Fall Term and the 2020/2021 School Year Scroll down to review information and updates regarding the upcoming school year at Deerfield Academy.

A Message from Head of School John Austin

Dear Deerfield Families:

I write to you with my congratulations on the completion of an extraordinary spring term, as well as to thank you for your support, patience, and goodwill during these last weeks. Roiled by pandemic and protest, the United States faces unprecedented challenges. I doubt that any Deerfield student body has faced a term like the one that recently ended, but ours has done so with character and grace.

We are excited to bring our returning students back and to welcome our new students to Deerfield in September, and I want to use the opportunity of this letter to outline our preparations for the opening of school—the first in a series of updates that my senior team and I will provide over the summer. Throughout the last months we have sought the advice of experts in the fields of public health, medicine, and education, and we conferred closely with local and state officials, including members of Governor Baker's Reopening Advisory Board, which in turn recently received recommendations from the Massachusetts Higher Education Working Group. These conversations have been wide-ranging, and they have shaped our thinking for the coming year as we respond to evolving state guidelines and best practices and track the emerging science on COVID-19.

Our preparations for fall have been guided not only by the strong desire of parents and students to return to campus in September as scheduled; they are also informed by Deerfield’s deepest educational values and our commitment to preserving the Deerfield Experience.

All of our work and every decision we make is focused on two essential priorities:

Supporting and protecting community health;
Fulfilling the promise of our mission as a school uniquely committed to educational excellence and a powerful and embracing sense of community.

The modifications we have made to our existing program will deepen our sense of community and connection to one another, as well as preserve and extend face-to-face learning. Most importantly, our approach will allow our students to be on campus together when we are in session.

Highlights include: a carefully designed strategy for screening, testing, and retesting; single rooms for all boarding students (and additional “de-densifying” and cohorting strategies); a revised calendar featuring an extended winter break and a new “D-Term;” and a modified academic schedule that will support deep learning and enable a smooth pivot to online learning should that prove necessary. Some of these modifications are described in greater detail below, and further details will be forthcoming.

Community Health

As we look to the fall, we will seek to protect the health of students and staff—especially those most vulnerable to infection—with overlapping layers of protection. These will relax as the public health landscape allows (and tighten should that prove necessary). Next week, we will provide additional details on our comprehensive approach to health safety and ask parents to confirm that they have reviewed and completed a waiver focused on COVID-19. Each of the measures outlined below by itself is imperfect, but together, and working in support of one another, we expect them to be highly effective in reducing the risk of infection. They include:

A Robust Testing Program:

This will likely include saliva testing of students prior to their arrival on campus, confirmation saliva testing upon arrival, and sentinel testing periodically throughout the Fall Term.

  • To support these efforts, we will also substantially increase the capacity of our newly-built D.S. Chen Health and Wellness Center by adding a second, separate health center in the renovated Dewey House; it will include separate space for screening, testing, and supportive isolation, if needed.
  • All of our current health protocols and practices are being reviewed and appropriately updated to meet the unique challenges this moment presents.
  • New rituals of hygiene for employees and students, mechanisms for the regular self-reporting of symptoms, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high- touch areas will be instituted throughout campus.
One of three private exam rooms in the newly-built D.S. Chen Health and Wellness Center. The center also includes a 12-bed infirmary and four private rooms for overnight stays.

It is likely that students, faculty, and staff will be required to wear masks for some portion of each day. This policy is currently under development and will be in keeping with Massachusetts state guidelines.

Engineering and Administrative Controls

A number of weeks ago, we engaged Environmental Health and Engineering—engineering and environmental health and safety experts—to audit all aspects of campus operations and facilities and to offer recommendations in the areas of biosafety, ventilation, and building science. Public spaces on campus—the Dining Hall, the Greer, the Hess and Koch centers, and all of our classrooms—will have a new look this fall. Our goal is to redesign those spaces to provide comfortable, welcoming places where students can gather in friendship, learn, and continue the tradition of sit-down meals together, while promoting appropriate social distancing practices as required by Massachusetts state guidelines. We are also exploring ways to make the best possible use of our outdoor spaces in order to create additional opportunities for us to gather.

Access of Campus

Although we can never fully “bubble” our campus—day students and some staff members will continue to come and go—we will take steps to minimize traffic on and off campus.

