David Donoghue '21
April 23, 2019. On that day, Dr. Labaree and Mr. Chandler sent out an email announcing St. Alban’s School’s plan for the rest of the virtual school year. A key tenet of this plan was “Respite Wednesday,” a day off in the middle of each week to stop students from overexposing themselves to harmful screens and blue light. The National Cathedral School did not have Wednesdays off; rather, they had a series of classless days throughout the fourth quarter where they had programming on various topics such as mental health. Almost no Respite Wednesdays fell on the same day as the NCS programming days.
This difference in NCS and STA schedules led to many days where NCS students had to choose between going to the programming or their St. Albans class. Similarly, STA students often had to either go to NCS classes on Respite Wednesdays or not. These differences were surely the product of St. Albans and NCS not having ample time to prepare for the Coronavirus, as nobody did. Once summer arrived, students weren’t sure whether or not we would return to school in the Fall, or to what extent. In early August it was announced that we would return to school in a “Remote-Plus” fashion, with virtual academics and some in person social and athletic time.
Once we received the STA and NCS plans, it was revealed that not only would there be no coordinate classes for at least the first semester, but also that there would be no in-person coordinate activities such as athletics, singing, or theater for the whole year. Due to this, theater productions will be virtual for the whole year, and I suspect that the other arts and classes will go with it.
As a student involved with many coordinate activities on the Close, I am a little disappointed by the lack of an explanation, and I’m sure many of you feel the same. After comparing the STA and NCS schedules, the only similarity is that the previous 7-day rotating schedule that both schools shared has been converted to two five-day ones. Thing is, they bear almost no resemblance to each other. Saint Albans starts at nine, and NCS starts at eight. NCS has an active version of Respite Wednesday in place, where they have social activities and an ensemble slot in place of classes. Saint Albans has normal classes on Wednesday. Saint Albans has ensemble time built into office hours. NCS has it during the school day. In this virtual schedule, there is absolutely zero time during the school day for coordinate classes, programs, or anything.
I’m sure Saint Albans and NCS tried to line up their schedules, but here’s my question: What caused the two schools’ schedules to be so drastically different, with no shared time that I could spot. To me and many others, the coordinate aspect of Saint Albans and NCS is one of my favorite parts of the experience. It makes the single-sex schools not feel as socially isolated as one would expect.
I understand the health arguments in favor of separating the schools once we return in person, but I’m not sure I understand how effective they’ll be. Many families have children at both schools, so there will be germs, sickness, etc. floating between the schools once we first return in a cohort model. Furthermore, what if the cohorts aren’t synced up? Siblings could prove to be an Achilles heel of the cohort model, as their existence would tear down the walls that are supposed to be put between the immune systems and germ pools of the groups.
If I had the choice to sacrifice coordinate activities in order to return to school completely normal apart from that, I think that almost anybody on the Cathedral Close would do it in a heartbeat. This is not to say that they are unimportant—quite the opposite—but it would be a small price to pay in order to go to a class or see my classmates anywhere but next to that dreaded ZOOM logo.
I hope I’m missing something, and that there is a good reason for the drastically different schedules sitting in front of me. If I’m missing something, please shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or leave a comment so that everyone can know, because I’m not completely convinced as of now. The strangest thing is that, if there is a miracle drug that allows life to go back to normal quicker than we expect, that wouldn’t fix this problem at all; our schedules would still be different. As dramatic as it is to say, I can only reach one conclusion given the chasm between St. Albans and NCS this year: The downfall of coordinate activities might not be the Coronavirus, but the drastically different plans laid out by St. Albans and NCS.