village green COVID-19 AND OUR COMMUNITY BY ROBERT WHITTY ’87, P’16
n the evening of March 17, 2020, I was sitting in Brown Auditorium. The room was empty and felt devoid of its usual pulsing energy. The landscape of the world was rapidly changing. Headmaster Detora said to me, “I never thought I would be doing this,” referring to the decision to close the school for the remainder of the academic year and the pending livestream address to explain that decision to our community—our family. Coronavirus was at our doorstep, and we had to act. My job was to address the community about the plan’s specifics, the support we would provide, and the challenges we faced. At the core of this issue and amid the cloud of uncertainty gripping the nation and the world, our community has an opportunity to grow. Our school motto— aspirando et perseverando—is an unwavering beacon during this turmoil. We did our homework and reviewed all CDC and WHO guidelines, the recommendations of health professionals, and the urgency of responding decisively to this pandemic. The Avon Old Farms leadership made the right decision. As I approached the front of the auditorium, my emotions overwhelmed me as I considered the feelings of the students and families our decision would affect. Mostly, my heart ached for our seniors. Spring at Avon is an incredibly special time, especially for seniors, and the Avon leadership felt the weight of the message. The unshakable
foundation of our school is built upon relationships. It is much of what makes this place so special. The process of deciding to close the school wasn’t easy. It began on March 10 when Headmaster Detora canceled spring athletic trips to Florida because of growing concerns about the coronavirus. Frequent meetings with local health professionals; constant monitoring of CDC, WHO, and Farmington Valley Health District restrictions; and the guidance of the federal, state, and local governments prompted our decision. Director of Nursing Heather Callaghan took the lead, keeping the Avon Old Farms COVID-19 task force and community aware of the constantly changing information. Her insight, along with conversations with area private schools, led to many invaluable discussions. Callaghan’s leadership was and continues to be integral. A few days later, Headmaster Detora decided to postpone classes for three weeks after the conclusion of spring break, which would have required students and faculty to return on April 13. This gave us a chance to evaluate developing information and time to communicate with our community, make informed decisions moving forward, and, most important, create an online academic strategy. Hindsight is always 20/20, and the decisions to cancel the athletic trips and delay the reopening of school impacted our community, but we were straightforward about hoping we would return this spring. On the morning of March 17, Headmaster Detora announced that the school would close for the remainder of the academic year and that the entire program would move to an online platform. Making that decision was not easy, but we did it to protect the safety and health of our community, which has always been paramount at school.