April 6, 2020
Dear Putney Parents,
We are in our second week of virtual school, and are amazed to have already become so accustomed to something we could scarcely have imagined a month ago. We will adjust and improve as we go along, but I’m proud of our faculty and so impressed by our students’ practical and optimistic approach to something that was not anybody’s choice. In addition to academic classes, many students are engaging in evening arts, and there is an increasing number of virtual community activities coming from all directions.
We are proceeding with our usual calendar of electing and selecting student leaders. This is a wonderful demonstration of student responsibility and agency. Students know that it matters who fills these positions, and they take the process very seriously. Not everyone can get the position they aspire to, and it will be different this year when the elation and the disappointments are similarly cooped up at home. If your child is willing to talk with you about what leadership position they may aspire to, you may learn a lot about how they see themselves in the community.
We have 23 students still on campus, and they are doing a great job of adapting to our social distancing protocols and being part of the virtual classes. It may be that some will be able to return home at some point during the spring, but we expect to have a number still here through the end of the school year. So far as we know we are all healthy, and Vermont is being very intelligent about its approach to the pandemic. A new testing center has opened at Landmark College in Putney, and although we expect cases locally to grow, we feel lucky to be where we are.
Some of you have asked how Putney is faring financially, and I am glad to be able to say that we are built on a very solid foundation. We have a decent endowment and a smart investment committee, which predicted a crash some months ago and pulled out of anything risky. At this point we have lost very little of our endowment, which is invested in socially responsible (ESG) funds. We have also been very fiscally conservative over the years, and have almost no debt. Although well before this pandemic it was already predicted that many boarding schools and colleges won’t make it through the next five years, we are confident that we will be ok, and perhaps even stronger.
Our operations and expenses continue much as usual, in spite of the fact that many students are learning from home. Our people being our biggest assets, salaries are our biggest expenditure, and the teachers and support staff are all still here. Nevertheless, if your circumstances have changed significantly and you feel unable to meet the tuition at this point, please do be in touch with Randy Smith in the Business Office to make a plan.
We have our annual Admissions Revisit Day tomorrow. It will be challenging to give prospective students the sense of Putney’s community and spirit without having them here. We have designed sessions of combined teachers and students presenting on:
- Learning at Putney (progressive education theory and practice, project weeks)
- All Things Art (visual, performing, academic classes and evening arts)
- Boarding School Life (dorm life, food, weekends, health and safety)
- All Things Land (work program, land use, sustainability, farm)
- Leadership and Social Justice
As always, the majority of our new students each year come to us through word of mouth from current families and our alumni. Thank you for all the good candidates you have sent our way, and don’t stop now!
We are working on plans for Family Weekend; I can’t give you a clear calendar yet, but will be back in touch soon with the agenda. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or ideas.
All the best to all of you, and thank you,
Emily H. Jones
Head of School