Remote instruction continues due to high COVID-19 rates

Remote+instruction+continues+due+to+high+COVID-19+rates

Emma Colacino, Staff Writer

In-person learning was postponed for an additional week of online school despite plans to return to campus, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly announced in an email sent to all parents and guardians on January 17.

This decision was in part due to high numbers of positive COVID-19 tests results and the number of symptomatic students within the community, he wrote. “If school were open Friday or Saturday, we would have seen hundreds of students across the divisions placed in quarantine,” he wrote. “While the data set before us is manageable and nowhere near regional levels, it does present as a concern threatening a reasonable week of in- person instruction for all.”

Later in the email, Kelly wrote that the high COVID-19 positivity rate among the community was a reflection of community members’ unwillingness to abide by Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use and traveling protocols, he wrote. “To those of you who did follow the guidelines and/or confirm with school personnel that a modification to them was appropriate, we are deeply appreciative,” he wrote. “To those of you arriving today or tomorrow, all we can ask is that you understand how disruptive your decision can be and is to the greater community.”

Kelly concluded the email by asking all families to reaffirm their commitment to the HM Promise, a set of guidelines for on and off- campus behavior that community members are expected to follow to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Because some parents did not return home during the two weeks of online school after winter break, Cecile Caer P’21 P’24 understands the decision to postpone in- person learning, she said. However, the news still frustrated her, because remaining online

for long periods of time can be difficult for students’ mental health, she said.

Given the regional COVID-19 levels, Ahana Nayar (10) was unsurprised by the postponement, she said. “I have been watching the numbers go up day by day, and it is honestly terrifying,” she said.

Adam Dickstein (11) would have been upset had school resumed as planned because of the rising COVID-19 cases, he said. “It just wouldn’t make sense to open when COVID is even more prevalent than it was when we closed temporarily for a few weeks in November,” he said.

Co-Chair of the Middle Divison Parents Association Joanne Diaz P’24 P’26 was relieved by the postponement, which she believed to be inevitable given the regional COVID-19 levels. She was surprised there was even a possibility of returning as originally planned, she said.

Ajani Green-Watson (11) has seen peers whose actions do not fall in line with the HM promise, and she therefore agrees with the school’s decision to postpone in-person learning, she said. “There are a lot of people on my social media who have been posting when they were out with their friends, or going out to restaurants, or just going into the city,” she said. “I was very concerned that even if they got their COVID test, they would go back outside, catch COVID and then bring it into the school.”

In his email, Kelly also wrote that by continuing online instruction for an extra week, the school avoids concerns of possible violence in response to the Presidential Inauguration. “While it’s unfortunate and even sad to suggest that parents should not have students participate in peaceful protests or an inauguration, the magnitude of the concerns raised for potential violence requires that I do so,” he wrote.

While Kelly’s initial email explained that no additional testing would be required for members of the community who already submitted their tests, a follow up email announced that all students must be retested between January 19 and January 21 — any positive results submitted for tests administered after the 21st will automatically result in a 10

day quarantine for the student. To ensure that all students were able to be tested, the school reopened the campus with extended hours to facilitate testing.

Aaron Shuchman (12) appreciates that the school is erring on the side of caution in their decision and feels confident that community members will be able to return to school eventually because of the school’s history of caution and its COVID-19 testing and safety protocols, he said.

The vaccination of many of his teachers also reaffirms Shuchman’s feelings, he said. “It’s good for a lot of them to have this [vaccine] health wise,” he said. “When there is an inevitable large group of students and or teachers who need to quarantine, the vast majority of teachers can stay in school, and that’s really good.”