Saturday Classes During Covid-19

Courtesy+of+Angela+Wei+%2721

Courtesy of Angela Wei ’21

In a period of uneasiness and uncertainty, an adherence to past tradition and an attempt to preserve the fundamental pillars of the Groton community is commendable. The continuation of chapel services, both in person and through a virtual platform, for example, sends a strong message of the school’s commitment to maintain the core traditions of Groton and honor the senior class. However, one such exception would be the continuation of the longstanding practice of Saturday classes. While Saturday classes help facilitate ISL sports on Wednesdays and Saturdays and work towards keeping the Groton community together and close-knit, the current Covid-19 situation eliminates the need behind Saturday classes. The temporary cessation of Saturday classes during pandemic times would benefit students and teachers by increasing their already limited freedoms due to Covid-19 restrictions while also protecting the mental health of the community.

Before delving into the arguments behind ceasing Saturday classes, it is necessary to examine the history of Saturday classes and how they came into effect. According to the school’s archivist Mr. Brown, Saturday classes were implemented at the school’s inception in 1884 — a common practice among other New England Boarding schools. Another aficionado of our school’s history, Ms. Lawrence, believes that the practice of Saturday classes came as a result of Cheltenham College and Endicott Peabody’s time there.

Saturday classes also served a practical purpose — in pre-Covid-19 times, the presence of Saturday classes allowed for a half-day on Wednesday, which enabled ISL games to take place in the afternoons of both Wednesdays and Saturdays. However, with no ISL athletics due to Covid-19, this practical purpose is lost. During pandemic times, especially with a full-day on Wednesday anyways, Saturday classes are not as necessary.

Saturday classes are also another means of keeping all the students on campus. By ensuring that students are only given one free night a week, it prevents the possibility of a group of students leaving classes to stay overnight outside campus and leave other students behind. In essence, Sunday classes serve a double purpose of keeping the Groton community close and tight-knit. However, since students are prohibited from leaving the campus anyway due to new restrictions, students leaving for overnight stays are no longer a concern. 

Beyond being unnecessary, the elimination of Saturday classes benefits the student population. It allows for increased freedoms during a period in which students experience limited flexibility due to Covid-19 restrictions. Each day is marked by the 7:15 dorm curfew and movements outside of campus are restricted. In the schoolhouse, arrows direct traffic and in the dining halls schedules dictate eating times. While these precautions are necessary in combating the virus, increasing freedoms in other areas of student life would benefit the general mental health of everyone. By loosening up on the rigorous academic schedule and freeing up a Saturday morning, the extra time would allow students to sleep in or pursue other activities. Offering extra breathing room during the weekends would not facilitate the spread of the virus, rather it would compensate for the absence of other liberties in other aspects of student life.

In addition, giving extra time on Saturdays would help with the overall mental health of the students. During the fall term, the counseling office experienced an increase in the number of visits due to issues that may have been exacerbated by the current pandemic. By allowing students to sleep in, pursue outdoor activities such as hikes or walks, or even get ahead of their schoolwork to reduce the burden on their shoulders, a free Saturday morning would greatly benefit the students’ mental health.

For a school that is steeped in tradition, to break such a long standing practice such as Saturday classes at Groton would be a difficult task. However, with the inclusion of remote-learning, tradition has already broken; would it really hurt to break another tradition for the sake of the students and teachers on campus? Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures — and in this extraordinary circumstance that is a global pandemic, the elimination of Saturday classes for the time being is the right thing to do.