  • The majority of our administrative staff will continue to work remotely, as they have been since March.
  • In addition to daily reporting and screening of symptoms, staff and day students coming on and off campus will likely be tested more frequently.
  • As the Fall Term begins, we will limit student travel off campus during weekends, and in keeping with past years, visits from family will be limited as students settle into the daily rhythms of life on campus.
  • We have revised our annual calendar (see a list of key dates below) to allow for a longer winter break, which will begin immediately before Thanksgiving.
  • We are introducing a new opportunity for all students—“D-Term.” Details on that program will be forthcoming, but it will take place remotely during the month of December.
Protocols for Social Distancing and Cohorting

It is clear that decreasing the density of dorms, indoor spaces, and classrooms is a critically important step in reducing the risk of infection. To that end, we will provide single rooms for all boarding students and create family units or dorm “squads” on each hallway. (Further detail is provided below in Assistant Head of School Amie Creagh's letter.) In addition, we will teach smaller classes in larger spaces, and we have adopted a new modular academic schedule (please see below). Students will carry—and complete—two year-long classes in each of our three terms.

The Academic Program

Of all the modifications we are organizing for the coming school year, the restructuring of our academic schedule might be the most surprising to you. From our perspective, it is the most exciting. We chose this “modular approach” after studying a range of models and after long consultation with other educators at both the collegiate and secondary levels, including Independent School Management—a comprehensive management-support firm since 1975 for independent schools in the United States and abroad. We believe a modular structure will serve each student exceptionally well and meet the unique challenges this health crisis poses to residential schools. Longer class periods will provide time for more in-depth and varied teaching methods. By reducing the number of classes students take over the course of the day and cohorting them into smaller classes, we limit the number of “effective contacts” any student has on a daily basis, thereby allowing us to more easily trace and manage a positive diagnosis on campus should that prove necessary.

More importantly, it will also open new possibilities for teaching and learning. It will allow each student to take a sixth course, offer opportunities for acceleration within disciplines, and, for older students, provide time for interdisciplinary study and directed inquiry. For our younger students, this schedule offers opportunity for amplified personalization, differentiation, individualized support, and frequent feedback.

Faculty will be teaching no more than two sections of their particular subject, and will have fewer students in any given term, allowing them to cultivate even stronger individual relationships with students—long a hallmark of a Deerfield education. Concurrently, the pace and intensity of the Academy’s standard seven-period academic schedule has long been a source of concern. Based on the research we have studied, we hypothesize that this new schedule has the potential to improve our students’ academic achievement and well-being. Over the year, we will collect feedback from students and faculty, and we are working to identify an educational researcher who can study our approach and give us quantifiable results.

Remote Learning

Our goal is more than simply starting school in the fall; it is to remain on campus throughout the school year. However, should a shift to remote learning prove necessary due to circumstances beyond our control, we believe that carrying two—rather than five or six courses during a term—will better support student learning by reducing their cognitive load, and will allow faculty to pivot to online teaching more fluidly and with minimal disruption to their lesson plans.

For students who cannot begin the year on campus for reasons of travel or hardship, or for those who, over the course of the year, may need to isolate or quarantine, we have put in place flexible arrangements to provide remote access to our educational program and significantly upgraded our classroom technology.

Physics teacher Megan Hayes-Golding has been appointed Assistant Dean for Online Learning. Megan has been teaching online since 1998. In her first webinars, she taught fellow engineers to use machine vision software. Later, in 2012, she founded Global Math Department, an online professional development organization that continues to share weekly PD with math teachers all over the world. In addition to supporting those students who need to learn remotely for any portion of the year, Megan will lead our efforts in implementing new and emerging practices in online education and instructional design.


For our faculty, the unexpected move to remote learning this past Spring Term was in some ways challenging, but it also allowed them to deepen their craft and explore new modes of instruction. Now, they are eager to connect, once again, face-to-face, and they are already hard at work modifying courses for our new schedule and exploring the creative possibilities it offers. To prepare for the year, we have built around them a robust summer program of professional development so that their revised courses will meet the needs of both younger and older students.

Next Steps

There are, of course, some things we simply do not know at this date. We do not, for example, know when we will be able to resume School Meetings and gatherings in person (though we wish to do so as soon as that is possible, and will continue with our virtual versions of these in the meantime). We do not know if we will be able to gather for Fall Family Weekend. Nor do we know if there will be interscholastic athletics competition in the fall. These decisions are informed in large part by state mandates, which of course we will abide by. Hopeful but prepared, we are developing a more varied menu of on-campus cocurriculars for students, including an intramural athletics program, elite training for our college-bound varsity athletes, and a range of outdoor, service, and arts opportunities. Athletic Director and Cocurricular Committee Chair Bob Howe will have more to say about these during our June 17 Zoom forum and in future communications.

