Disappointing News to Share

Dear Students and Families,

I usually open my letters to you with comforting words from some of my favorite nature writers. With this one, I wondered if Winston Churchill or JFK had any words for tough times, and I know they did. They were inspirational speakers and leaders. But instead, I fell back on my own voice and heart.

I have disappointing news to share: The leadership of Vermont Academy, working with the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, has decided that remote learning will now extend through the entire spring trimester. We will not open campus for the remainder of the academic year.

Our international students should return home as soon as possible. People will have much more support at home if they become ill and need to isolate. U.S. government agencies recently issued guidance regarding COVID-19 adjustments to academic programs and maintenance of visa status. The guidance allows for greater flexibility than usual. Please contact Assistant Head of School Dave Hodgson if you are not able to travel home.

This decision has been extremely difficult to make, but it is consistent with our core beliefs.
Each member of the Vermont Academy community:
  • Acts with the highest level of honesty and integrity.
  • Considers the impact of their actions, on both the immediate and world community, for the benefit of present and future generations.
We need to stay closed to protect the health of our students, faculty, staff, neighbors, and all of their families. All of your families. This is what we have to do.

Here's how fast our world has changed.

On March 6 faculty gathered in Chivers for Student Review. At that time, our biggest worry was for our Chinese students who could not travel home for Spring Break.

On March 11, just 5 days later, our Federal government shut our borders to European countries, and our thoughts immediately went out to our other international students who had travelled home thinking they would be safe until they returned to our campus.

On March 15, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started advising against gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. The CDC allowed exceptions for schools because public schools provided meals and safe and healthy places for children. It was unthinkable for people to close a city’s schools, never mind the schools in an entire state.

Later that same day, Vermont Governor Phil Scott ordered all Vermont Schools to close until at least April 6.

The unthinkable has now happened. As of today:
  • Forty-seven states have closed all public schools
  • Twenty-six of those states required private schools to close as well.
  • Two states have required all public and private schools to close for the entire year.
  • Five states have closed schools indefinitely.
Yesterday, Governor Scott effectively shut down all non-essential businesses and nonprofits in Vermont until April 15. Vermonters have been directed to stay at home or in their place of residence, leaving only for essential reasons like maintaining critical infrastructure; groceries or medicine; curbside pick-up of goods, meals or beverages; medical care; exercise; and care of others. All businesses and not-for-profit entities must suspend all in-person business operations. Schools will continue to be closed.

We’ve spent a lot of time considering the impact of COVID-19 on our community. Despite all of our hopes and best wishes, the public health data trends are not good. We firmly believe that Vermont Academy should act in accordance with the CDC’s 8-week recommendation for social distancing. That would allow us to reopen on May 18 at the earliest. That would be just two weeks before the end of the spring trimester. And we do not know if the State of Vermont will allow us to open then.

While the news that I share today is sobering and likely expected, I also want to say that there is always an opportunity in every crisis, both for you personally and for us as a school. I have received emails and pictures from students. I know that our students wanted to return, and I am heartsick about the fact that seniors will not have their spring traditions here on our campus.

I know you have many questions. For example, what about commencement? Well, our seniors and PGs have earned that walk across South Lawn, and I want to give them that opportunity. Some schools are cancelling commencement, but some are scheduling theirs for later in the summer before college starts. We want to offer graduation and will do so at the appropriate and feasible time.

This decision brings about so many challenges. We’re setting up a website to try to answer as many questions as possible. In the meantime, please email questions and concerns to the following people:
We have so many important matters to deal with right now. First and foremost, we're focused on giving our students the best education they can get.

We, at Vermont Academy, are missing students every day, and we will enjoy the classes and other ways in which we will communicate through virtual community. Each and every one of our students is known, valued, and honored by our entire community, and is with great sadness that I have to share this message.

There will, however, be great days to come, and we will welcome back our returning students, stay connected to graduates, and move forward with strength and courage.

Thank you for your understanding and patience. Please stay healthy!


Dr. Jennifer L. Zaccara

Head of School

Education for Life - One Student at a Time

Vermont Academy is a coed college preparatory boarding and day school in southern Vermont, serving grades 9-12 plus a postgraduate year.