if your son does not have access to WiFi or internet connection at home, please contact Mr. Piper to communicate that, as well.
How Families Can Help
- Most important, if your child is sick, please keep him home and seek medical attention. The well-being of our students, faculty, and staff is our primary concern. Adhering to the guidelines set forth by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, with which we have been in regular contact, we will require any student, faculty, or staff member to self-quarantine if it’s determined that any member of his or her household is symptomatic of COVID-19.
- If any member of your household has reason to believe that he or she has come into contact with someone with COVID-19, we ask that you contact Mrs. Maguire directly so that we—in concert with the Department of Public Health—can responsibly assess the potential risk to the community and develop a plan with your family that is not alarmist but that appropriately mitigates any potential for broader exposure among our school community.
- As we are all being reminded daily, some of the most effective means of combating the spread of any infectious diseases are the simplest:
- wash hands well and regularly;
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth;
- disinfect items that are regularly touched (doorknobs, countertops, etc.);
- cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze;
- avoid handshakes as greetings.
As I mentioned last week, we continue to pay close attention to—and are making decisions as informed by—the guidance and direction of local and national public health agencies and experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, as well as a range of independent school health consortiums. As we process these updates, the health, safety, and well-being of our students, faculty and staff are our foremost priorities.
Be reminded that the risk of COVID-19 infection to those of us living in Greater Boston right now remains quite low. Overreactions that incite panic or perpetuate misinformation can be harmful, and it is our collective responsibility to be vigilant but appropriately measured in our plans, actions, and words.
This is, of course, a rapidly evolving situation, and we will surely inform you of any developments in the school’s situation, responses, and plans. I appreciate your support, patience, and cooperation as we work together to keep our school community safe. As always, please contact the school directly should you have questions or concerns about Roxbury Latin’s response to this complex issue.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, March 3
As I communicated on Friday, we have been closely monitoring the dynamic situation of the Coronavirus spreading abroad and in specific areas within the United States. While the implications of this have the potential to be far-reaching, we have been focused most urgently on two things: 1) determining whether or not to proceed with our two school-sponsored March break trips, and 2) reminding our boys explicitly about the importance of good hygiene in limiting the spread of any viral or bacterial illness.
We have decided to cancel the Glee Club trip to Austria and the Czech Republic. Given the recent proliferation of the virus across Europe, and increasing restrictions that the CDC is suggesting on international travel, we feel that this decision is in the best interest of our boys and faculty. At this time, the Class V trip to Quebec, by bus, will continue as planned. We will communicate separately with the parents of those students who had planned on attending the Glee Club trip with further details. Though we are far from making any decisions regarding school-sponsored summer travel, we are aware that we may need to be flexible in those arrangements, as well.
As you consider your own family’s spring break plans, we urge you to refer regularly to the CDC’s list of travel warnings. As we all return from spring break at the end of this month, we want to, as best we can, minimize exposure of the members of our school community to any pathogens.
As this situation continues to unfold, we will be measured and flexible in our response, informed by the advice of local and national public health agencies and experts. We have formed a committee of faculty and staff to regularly assess the situation and consider the various ways in which the school should prepare and respond. On campus we are supplementing our supply of hand sanitizer so that it is even more widely available throughout campus, and ensuring that public spaces are receiving a deep and thorough cleaning nightly. As always, the health and safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority, and we will continue to update you regarding any further developments.
Thank you for your cooperation as we navigate this challenging situation.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Families, February 28
I write in order to let you know that we are monitoring closely developments in regard to the Coronavirus. As you can imagine, many schools have planned trips for March break, and I am in contact with the leaders of those schools, as we share information about any changes to those March break plans.
As you may know, we have two student trips planned for the upcoming spring break: the Class V trip to Quebec, Canada, and the Glee Club trip to Austria and the Czech Republic. We hope very much to be able to proceed with both. To this point, we have heard of only a few isolated cases in those countries. Additionally, there have not yet been any prohibitions issued by those governments concerning visitors to those countries. We will closely monitor any changes in those positions. Further, we will be mindful of the advice of the medical community and our own government concerning foreign travel by Americans.
Our first priority is the well being of our boys and our faculty and staff. If we determine that there would be substantial risk imposed by either of these trips, we would cancel them. In the meantime, however, especially given the work that has gone into preparing for these exciting, meaningful experiences abroad, we will not act hastily and will strive to get all the best information we can in order to make a responsible decision.
