Nik Chupkin | The Roundtable
As the Convent & Stuart Hall community gradually began to return to in-person instruction this week, students and faculty promised to adhere to safety regulations as a “new normal.”
“I worked full-time this summer and think that the procedures that the government helps institutions put into place proved to be pretty effective,” senior Miles Raneri said. “We didn’t even have one infection scare, and I’m confident in the government’s ability to make our school preserve community health.”
Students must enter the Pine/Octavia Campus through the Main Entrance and are expected to disinfect their hands at a touchless hand sanitizer dispenser upon arrival.
“It’s so good to welcome all the students back to school, and all the faculty and staff are really excited to see everyone,” administrative assistant Laura Maupin, who lets people into the building after receiving a symptom check form and verifying a negative COVID-19 test, said. “I’m just really happy that all the kids are back and we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”
Students can socialize in the Courtyard and hallways, but must keep their masks on unless they are eating, stand on “6-feet” markers placed on floors and refrain from touching one another.
“Our students are really trying their best to comply, and the issues are mostly ones of forgetfulness, and we just fall into routines that are normal,” Michael Buckley, Chair of Community Life, said. “My bottom line recommendation is to look for the dots on the ground, and if you’re standing on a dot, you’re probably okay.”
Administrators say they are glad to facilitate the school community’s in-person reopening.
“I’ve really enjoyed being around some kids again, and I hope that the kids have enjoyed being around each other too,” Buckley said. “I feel really encouraged by the reopening, and I’m hoping that it continues to grow and that we get more kids back on campus.”
Students may line up in front of the newly renovated Morningstar First Floor, formerly known as the Columbus Room, to get food during breaks, but they must eat in the Courtyard, where 26 tables are arranged in compliance with social distancing guidelines.
Those who choose to eat inside a classroom may not talk with others in order to limit the risk of transmission through aerosolization.
“It’s a good layout,” junior Peter Iliev said about the arrangement of tables in the Courtyard. “I think the rules are necessary, but they seem too restrictive, especially since we haven’t seen our classmates in person for such a long time and want to have more contact.”
The Courtyard, stairwells, hallways and classrooms all have markers and signs to guide one-way traffic and social distancing.
“I don’t have trouble sticking to the ‘6 feet apart’ rule and following the markers,” Iliev said. “I can forget sometimes, and when I realize I am too close, I move away from others.”
Teachers are utilizing Meeting Owl smart cameras, which provide a 360-degree view of the classroom and amplify sound, to aid with hybrid instruction for students who are choosing to continue classes from home or who have not had a negative COVID-19 test within the past two weeks. Some teachers are also having in-person students log onto Zoom so that they can see the rest of the class, while other faculty are mirroring their Zoom meetings onto large, flat-screen displays.
“It’s amazingly smooth, and so far everyone is behaving themselves,” English teacher Daniel Popplewell said about the shift to hybrid instruction. “I feel relief, excitement, joy and enthusiasm. It’s just really nice to be around real people again.”
For many students, especially seniors, a return to campus means a return to the school community they have been away from for so long.
“So much is lost when we’re on the computer and it’s really the little things like getting to look at how little the freshmen are or just the everyday interactions with others,” Raneri said. “That’s what I was missing, and that’s what I am really glad to have back.”