As whispers of a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases began circulating national news media, the Deerfield community has been forced to confront the possibility that students will not return to campus in the fall. Assistant Head of School for Student Life Amie Creagh confirmed that Deerfield is “indeed planning carefully for a variety of contingencies, including a second wave of the virus.”
The uncertainty of future plans is not a problem exclusive to Deerfield. Most schools around the country face similar challenges. Some large universities such as those in the California State University system predicted that their students would not return for the fall of 2020, reported CNN. On the other hand, some major universities, such as the University of North Carolina and Texas Tech University, show promise of holding classes on campus this fall.
For the graduating Class of 2020, however, beginning school in September is not their only concern. COVID-19 has robbed them of the opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments with friends and family. Dr. Austin has ensured the senior class that the school is making plans to honor them.
Deerfield’s administration is working with the Student Body Co-Presidents, Kareena Bahkta ’20, and Irvin Li ’20, and Student Council Chair, Whitney Vogt ’20, to make these hopes a reality. Vogt said, “We met with the committee about 4-5 times and discussed what the seniors wanted to do if [we] return in August.”
According to Ms. Creagh, one idea that has been proposed is to hold “Senior Days” during this summer. A committee of seniors are working alongside Vogt, Bhakta, and Li to plan these events. Ms. Creagh shared a poll that asked seniors which weekends this summer, ranging from early August to mid-August, would work best as a return date for celebrations for them and their potential guests. The seniors were also asked to rank the top four activities they’d like to see included in their potential return to campus this summer. The choices were: “BBQ at the River, Senior Cry, Senior Prom, an informal dance with a DJ in lieu of Prom, Baccalaureate, Senior Dance with parents and guardians and a DJ, Senior and Faculty Dinner, or ‘other.’”
In the case that “local state or federal restrictions limit the scope of what’s possible this summer,” Ms. Creagh asked if seniors “would rather return just for Commencement or wait until later so a fuller program of events (the Cry, BBQ, etc.) is possible.”
Some seniors expressed their top choices of events they’d like to see if a return in August is possible. Post-graduate student Deandre Ortiz ’20 chose the four events he’d like to happen as Prom, Baccalaureate, Senior Dance with parents, and a BBQ at the river.
Some seniors reflected on their choice for the second question about returning sooner for Commencement or later for more events. Ortiz said, “I’d rather go back for graduation because I’m going to school in California, and I’m not sure if everything will work out at a later time. Also, I did five years of high school already, so I don’t want to prolong the celebration. It would downplay my accomplishments if they postponed.” Darrel Dartey ’20 echoed a similar sentiment, saying, “I would want to go back just for graduation and not really the other stuff because I feel like quarantine gave me the time to truly reflect and cherish all my Deerfield experiences and now I’m ready to move on.”
Others have expressed their different wishes for how these events would play out as well. “I just want to see the class of 2020 one more time, and corona honestly made me learn the most about gratitude and taking things for granted,” said Soo Oh ’20.“I took our grade for granted, and now I’m so sad, so I don’t really care about the celebration, but I just want to be back with the family.”
Though the return to campus is uncertain for all students, the administration has expressed that they care deeply and are working to make plans for our safe return, and for the class of 2020, plans for proper celebrations. “Dr. Austin will share the details of our work in communications to students and families over the course of the early summer,” assured Ms. Creagh.