The reopening of Taft’s campus after six-months was the culmination of months of intensive planning initiatives; the constant monitoring of WHO, CDC, and state coronavirus restrictions, recommendations, and guidelines; and the deep commitment of Taft’s administration, faculty, and staff to reconnecting our community in the safest manner possible. That meant—among other things—bringing new and returning students back in phases and wading through “practice days” to be sure every eventuality had been considered. It also meant that Head of School William MacMullen ’78 delivered two opening of school addresses this year as students arrived at Taft over the course of two consecutive weeks. In both, Mr. Mac talked about the challenges this unique time in our history presents—socially, culturally, and politically. He also talked about the work that our community must to do rise to those challenges. That work brought meaningful effort and focus to the School’s commitment to building and maintain and strong, deeply connected, and welcoming community, and to the safety of Taft’s physical campus and day-to-day protocols in response to COVID-19.
A Welcoming Community
All faculty members took part in two substantial summer training programs this summer—one focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), the other focused on integrating social-emotional learning, trauma-informed education, and culturally responsive teaching to address the complex issues impacting students and educators today. Dean of Multicultural Education Andrew Prince and Associate Dean of Faculty Stephen Palmer developed the three-module DEI training for all faculty. Through video, Powerpoint, scholarly articles, reflection, and conversation with colleagues, faculty tackled a range of topics, from understanding and responding to microaggressions and microassaults to anticipating and exploring other types of marginalization or blind spots within those areas. Dean of Faculty Edie Traina and Dean of Academic Affairs Jennifer Kenerson organized the second professional development program for Taft faculty, which involved five virtual sessions led by faculty facilitators from Mount Holyoke College. The ten-hour Mount Holyoke training offered teachers and student-support faculty practical strategies to foster students’ academic and social-emotional development across in-person, hybrid, and remote settings.
Prepping Our Physical Campus
Summer is typically a time when the Taft campus becomes a construction zone: dormitories and faculty homes are renovated, classrooms are updated and upgraded, and a host of facelifts happen everywhere, indoors and out. This year, our summer work took on a new and critical focus: preparing for the safe return of our students while advancing our technologies to best meet the needs of students who are continuing their studies remotely. Hundreds of new signs, face masks, hand sanitizer dispensers, and air filters popped up across campus, along with hundreds of square feet of plexiglass, gloves, and classroom equipment.