COVID-19 Update: March 12, 2020

March 12, 2020

Dear Putney Families,

I  hope that this letter finds you all well and healthy. After considerable study and consultation, we have made some significant changes to the plans for the spring term. Our decisions are based on our responsibility to and for our students, and our duty to do what we think is likely to be in the best interest of the whole community, including all of our Putney families. Of course nobody has real clarity about how the coronavirus pandemic will play out, and we will have to stay flexible.

We are extending Spring Break until March 29th. During this time the faculty will be working together on designing our teaching and learning so we are able to hold classes remotely after the 29th. Academic classes will resume on Monday March 30th, with most students attending classes from home. We will provide the logistical information about how the technology will work as this time approaches.

We ask that students who live overseas and are not able to return home talk with our Health Center Coordinator Sara Dunbar before Wednesday, March 18. Sara will conduct a preliminary assessment to ensure that we know each student’s health situation and whether they may have been exposed to the virus. This will help us plan for their return.

Students who live in the United States are asked to remain at home until further notice, and to participate in classes remotely starting on Monday, March 30. If there are particular circumstances in your family which make it difficult for your student to stay at home, please be in touch with Karen Guttentag at

At this point we are not aware of anyone in our school community who has tested positive for the virus, but we cannot know what students and others have been exposed to over the break. We must assume that in time the virus will reach us. Our ability to care for sick students who need to be isolated on campus is limited; we are having difficulty getting enough of the protective gear that nurses and other caregivers will need, and there are a limited number of nurses available in the area. With a significantly smaller number of students on campus, we are more likely to be able to care for those who may need it, although in any case we will seek to return ill students to their families where possible.

We anticipate that you will have many questions, and we will be sending information fairly steadily in the next week, about academic planning, logistics, and all the many details that go into a situation of this complexity. Of course you are welcome to reach out if you have a question specific to your own student.

We would very much like to have all students back on campus before the end of Spring term, but we are not yet in a position to know if or when this will be possible. We also recognize that the choices we make at this time may affect individuals and communities well beyond our own, and that all decisions must therefore incorporate both local and global considerations. We ask that you are open and honest with our health center and others at the school concerning your child’s health, your family’s health, and family travel.

This is an unsettling time for everyone, and particularly for the seniors who are about to graduate. We will all, wherever we are, find creative ways to grin and bear it, and in the meantime we will be in constant communication with you all.

All the best to all of you,


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