Who Are the Covid-19 Decision Makers?


Courtesy of Julia Lin ’22.

The decision to reopen with a hybrid model this Fall is an ongoing cooperative effort of the headmaster, faculty, and trustees since March. Headmaster Temba Maqubela consulted two groups: the Task Force, who were to address the academic options, and the SOHAG (School Opening Health Advisory Group). Director of Admissions Ian Gracey, Associate Head of School Andy Anderson, Academic Dean Kathy Leggat, and Assistant Head For External Programs Megan Harlan were involved in the Task Force, while the SOHAG consisted of the School’s medical professionals, trustee medical professionals, as well as Mrs. Harlan, Director of GRAIN Operations Kate Machan, Mr. Anderson, Director of Human Resources Peter McGillicuddy, and Dean of Students and Residential Life Michael O’Donnell.
Throughout the summer, plans were adjusted to the changing pandemic. The Task Force and the SOHAG researched extensively—reading articles, publications, and webinars about education and Covid-19. Ms. Harlan said they used the information to create a plan that reflected the mission and values of Groton School. Then, a recommendation was presented to the Headmaster. After careful considerations regarding safety and academics, the final decision was made. “Mr. Maqubela was very clear that he wanted the school to be open,” Ms. Harlan noted.
On campus, strict health precautions will be in place. These rules are designed to keep students and faculty safe and responsible. “Out of necessity they will feel terribly restrictive, possibly unwelcoming and isolating,” Ms. Leggat said. However, she added, “if the first several weeks are successful in terms of the testing outcomes, the SOHAG hopes to be able to relax those rules a bit.”
Other than the weekly testing and rules stated in an email from the headmaster, dorm heads are also making their own arrangements under guidelines suggested by the Deans.“It will be hard and it might be a bit lonely at times, hopefully just at the very beginning, but I hope we can work as a community, like we normally do, to check-in on each other and keep the whole community safe by prioritizing the group over the individual,” said Dorm Head Allison MacBride. In her dorm, Ms. MacBride plans to create times for the whole dorm to check in via Zoom, even if some members are staying at home for the fall.
For those studying remotely, teachers have been updating their curricula and adjusting their teaching styles to go virtual. The school outfitted classrooms so remote learners can “be” in class and can see those in the room, as well as allowing the teacher to share content.
“I am most concerned about those who will need to miss a period or two a week in each class,” Ms. Leggat commented. Students living in time zones that make it difficult to attend classes at certain times will need to cover material asynchronously, whether by watching a recording of the missed class or doing substitute work. “I imagine that will make them feel as though they are missing out on material,” Ms. Leggat said. In response, the school has built in opportunities for office hours and extra help.
“The school will look and feel different, like everything in our world today, but the commitment to our students and to the Groton education remains,” says Ms. Harlan. “We are also working hard to provide students with social connections to one another.”