Update: How COVID-19 Is Affecting the Circle


Courtesy of the Global Education Blog

The Chamber Orchestra performing in Sevillia, Spain on last summer’s musical global education opportunity (GEO). This year, unfortunately, all GEOs have been postponed or cancelled.

Citing an “abundance of caution,” the Global Education Opportunities (GEO) program is rescheduling trips due to the surge of COVID-19.

Headmaster Temba Maqubela and Groton School Physician Sophie Allende-Ritcher announced in a joint email that the theater trip to Bali, the choir trip to Italy, and the cultural trip to India are being postponed to the summer.

The email cited a dearth of scientific knowledge surrounding the “mode of transmission, at-risk population, incubation period, and measures taken by other countries” to justify the school’s decision.

Since that email, the Italy GEO has been canceled due to an unprecedented spike of new cases, but the choir may go on a GEO to the Baltic region next year, according to Director of Global Education Nishad Das.

“My spring break plans are now even more uncertain with the Italy GEO being canceled this year. It’s a shame because we put so much hard work into preparation for the trip, but I do understand the administration’s decision to call the trip off for the safety and well-being of its students,” chorister Joon Whang ’23, who lives in the heavily affected South Korean capital of Seoul, said.

Headmaster Maqubela had already canceled the trip of two exchange students from WLSA-Fudan Academy in late January. Mr. Das hopes to bring the Chinese exchange students back depending on the development of the outbreak.

Since the February Circle Voice issue, more than 90,000 infections and 3,000 deaths have been reported worldwide with both counts increasing daily. To their great dismay, many Groton students have discovered that this new surge in cases has paralyzed their spring break travel plans.

“I’d originally planned on returning to Beijing and training for the upcoming tennis season with my sister. Now we will be going to camp in Florida for spring break,” Beijinger Amelia Lee ’22 said. 

Although the majority of reported cases are in China, other countries like Italy, Iran, South Korea, and the United States are also witnessing rapid spikes in infection rates. 

“The coronavirus outbreak didn’t seem extremely severe in Korea until the number of confirmed cases suddenly skyrocketed to the thousands, and now my original plan of going back home is no longer viable,” Yujin Lim ’22, who lives in Seoul, explained. She is now staying with family in Los Angeles, California.

Yujin also said that a “shortage of masks” and the prospect of further “travel restrictions” imposed by the US government have added to her hesitation to return home. The State Department issued a level four travel advisory on February 2 asking Americans not to travel and has intensified its ban on non-nationals re-entering the US after spending time in heavily infected countries.

In addition to US regulations, Dean of Students Libby Petroskey wishes for students to consult Mr. Maqubela and Ms. Allende-Ritcher’s email regarding the school’s position on coronavirus. 

“The Deans do not have an official statement or any special restrictions in place; students should pay close attention to further updates and for now, take precautions and maintain good hygiene habits,” she said. Above all, Mrs. Petroskey wants students to “stay safe during their travels.” 

Headmaster Temba Maqubela added, “My message to students is prudence over panic. A professional cleaning crew is coming to thoroughly disinfect the entire campus, including the dorms. The school is doing its best to ensure that students feel safe when they come back from break.”

In addition, the Admission Office announced this past week that the Revisit Days have been canceled. Instead, according to an email from Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Ian Gracey, the school will be uploading videos from students, posting information on social media, holding admission receptions in various cities, and pairing admitted students with “virtual re-visit hosts” to give them “give them a good feel for life at Groton.”