Since this issue of our newsletter is devoted to independent schools, I thought I would relate to you my own experience at such schools, otherwise known as prep schools.
When I was fourteen I was a most unlikely candidate for prep school. I had never heard of one. All four of my grandparents, Italian immigrants, hadn’t gone much beyond maybe a first year in high school in the old country. Of the twelve children they raised (six on each side of my family), only two went to college. A prep school education was something that just wasn’t discussed at home.
Then things changed. My best friend convinced me that, for a number of reasons, we should both go to one and off we went – I to The Taft School in Watertown and my friend to The Gunnery in Washington.
What I remember most is how very structured and rigorous the education was. Classes were held six days a week. Study halls every evening were mandatory. In between class and study time, everyone was expected to participate in a sport at some level, or to demonstrate one’s talent in a drama production or in a singing group, or to provide a community service to a needy group. But perhaps the most significant opportunity was associating with students from almost every state in America and numerous foreign countries. It was a tremendously broadening experience.
One of the things that attracted me to Taft in the first place was the look of the campus with its brick buildings and stately architecture. Never did I expect in those early prep school days that O&G would have a chance to make a mark on that campus, but through a period of two decades, O&G built five major buildings for the school.
The company has gone on to do many major projects for independent schools: Miss Porter’s, The Hotchkiss School, The Gunnery, Kent School, Berkshire School, The Loomis Chaffee School, The Millbrook School, Canterbury School and Choate Rosemary Hall. The common feature of all of the projects, whether it be a dormitory or a hockey rink, a theater or a green biomass power plant, is the high quality of the design chosen by the schools. The architects have all been first class. Their buildings have been designed to last using materials of the highest quality. It has been a pleasure for O&G to have become a part of their community.
I now shift gears to the unusual reality we all find ourselves in as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic and ponder its implications, at least in the short term and for prep schools in particular. Until a vaccine is found for the disease, we know the most effective measure to prevent its spread is social distancing – a concept that is anathema to the prep school experience. As I described, all students are expected to go to class together, play sports together, or participate in other extracurricular activities together – indeed live in close proximity together all school year long.
These schools are run by talented administrators and faculty under the governance of very experienced men and women who sit on their boards. I am confident that they have figured out what is best for their institutions to insure the health and safety of their student populations so that those students may enjoy the same wonderful opportunities I had when it was my turn.
In the meantime, I want all of the private and public schools at which O&G now works to know that our company and workers are very sensitive to the COVID-19 situation, are trained in mitigation and exercise best practices at all times. We have the same concerns as you.
Gregory Oneglia, Vice Chairman