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Deerfield Welcomes Families for Graduation
Kaitlyn Xia '24 Staff Writer
May 24, 2021

After a long year of maintaining a closed campus, Deerfield plans to welcome parents and guests of the class of 2021 to celebrate Commencement alongside the rest of the community on May 30th. Although there will be modifications due to COVID-19, the administration plans to uphold the Academy’s long-standing tradition as one of the final events of this unprecedented school year.

In regards to her thoughts about the upcoming ceremony, Gabriella Hu ’21 shared, “I’m excited to have the opportunity to see my parents while being able to celebrate the end of my Deerfield career.”

Despite Commencement being a relatively large gathering, Georgia Barnes ’21 explained that she did not have any concerns. Barnes stated, “Deerfield has handled COVID extremely well so far this year, and as long as the protocols set in place are followed, everything should go smoothly.” Barnes also expressed her excitement for Commencement saying that, “I’m really happy Deerfield is prioritizing an in-person graduation, as I know a lot of schools are unable to do so this year.”

In terms of the planning behind in-person Commencement, Head of School John Austin shared that throughout the entirety of the 2020-2021 school year, Deerfield has remained committed to having an in-person Commencement. He stated, “We’ve always wanted to do as many in-person events and remain as close to established rituals and ceremonies as we could, so we followed a similar design principle for the ceremony itself now that state guidelines allow for it to happen.” 

Credit: Lily Lin

The constantly evolving state health guidelines for Massachusetts have been the main challenge facing Deerfield’s planning team. However, over spring break, Massachusetts offered further guidelines for Commencement, meaning that each graduate is allowed to invite up to six guests. To accommodate all the guests on campus while still maintaining community health, Dr. Austin explained, “We’re staying within our Healthy Deerfield guidelines and all the suggestions from our public health consultant.”

Since April of last year, Deerfield has been working with an environmental at-risk consulting firm called Environmental Health and Engineering, in order to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on campus. Dr. Austin emphasized, “They’ve been an important part of planning and have been involved with interscholastic sports and allowing parents to visit. We worked with them to develop guidelines for those events, and they’ve been working with us to plan Commencement.”

Director of Educational Initiatives David Miller said that the hope is to keep graduation not only rooted to tradition but also make it a special experience for the Class of 2021, who have experienced a senior year unlike any previous class. 

To keep everyone healthy during this event, he added, “There will be masking and distancing between people who are not in the same household. The effort is to make this a close contact free Commencement which will be achieved by having pods of each graduate’s six guests with distancing between the different pods.” Mr. Miller elaborated that there will not be any testing upon arrival, however, guests will be expected to follow Massachusetts state guidelines and to follow Healthy Deerfield guidelines such as masking and distancing. 

Director of Alumni Relations Jennifer Hammond said that while she has not had the chance to interact with the graduating class, the parents she has communicated with have all been very excited. She continued, “They’re all really thrilled that they can have up to six guests in one seating with their group. I think that the overall tone is also just gratefulness.”

With Commencement being one of the most defining moments for many seniors, many members of the Deerfield community look forward to celebrating the graduating class of 2021 in just a few weeks alongside the rest of the Academy.