Finally, at this time there are a couple of items we need your assistance with:

To support our overarching health strategy, we will be asking every student to identify a site—off campus and within driving distance of the Academy—where they may safely and comfortably quarantine should that prove necessary. We know that this may be difficult for some families, and we are eager to partner with you to find a solution that works for all of our students. We have created a short form to collect this information. You will see a link to the Off-Campus Accommodations Form on the main DAinfo page under your student's photo. The information you provide is important and confidential, and we appreciate your cooperation and timely response.

Every student will receive a request from Academic Dean Ivory Hill’s office today, asking for additional information about course preferences for next year. This, too, is important, since student interest will shape our approach to staffing. Students will also receive an email from Assistant Head of School for Student Life Amie Creagh with a form regarding next year's housing selections; they must submit this form by July 1.

I am sure this letter has raised some questions for you and your student. In an effort to anticipate and answer some of those, we have prepared this set of “FAQs,” which may be accessed below. Please know that the FAQs will be added to on a biweekly basis over the summer months, and a link will be provided in each issue of the Deerfield Families FYI.

Assistant Head of School for Student Life Amie Creagh, Academic Dean Ivory Hills, Athletic Director Bob Howe, and I have also scheduled a “DA Parent and Guardian Forum” via Zoom for tomorrow evening, Wednesday, June 17, at 8:00 pm (EDT). For those unable to join tomorrow evening, we will provide a link to the recording of the forum on the Deerfield Parents Network website afterward. Access to the live forum may be found here:

In the meantime, please review the supporting materials below, and please know that we will be in frequent contact over the summer via the Deerfield Families FYI, which you will continue to receive on a biweekly basis as you do during the school year. My team and I are also available to answer your questions in as timely a manner as possible, and we are eager to partner with you and your children for an outstanding year.

In a recent roundtable, the president of Rollins College described the “transformative” dimension of residential education. Since the Boydens, Deerfield has always been uniquely committed to transformative teaching and learning. The necessary shift to online learning—and the events of the past weeks—have reaffirmed for me the unique power and the potential of residential learning. When we are together, our students have the opportunity to forge enduring and transformative relationships with mentors and teachers. They have the opportunity to express friendship and care for others across the boundaries of race, nationality, and background. They are asked to expand their powers of empathy and moral concern, to honor the differences that define each of us, and to learn from those differences in dialogue, conversation, and community.

Together, at the beginning of each year, we create anew a powerful sense of belonging for each of our students, and reaffirm a community where young people can grow in confidence and character. That is the challenge of every school year, and the challenge that matters most, especially now. It is one that, I know, our students stand ready to meet.

The coming school year will be different than years past, and it will undoubtedly demand a bit more from each of us. But with the leadership of our students and our rising seniors, I have full confidence that we will, as we do every year, create a community that allows each of us to express, reach for, and achieve our best selves and collective aspirations.

With my best regards,

Please join us for a DA Parent and Guardian Forum:

Wednesday, June 17, 8:00pm (EDT)

Dr. Austin, Ms. Creagh, and Dr. Hills will hold a Q&A session to conclude the informational webinar. You may submit questions in advance.

Webinar ID: 951 8590 1346

Password: 159497

Or iPhone one-tap : US: +13017158592,,95185901346# or +13126266799,,95185901346#

Or Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833

2020/2021 Calendar:

Please note that dates may be subject to change due to extenuating circumstances.

Students Return to Campus:

Beginning September 8, 2020 (Details to Follow)

First Day of Classes:

September 11, 2020

End of Fall Term:

November 20, 2020

First Class Day of Winter Term:

January 4, 2021

End of Winter Term:

March 12, 2021

First Class Day of Spring Term:

March 29, 2021

Last Class Day of the Year:

June 4, 2021

An Introduction to the 2020/2021 Academic Model:

Every Deerfield student will sign up for six courses and a cocurricular. They will take two classes per term and engage in their cocurricular on a daily basis.

Dear Students and Families,

I hope you are well and have established a safe, rejuvenating, and productive rhythm to the summer. We are excitedly and enthusiastically working on the details for the upcoming school year!

While planning is ongoing, I can say that it is our intention to have you on campus next year, engaged in a program that allows for deep and relevant learning from your teachers and each other. A motivation for many of our decisions is the belief that our teaching and learning are positively enhanced when we are together.

To all students, both returning and new, I want to express how much I am looking forward to having you on campus in the fall. As a student body you are routinely vibrant, curious, and earnest in your learning, and I’ve missed you. The Academy and my office will continue to communicate with you over the summer, so that we can all be prepared for a fall program that preserves the best of Deerfield and allows us to be together.

Students: Please be on the lookout for an email from my office regarding your course selections for Fall Term. It will detail some steps we need to take over the next week.

