Dear Seniors,

As you know, the COVID-19 situation is constantly developing, presenting different decision points and new issues daily.  I write because I cannot speak to you as I might in chapel, and because we all miss you and I am proud to tell you that.  I also want to report on operations and decisions.

Peddie Today

The launch of Canvas classes seems to have gone well; Ms. Rodrigue and I have received enthusiastic messages from parents and faculty, and the faculty themselves report that our students are responding well to the different format.  This has gone as well as it has because your teachers, department chairs, Ms. Rodrigue, Ms. Miller, and the technology support team spent the spring break planning and preparing for it to go well.  It’s going well because everyone is adapting approaches and schedules. Make no mistake, however, everyone would much rather be here with each other. 

We are taking social distancing seriously at Peddie. During the day, when I pass someone on campus, we remain apart, waving and speaking in what mariners would call a “hailing” voice. We enjoy a conversation at a distance of at least six feet.  Inside, I can walk through the classroom buildings and see (through their classroom doors) some teachers who prefer to work from their classrooms, but most (like all Peddie employees who can) are working from their residences. The few (less than five now) boarders who have been here and a number of faculty and staff have been getting “grab-and-go” meals from the dining hall so that no one sits at the same table.  The technology office, security office, Peddie Food Service , and Building Services are the most obviously lively spots because several of these community members can do their jobs only on campus.

The campus is buzzing with the stream of energy flowing back and forth between teachers here and students at their laptops around the world. I know the same is true between and among your class, as it is between and among us. But when I step out the front door of Annenberg, I rarely see anyone. It’s also silent but for the breeze, the birds, and the Turnpike traffic. The extraordinary quiet of the campus and the continuous conversations taking place across the internet are juxtaposed at that moment against the backdrop of the place you know so well.  Those are tough moments for me.  

 

Mr. Onion is working on a virtual chapel program with Mr. Krieger.  The DOSE continues. Advisors are in contact with advisees. You are writing encouragement to each other, as individuals and as groups. I’ve seen posts from seniors that bring tears of both pride and heartbreak to my eyes. We all yearn for spring as we expected it to be – shared on campus.  We all mourn that we’ve been dealt a different spring.

 

Peddie Looking Ahead

I think it’s important to share my honest assessment of both where the situation is for schools, and where Peddie is. At the moment, medical and public health experts predict eight more weeks until the number of confirmed cases in the United States peaks.  States of emergency exist in Hightstown, New Jersey, and the United States.  Restrictions on movement and public gatherings are increasing as well.  Unless the trends reverse quickly, it’s unlikely that we will be allowed to resume classes on campus April 14. And if those predictions stand, by the time people feel safe to travel and gather freely, it may be impractical to restart on-campus classes at all this spring.

 

I remain optimistically cautious: safety must come first, but if the predictions and the reality change, we want to be able to move as quickly as reasonable to bring everyone back together, within six feet of each other, to reconnect in the way we all want to. I have set April 1 as the date by which we must make a decision about returning to campus on the 14th

 

Our immediate priorities are (1) the completion of the academic term and (2) the celebration of Commencement 2020 - your Commencement. We will make decisions regarding non-academic events based on those priorities; we will postpone or cancel other events which cannot be held on campus and on schedule; we will attempt virtual events as possible (the first experiment with Zoom chapel could be this week!). By May 1 we will need to decide if Commencement can take place May 24.  Most importantly, it is my personal pledge to you that we will provide a festive, in-person, and on-campus commencement for your class, even if we are prevented from doing it on May 24. 

 

I read Angela Silvi’s message to you from earlier this week, and I spoke to John Sussek and Julia Patella yesterday.  I want to share that the tone of my conversation with Julia and John was simultaneously realistic and hopeful, and it was a gift in and of itself. And I want to repeat some of Angela’s advice: Check-in on each other. Facetime each other. Stay home. Wash your hands. Stay positive. This is a difficult situation for all of us. Crossing my fingers to see you all again in 08520, and to be able to do a final ala viva with you.

 

Yours in anticipation,

 

PAQ

 

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Peter A. Quinn P '15, '18, '21