Commons releases update in response to rising coronavirus cases

Hannah Han

President Rick Commons announced in a schoolwide email July 17 that summer sports practices will be suspended, and a full return to campus is less likely amid surging coronavirus cases. His statement follows California Governor Gavin Newsom’s order, which forbids campuses from reopening until Los Angeles County is taken off the California Department of Public Health’s watchlist for two weeks.

“[Newsom’s injunction] casts doubt on our planned return to campus for the start of school on [Aug. 24],” Commons said. “[His] announcement today also calls into question the viability of our optional summer athletic practices. We will suspend those practices while we seek clarification from state and local authorities regarding campus athletic activity.”

Commons said he will send an update regarding the school’s plans for the fall July 31. The administration will also hold a series of online discussions and Q&A sessions divided by grade level during the week of Aug. 3 to explain the logistics of reopening.

“Though we may need to begin the school year online, we have been planning exhaustively for a safe and responsible return to our campuses when conditions allow, and we are eager to share those plans with you,” Commons said.

Additionally, Commons said he is working with Associate Head of School Laura Ross and Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Janine Jones to establish a culture of antiracism within the school. The administration will release a plan to promote diversity July 24, Commons said.

“In discussions with students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff, the school leadership team has heard stories of inexcusable experiences of bias, microaggression and outright racism, and we have read similar accounts in emails, letters and social media postings from people of color in our community,” Commons said. “These stories have pained us and galvanized us.”

Despite the difficulties that the school is facing, Commons said he is confident the community will endure.

“These are challenging times, but Harvard-Westlake will face them with humility, determination and commitment to one another,” Commons said.