Aanya Hudda '21
For those returning to campus, the National Cathedral School (NCS) has implemented numerous safety measures to ensure that students follow Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) guidelines and stay as safe as possible. In addition to the covenant, signed by both parents and students, NCS has a MagnusMobile health app that must be filled out daily in order for a student to attend school. All divisions have been split into two cohorts, which alternate weekly between an asynchronous learning environment and an in-person environment. The school has made hallways one-way, installed Purell stations, improved ventilation and air filtration, staggered the times that students arrive at school, and put up room capacity signs that indicate the number of people allowed in a given room.
Each teacher has their own way of conducting classes. Some keep the two cohorts together and have cohort 2 Zoom into class when cohort 1 is in person, while others give cohort 2 asynchronous work to complete on their own. If a teacher is unable to teach in person, a classroom facilitator either projects the Zoom meeting of the class onto the whiteboard, or in-person students individually log into the Zoom meeting with headphones. Students order their lunch in advance, grab bagged meals from a tent next to Hearst Hall, and sit in a socially distanced circle on the Cathedral lawn to eat. During free periods, students are required to sit in a pre-assigned classroom. During office hours, they are required to stay in their last classroom from 2:45pm till 3:30pm, when they are dismissed for sports.
Students who chose the fully remote option follow the schedule of their respective cohorts. If a fully remote student’s cohort is in person, then that student will log on to Zoom with their class. If the fully remote student’s cohort is working on asynchronous work at home, then the student will complete that work at home as well.
Despite the safety measures that NCS has in place, many students believe that returning to school now is not the right choice for them or their families. As COVID-19 cases across the United States reach an all-time high, and cases in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area reach a two-month high, fear of contracting the virus is increasing. It is predicted that the DMV cases will continue to rise, exacerbated by people’s decreasing patience, as well as small group gatherings moving indoors due to the cold weather. Alaska is an example of this dreaded increase. In the summer, despite the opening of restaurants and increase in tourism, the state reported some of the lowest case numbers across the nation. However, cold weather prompted all gatherings to move in-doors, contact tracing became less effective, and the virus thrived in the lower humidity. Over the past few weeks, the percent of the population that tested positive has doubled.
Considering the uncertainty surrounding the state and future of this pandemic, many students do not feel comfortable returning to school. Most students who have family members who struggle with chronic illness, or are compromised themselves, have made the decision to stay remote for the safety of their families. Interacting with an older parent or grandparent is another major concern. These students must weigh their options: return to school in person and quarantine from their family members or stay remote. Lastly, mental health (particularly stress about contracting the virus) and academic adjustment between remote learning and in-person learning are other reasons for not returning to in-person learning.