Thank you for your concern and patience.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Alumni, April 24
As many of you know, Governor Charlie Baker made the announcement on Tuesday that school closures in Massachusetts will extend through the remainder of the school year. While most of us anticipated Governor Baker’s decision, the announcement of that news this week still was a blow. Though it’s appropriate for students—seniors, especially—to be allowed to grieve the loss of the spring season they had anticipated, this announcement finally allows some clarity about the weeks ahead and what they will look like for Roxbury Latin’s students, faculty, and staff.
Faculty, students, and parents are receiving information today about what the end of the year will look like, the calculation of fourth quarter grades, and final exams. The guidelines provide appropriate latitude for faculty to determine what is in the best interest of their students and the goals of their courses. These weeks of remote learning are unusual, to say the least, and not without their challenges. Yet, despite challenges, Roxbury Latin’s faculty and students have shown remarkable fortitude, flexibility, creativity, and good spirit throughout. Our faculty gather weekly to collaborate and share with one another technological tools and solutions, to ask questions of one another and problem solve together. Boys continue to show that same pluck, determination, and good humor that were commonplace in the schoolhouse and on our fields each day. Just yesterday we were able to honor the school’s eleven new inductees into the Cum Laude Society, with a virtual Hall ceremony. In the last week we heard in virtual Hall from Dr. Stephen Berk, a renowned professor and expert on the Holocaust—who delivered a powerful talk and stayed on with us for a lively Q&A session—as well as from Dr. Esther Duflo, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and co-founder of MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, who spoke about using economic research to alleviate global poverty. Their presentations focused on important and timely topics, and our students proved their interest and engagement through excellent questions. Next week, seniors will begin their Independent Senior Projects—many of which had to be re-imagined. Our seniors rose to the challenge—they were responsible, cooperative, and creative—and we believe the coming month will be instructive, productive, and enjoyable for them. Though we miss our many extracurricular programs, contests, and performances this spring, the life of the mind, and our care for each other—in pursuit of our mission—is alive and well.
Knowing now that Closing Exercises—a beloved tradition and important ceremony you remember well, I’m sure—will not take the typical form for Class I boys and their families, we are imagining ways in which we can fittingly celebrate our seniors at the culmination of their Roxbury Latin years. As I announced earlier this month, Reunion will not take place this spring; instead, we will hold Reunion for the classes ending in 0 and 5 in May 2021, along with the Reunion celebrations for the classes ending in 1 and 6. We hope the chance for those alumni to gather not only with their classmates, but also with schoolmates a year above or below them, will only enhance the experience.
We are becoming more aware each day of the wide-ranging, and likely long-lasting, effects of this pandemic. So many have been touched directly by COVID-19’s virulence, and so many of you have been on the front lines in the fight against it. On behalf of the entire Roxbury Latin community, I am most grateful to those helping to keep their fellow men and women safe and healthy. And I am grateful, always, for the hope, strength, and generosity that this school community exhibits, and engenders, every day. I wish you and your families well, and I look forward to the day we can physically gather together once again.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Alumni, April 1
There’s a poignant irony on Roxbury Latin’s campus right now: With the beginnings of spring in Boston, I dare say our campus has never looked more beautiful, and yet there are no students, faculty, or staff here to enjoy it and infuse it with the energy we come to expect each April.
As quiet as the campus is, however, the Roxbury Latin community most assuredly is not. On Monday, we launched RL’s remote teaching and learning plan. I am extremely grateful to our faculty and technology team who spent a majority of their spring break planning and adapting for what this new model would mean, and how we might be effective—and creative, and inspiring—in gathering, teaching, and learning in these remote ways. Some of our faculty were connecting and engaging with students even over the break: Head track and field coach Erin Dromgoole provided virtual Zoom circuit training sessions for her athletes—to keep spirits and strength up, and sprint times down! I have heard from a number of boys and faculty these last few days about how grateful they are to see and hear from each other once again. We were able to celebrate our Opening of Spring Term together, while apart, from an empty Rousmaniere Hall this morning. Our school community is alive, and engaged, and it’s heartening to see.
As Governor Baker has ordered, Massachusetts schools are to remain closed to students until at least Monday, May 4. Given the situation and uncertainty, there’s a chance that these school closures could extend beyond that date. You can find the most current information regarding Roxbury Latin’s response to the ongoing crisis on our website.
