Keeping School Up and Running
The following article was written in July 2020, prior to updates on current status of schooling.
In the spring of 2020, everything changed. The focal point of any student's life is school, but school seemed almost to disappear, changing from something monotonously familiar to an alien environment stuck at home. Thankfully, some in-person classes are resuming. Throughout the summer and the end of the school year, the Senior Administrative Oversight Committee at Barrack worked tirelessly to determine how Barrack would run in the upcoming school year. In July and August, they released several updates and messages concerning the new rules and procedures for the fall of 2020. Any change is hard to implement, and COVID change is unpleasant, but these change will hopefully ensure the safety and best interest of many families and students.
CDC guidelines mandate a minimum six-foot distance between people to maintain safety and limit contamination. Like most buildings, the school was not built with these guidelines in mind, causing a lack of space between all people. The July 9th public update from the Head of School, Sharon Levin, stated, "We are planning for a hybrid model of education that will assign certain segments of the school to be on campus on specific days of the week and learning online during the other days." Just a few days later, in the July 16 email, the administration responsibly elaborated, "We have procured multiple tents to fully utilize our campus and maximize outdoor options." Then in August, updated plans were published with more limitations and explanations.
The prospect of a less-than-five-day school week, or spending less time in the building, is new and, quite frankly, a bit exciting. If things must change to protect community members, our perspectives should change, too. The early fall weather permits outdoor learning, and so the school announced they would use tents. Why fixate on the strange newness of this policy when you can enjoy the fresh air and pleasant environment? Six feet might seem far apart, but it allows students to socialize with teachers and classmates. Rather than reverting to a fully online education, as in the spring of 2020, Barrack will hopefully be making creative and innovative changes to give everyone a taste of normalcy. However, the school “will [also] have full live-stream capabilities for students who are unable, or choose not, to be on campus,” allowing for a secondary option for people who feel more comfortable away from public places.
Throughout the progression of quarantine, the need for masks to interact publicly has been recognized almost worldwide. In many of our communities and cities, every individual must wear a mask in commerce settings and public spaces. Understandably, Barrack has incorporated a mask requirement at all times during school. Although they can get uncomfortable in the heat and can be a hassle to keep clean, it is a worthwhile trade-off when people’s health hangs in the balance. The school stated, "We will maintain a six-foot separation between desks in all classrooms. We are researching masks and, with the advice of our medical consultants, will be purchasing them for each student and staff member," assuring that safety measures will be accessible to every student.
There will be no lunch program provided by the school. At first, this might appear very negative to many students, and it is. A large portion of Barrack students who once received daily lunch from the cafeteria will now have to bring food from home. However, this unfavorable change in the daily routine is well-intended and well-informed. To remain safe, every person must be as far as possible from each other and limit as much contact as possible. To this end, water-fountains will also be off-limits to people for drinking on campus for the foreseeable future, however, water-bottle filling stations will be open. Alternatively, the school encourages students to bring reusable water bottles, an option that many students used willingly before the pandemic. By avoiding the COVID-unfriendly scenarios of the cafeteria food lines and the water-fountains, the students and the staff will remain healthier.
As progressive and necessary as it is, no one wants to change because of a global pandemic -- but it is unavoidable. Thankfully, the people working incredibly hard behind the scenes at Barrack are doing their best to make the changes as reasonable and comfortable as possible. Masks won't always be a necessary accessory, but in the meantime, they are essential to our health. Distance is unpleasant but crucial. These trying times won't last forever, but we can all be comfortable knowing that our school is doing its best for our well-being and the well-being of everyone with whom we connect. The school will open with its hybrid plan and hopefully not find it must return to learning completely online.
The following paragraph was written in late August of 2020
In August, a new plan was released that changed many of the things discussed above. No longer wll students alternate attendance, but rather they will come to school one day per week according to their grade. The only exception is the senior class of 2021 who will come twice a week. These changes are saddening to many students, but have been made for the safety of the school. While the article above is no longer valid, it still reflects the situation at the time and general opinions and outlooks for the strange world of COVID-19 that we live in right now.