Editorial: Thanks for the sacrifices

As Middlebury College ends the school year and graduates of the Class of 2021 leave our midst, let us take a moment to recognize what these students — and all faculty and staff at the college — have sacrificed for the past 15 months in an extraordinary effort to keep the community safe during this pandemic.

It’s a story of insightful planning, bolstered by adept responses by the administration and faculty to adopt remote learning last spring, cancel language and summer school, and adopt a hybrid sort of school year this past fall and spring with many restrictions on students and wisely having students go home at Thanksgiving through January term to avoid the COVID-19 spike that effected so much of the country). When Middlebury College students came back to classes in late February the worst of the spike was waning and students were greeted to a warmer than usual March and declining cases statewide through the end of this semester. By graduation there was a grateful sense of normalcy.

That college officials reacted quickly to send students home to learn remotely, and judged correctly when to bring them back to campus while avoiding outbreaks wasn’t luck. Rather, they studied the science thoroughly and acted accordingly.

But it was the students at Middlebury College who followed the plan precisely. The results prove the point: In the 2020-2021 school year, from last September to graduation this past weekend, only 12 students and 10 staff contracted the virus, and they were quickly isolated and recovered. That the college was able to isolate those few infections was due to conducting more than 50,000 tests for Covid-19 this school year. For a college community of almost 3,500 to have such a low rate of infection is a testament to how thoroughly the college carried out a masterful plan — and to how faithfully students adhered to it.

And let’s not forget the doubt that it could be so. Citizens, including a vocal group of faculty, argued loudly last summer that bringing students back to campus was sure to spread the virus and bring tragic consequences to the community. Students were unlikely, they said, to adhere to such strict rules.

What the community witnessed, however, was an exemplary display of discipline, caring and respect for the rules that would protect not just the campus community but also the broader community.

In the end, Middlebury and Addison County would have one of the lowest rates of infection in Vermont, and in the country. That couldn’t have happened without a good plan — thanks to President Laurie Patton, a special thanks to Chief Health Officer and College Physician Mark Peluso, and others in the administration — but also a herculean effort by civic-minded students. The greater-Middlebury area owes a most grateful tip of our hats to their efforts and sacrifices, and a welcome mat for their return at any and all stages of their lives.

Angelo Lynn

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