By Jack Kaplan '23
In March 2020, schools closed and Covid-19 became part of our everyday vocabulary. As people began to realize the potential danger of the virus, many undertook extreme measures in order to protect themselves and their families. Working and studying from home, masks, and social distancing became the new normal. However, after vaccines became readily available and the pandemic appeared to slow, Americans were eager to resume their pre-pandemic lives and interact with other people, oftentimes while ditching their masks. Unfortunately, the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant raised new concerns, resulting in renewed social distancing policies and calls to shut the world back down. As schools around the country reopen, they face the difficult problem of how to allow students to return to in-person learning in a safe manner that protects everyone’s health.
As St. Albans grapples with this same issue, the administration has decided to attempt to conduct as normal of a school year as possible. Sports are back in session, furniture is back in the buildings, and lunch will once again be eaten in the beloved Refectory. There are some members of the community who believe these policies may be dangerous and irresponsible, but I firmly believe that the school has made the right decision in attempting to restore normalcy.
With weekly testing, a mandate that all people on campus be vaccinated, and masks being required at all times while indoors, the school has carried out its responsibility to protect the student body while preserving the St. Albans experience. While the Delta variant is undeniably more contagious and may infect even those that are vaccinated, vaccinated persons are still significantly protected against more severe cases and death, and the majority of people who contract Delta experience mild symptoms. Furthermore, for children and teenagers, studies show that Covid-19 is statistically no more lethal than the flu, highlighting the minimal effect the illness would likely have on the majority of the student body. New policies are not enacted for the flu each year, and similarly, further extreme measures are not necessary this year in response to an illness that poses little danger to most of the students. The protections already put in place are reasonable and sufficient to address the risks. Continuing only virtual learning, suspending lunch in the Refectory or athletics, and other more extreme measures are unnecessary as well as harmful to our education and St. Albans experience.
Additionally, the idea that St. Albans can continue to distinguish itself by conducting classes but cancelling its traditions, sports, and extracurricular activities is fundamentally flawed. One of the school’s best characteristics is its excellent education, but there are plenty of schools in the area that offer elite education. What sets St. Albans apart from the other schools is that it has such a unique culture and brotherhood; the aspects of the school that don’t involve academics are the foundation of this culture that is so integral to the St. Albans experience. For example, the highlighted portion of the “Welcome” page on the school’s website talks less about education and more about chapel in the Little Sanctuary and family-style lunches in the Refectory. When people pay the St. Albans tuition, they are paying for every outstanding and important feature of the school, not only its traditional academics.
As the first day of class approaches quickly and the Delta variant spreads, the school must continue to look at the facts and balance the health and safety of the St. Albans community with its responsibility to provide the full experience upon which St. Albans has built its reputation, and should hold steadfast in its decision to operate as normally as possible this school year.