My colleagues and I have been in conversation about the state of Roxbury Latin’s spring events—namely Reunion weekend, and the much-anticipated 375th celebration, honoring our faculty, planned for May 9. Sadly, we must cancel both events for now. We do hope there’s an opportunity in the future to reschedule what we know would have been joyful and convivial occasions; if we are able to plan these events for another date, we will communicate that with you. For an up-to-date listing of all school events, you should always check Roxbury Latin’s online calendar.
I know this crisis has disrupted the financial situations in so many households, and that the uncertainty of what’s to come causes additional burden. I sent an email to all current families over the weekend, reminding them of Roxbury Latin’s ongoing commitment to making an RL education possible for their sons, to meeting them where they are, and to supporting them through this challenge in any way that we can.
Finally, I want to share my gratitude for every member of the Roxbury Latin community on the front lines of this pandemic and its devastating effects. In characteristic fashion, so many of you are responding to the call with courage and compassion, facing an unimaginable deluge of need during this crisis. When the time comes, and the dust settles, we look forward to hearing your stories, and sharing them, with the hopes of inspiring others and reminding them of the ways in which Roxbury Latin alumni go on to lead and serve in their communities in myriad ways. If you have stories of Roxbury Latin alumni—friends, classmates, teammates—please share those with us at email@example.com. On behalf of the entire Roxbury Latin community, thank you all for the good you’re sowing in our world. At the same time, you are doubtless concerned about your beloved family and friends. My heart goes out to those of you, in particular, whose loved ones are compromised. These are times that challenge us in so many ways. Because I suspect hearing from your RL classmates would be reassuring, please look for opportunities to connect.
As I have mentioned before, we will do all in our power to maintain the support and vitality of this caring and inspiring community. As I have more information to share with you, I will do so. In the meantime, I wish you and your families well in the coming weeks, and—as always—thank you for your care and support.
Kerry P. Brennan
Message to Alumni, March 17
We at Roxbury Latin are thinking of you and your families at this challenging, increasingly unpredictable time. Spring break has recently begun for our students, under the long shadow that the COVID-19 outbreak has cast around the world.
As you might imagine, over the past several weeks we have been working intently on responding to and planning for the many disruptions to school life that this situation has caused. I dismissed our students a day early for spring break so that we, as a faculty, could develop and refine plans to teach our students remotely after the spring break—a plan we will now be enacting on March 30. We cancelled a much-anticipated Glee Club trip to Austria and the Czech Republic, as well as the traditional Class V French language trip to Quebec City. I have been in conversation with trustees as we plan for the consequential economic repercussions facing institutions like ours. I expect that these cancellations and conversations are just the beginning of what we can anticipate in the coming weeks.
We know that many of you are paying close attention to communications from various government and private organizations about the state of things, and how different institutions are responding. We, too, are continuing to closely monitor the latest news and changing guidelines, at the local and national level. We are also in regular conversation with other school leaders, and we will continue to act responsibly, as a school, guided—as always—by what is in the best interest of our students, faculty, and staff.
Spring is typically a vibrant and busy time in school life, not only for those of us on campus, but also for many of you, who look forward to returning to campus for Reunion, Spring Family Day, and other such festivities. We understand that the uncertainty surrounding what this spring holds is unsettling. We have already had to cancel our annual Alumni Spring Luncheon, which was originally scheduled for April 16. With our circumstances changing daily, it’s difficult to plan concretely for events scheduled this spring, but once we are able to make decisions on whether we’re able to move forward with those events and celebrations, we will certainly communicate our thinking.
We are all well aware now of the federal and local government mandates regarding social distancing, and the responsibility that we all have to adhere to those mandates. In that spirit, campus buildings and athletic facilities will continue to be closed to all students for at least the next three weeks.
As I have assured our students and parents, faculty and staff, despite this enormously challenging situation, we will do all in our power to maintain the support and vitality of this caring and inspiring community. Though we are not gathering in the ways that we’re used to—formally or informally—I urge you to check in on one another, connect with one another in the myriad ways that technology allows these days. With so many events and plans cancelled or postponed, with so much seemingly out of our control, be assured that our relationships, our care for one another, are still very much within our control. Please connect with each other. Continue to lead and serve within your communities in the ways that are the hallmark of Roxbury Latin alumni. During your school days you often heard about the way in which good and great people stepped up in response to challenging times. We are all experiencing one of those moments now. The world needs your goodness, integrity, strength, and compassion.
I wish you and your families fortitude, patience, good humor, good health, and much love in the days and weeks ahead. As always, thank you for your care and support.
Kerry P. Brennan