Warmest regards,

Ivory D. Hills

Academic Dean

Dear Students and Families,

Did you ever see High School Musical? Remember Troy and Gabriella? I loved the whole series; I even had the karaoke CDs! Even with my keen interest, I never thought HSM would find relevance beyond 2006, and yet the Wildcats have resurfaced now, more than a decade later. “We’re all in this together” has taken on new significance and new meaning.

And it’s this mantra–both facile and poignant– that undergirds our efforts to return to campus in the fall. Never before have our community bonds been so important; we must work together to stay together.

As Dr. Austin mentions in his letter, we’ll adopt a health strategy that prioritizes de-densification, social distancing, and “cohorting” to help meet this shared goal of being—and staying—together. It will require some modifications to residential life, of course, but it also offers some exciting opportunities.


We’re moving to a singles-only model; all boarding students will have their own rooms. This new approach necessitates a reconfiguration of some of our dorms, so, returning students, you’ll need to resubmit your housing preference form by July 1. (Your “lottery” numbers, assigned by Mr. Bakker and Mr. Lawlor, will remain.) We’ve adapted the form to reflect new choices for each cohort. Juniors and seniors, please note that Bewkes will house either older boys or older girls. We’ll know for certain later in the summer.

New students, we in the Student Life Office always work with our friends in Admission to find the right housing for you, and we'll continue to follow that practice.

Class of 2024, to provide you with singles, you’ll now have two dorm options—not just the Ninth-Grade Village. Johnson and Mather will house ninth-grade girls; Doubleday and Scaife will house ninth-grade boys. Admission will help us with those assignments, too.

Proctors and Peer Counselors, we recognize this will represent a change for some of you. Mr. Bicknell and Dr. Brown will reach out to you in the coming days.


To promote cohorting, which fosters connections for small groups of students, we’ll create “squads” by hall. The corridor has always served as the foundation for residential life at Deerfield, and this year it will take on additional significance. Through shared meals and similar schedules, for example, this structure will allow for deep, meaningful relationships among students.

Day students, you’ll be enfolded into squads in one of two ways: Returning students will submit a preference form later in the summer; new day students will be assigned to a hall by the Student Life Office.

Recognizing the importance of each squad’s composition, we’ll take extra time this summer for boarder housing and day student affiliation assignments. You should plan to receive yours in mid- to late August.

Proctors and Peer Counselors, you will play important roles in this new model, and we’re eager for your partnership. Please keep an eye out for a follow-up email from me inviting you to participate in the next phase of our planning.

Student Activities, Clubs and Alliances:

Requirements for social distancing, de-densification, and cohorting will require that we modify some of our social events.

Student Programs Committee members: Along with Ms. Dolan, Mr. Laprade, and Mr. Watson, Mr. Barbato is looking forward to working with you to adapt some of our current activities and also to consider new opportunities.

They’re collaborating to get student clubs and alliances up and running as well, so those, too, might serve as virtual points of connection, even before we return to campus. The Club Fair, for example, is likely to take place in the coming weeks via Zoom.

Dining and Sit-Down Meals:

Health and safety will drive some of our modifications to dining in the fall, though the fundamentals of sit-down meals and good food will remain. Mr. McCarthy, Director of Food Services, and his team envision creative ways to continue those important Deerfield traditions. They’ll also provide regular “feeds” and "snack kits" for squads on halls, and those kits will include favorites like pumpkin chocolate chip cookies and vegan brownies!

Mr. McCarthy will look to the Food Committee for their input, so, members, please stay tuned!

“For the Community Good”

Each year, the Student Life Office hosts a Student Life Symposium. In previous years, we’ve focused on Gender, Mindfulness, Gratitude, and the Habits of Humility. Appropriately, we think, the Student Life Symposium for 2020 - 2021 will be “For the Community Good.”

Each of us will have an important role to play in the Symposium, and your role, as students, will be particularly impactful. There are more of you than any other campus constituency, and, as a group, you’re the least likely to be infected by COVID-19. You will need to make sacrifices to protect the more vulnerable among us—all For the Community Good.

Even though it will be hard sometimes (handwashing gets tiresome; closeness is often better than distance), we have the utmost confidence in your ability to meet this challenge. We know you understand that our treatment of the vulnerable is the truest representation of who we are as a community. For them, you can be a legion of protector heroes. You’ll already have the masks!

And, of course, adhering to health and safety requests might also mean that we can stay together all year. This, too, must be a worthy motivator.

You’ll continue to hear from me in the weeks and months to come. Until our next correspondence, I hope you all remain safe and well.

With warmest wishes,

Ms. Creagh

We can't wait to see you this fall!