A Modified Return


Courtesy of Creative Commons.

It’s been 175 days since March 7th, 2020, the last day of the 2019-2020 school year’s Winter Term. More importantly, that was the time any of us experienced a normal school day at Groton. Now, with the new school year not far away, we wonder how a global pandemic will transform the Groton experience. Countless protocols have been put in place to ensure our safety from the virus. However, I believe that we as a community will still be able to experience Groton for the special place that it is, even if it means we’ll be doing so six feet apart.

So, what can we expect during the school year? Morning chapel will be streamed to students in areas throughout campus in order to reduce the density in what is a compact space. Classrooms themselves won’t look the same either. All furniture has been replaced with either tablet chairs or the singular desks used in standardized testing. In addition, classrooms will be marked with tape so that students can easily follow protocol. Although such actions have been anticipated and prove to be necessary social distancing measures, I worry that this will make student collaboration much more difficult in classrooms, for it is a staple of our Groton education. 

For the first two weeks of school, no one will be eating in the dining hall in a certain time period called a lunch block – everyone will take their food to go and eat either outside or in their rooms. After, students will have the option to eat in the dining hall. However, they will only be able to sit at a table with their dormmates, a confusing rule because students will consistently be interacting with those outside of their dorms due to classes. The dining hall will still provide “grab & go” options throughout the term for students who would rather eat in their room or on the Circle. 

Dorm life has also been highly modified, with check-in being around 7:30 PM for the first weeks of school. It will be either on a personal or small-group basis. If students are in their rooms, they must wear a mask if they choose to leave the door open. Dorm-to-dorm and room-to-room visitation is prohibited. This begs the question: will the administration trust students to spend time on their own, without supervision? With the consequence of being sent home if not following protocols, I believe that the student body should be trusted. Day students won’t have access to any dorms at the beginning of the year. All of these protocols are in addition to a school-wide mask mandate and the use of SaferMe, an app that takes note of students who have been less than six feet apart for 15 minutes or more. The SaferMe app is a great idea, for it will make contact tracing immensely easier for the administration, therefore diminishing possibility of a schoolwide outbreak.

Sports and the weekends at Groton will continue to be a staple of a student’s experience on campus, even with the immense changes enacted in response to the virus. Students were notified that a 4-2 model was decided on for intramural and varsity afternoon activities, allowing students to choose two activities to participate in throughout the term. In addition, the administration gave students options to pursue special interests during these two days, including debate, yoga, and an outdoor fab lab. I’m very fond of this model since it gives our Spring athletes a chance to play the sport they missed out on earlier in the year. It’s a great balance. The SAC is hard at work with Mr. Leroy, looking into virtual activities such as escape rooms for students to participate in over the weekend; that’s something that the student body will look forward to each weekend. 

The administration’s protocols have the potential to create a very successful bubble that allows students to continue getting a great education. Although some rules might unnecessarily constrict the freedom of students, I’m excited to go back, see my friends, play sports, go to clubs, and experience everything Groton has to offer- even if it’s all while six feet apart.