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A Return to Normality

Today, as I stood on East 83rd Street welcoming trustees, seniors, faculty and staff gathering for donuts and coffee, I was struck by how normal it felt. Our seniors, who had risen early to watch the sunrise as they have in years past, celebrated their last exams at Brearley. Faculty and staff chatted as they compared their plans for spring break. It was a moment of wonderful togetherness.

It felt light-years away from March 2020. On the Sunday evening before the second week of exams, Brearley closed school. Looking back, it clearly was the right call. Case numbers were rising in the city and we were beginning to understand that systems were not yet in place to manage a Covid-19 outbreak. I remember the conference call during which administrators, trustees and medical professionals weighed the information we had against the prospect of exposing members of our community to, at the time, a little-understood virus. It was hard to imagine canceling exams, let alone moving the program online for about six weeks, which seemed inconceivable at the time. But we could not deny the information we had received, so we made the decision to cancel exams. We then dedicated the week to transitioning to remote learning, to which we would return after spring break. 

Since then, the School has made many more seemingly impossible decisions about school life: program, schedule, facilities, vaccinations, food, athletics, proms, testing, Last Day, masking. Only with time and reflection will we fully appreciate the contributions made by members of this community over these last years.  

The broader impact of this pandemic also will take time to understand. Two years ago, we joined our pods, our Zoom rooms and screens; we turned kitchen tables into classrooms; and in the name of flattening the curve and keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe, we isolated and connected via technology. 

Now, it feels like we are entering a new phase, and it is time to knit the pieces of our community back together. It’s been terrific to see many of you in person over the past few weeks, forging new relationships, rekindling old ones and building empathy, face-to-face. Spending time with each other will help us develop a stronger, more connected school community.  

When we come back from spring break, we will have several more opportunities to gather and resume beloved Brearley traditions, such as the Benefit, Field Day, class trips, art shows, the Science Symposium and Last Day. I look forward to seeing you at these community events. 

I encourage us all to use this time to reset, recharge and rest so we can fully engage upon our return. I wish you a peaceful and safe break.  

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