The Upper Division (UD) announced this past weekend that 11th and 12th graders will be allowed to leave and return to campus at any time during the day and that all students will be permitted to order food to campus.
The campus closed for all students at the beginning of last year due to the risk of COVID spreading from off campus, Head of the UD Jessica Levenstein said. Though the administration had considered returning to an open campus policy in the spring of 2021, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly ultimately decided to hold off on reinstating it until this year, she said.
Since the majority of students are vaccinated, there is little risk in going down the hill if students are masked when they enter stores and restaurants, Levenstein said. Additionally, since students are already permitted to attend out-of-school clubs and other activities, there was no benefit or safety gained by not letting students off campus, she said.
The UD administration considered ways to make the delivery process safer, Dean of Students Michael Dalo said. “We are requiring that all delivery people wear masks,” he said. “We are also expecting that any students who might go off campus wear masks in stores and restaurants when picking up food.” Additionally, deliveries are only allowed to be brought to the security desk in Olshan.
The administration also decided to exclude underclassmen from the change for the time being, Dalo said. “We want to start pulling back on the protocols gradually, but we have also had more incidents of ninth and tenth graders not being compliant with the mask policy,” he said. “We want to be comfortable that the ninth and tenth graders understand our policies and are able to follow them before we give them more privileges.”
Before the pandemic, all high school students used to have open campus and ordering privileges. However, this year, the administration decided to test how well the rule would work on a smaller scale, meaning 11th and 12th graders, to make sure students are staying safe and healthy, Levenstein said. “Dr. Kelly’s position was to get our feet under us first, see how healthy our community could stay, and then we can revisit newer policies, such as letting underclassmen off campus.”
Levenstein and Dalo first discussed the idea of reopening the campus in a meeting with Kelly this November, Levenstein said. “As the population got vaccinated, we were thinking about how we could bring school back to normal,” she said. “Last year, we did have the middle school play in person, we had a prom and graduation. So we began to add more things in the spring, and then going into this fall we wanted to have as few restrictions as possible.”
Levenstein’s main argument in favor of an open campus was returning the school to normalcy, she said. “It is not a huge change, but it is more the feeling of us resembling our normal school that was most important for our decision.”
If students remain safe with these new privileges, Levenstein hopes to extend the privilege beyond upperclassmen, she said. Ninth graders are typically excited about having off-campus privileges coming into the UD, so Levenstein would like to reinstate the policy soon, she said.
Sofia Kim (10) is unhappy that the policy is not yet available to underclassmen, she said. “In middle school, I thought that was a big part of the high school experience, and I was pretty disappointed when I found out we were not allowed to go down the hill.” Even so, Kim is happy that restrictions are loosening and hopes that all of the UD will be able to leave campus soon, she said.
Miller Harris (11) is looking forward to the reinstatement of both privileges, he said. “When I was a freshman I would go off campus with my friends during double frees and we would get breakfast, which was really nice. We even went out for my birthday once.” Harris is also excited to get food for his club, the STEAM Coalition, which sets up experiments for lower schoolers, he said.
Similarly, Dalia Pustilnik (12) used to like going out to eat with her friends whenever she had frees, she said. Pustilnik especially liked that most of the stores around campus are small businesses as opposed to chains, she said.
Sam Siegel (11) did not typically use the open campus privileges, however he is also looking forward to having a school year that is more similar to pre-COVID times, he said. “I am always happy when restrictions get lifted, so I am glad about this decision.”
Though Coco Trentalancia (11) is excited about the new rule, she wants to make sure the school community stays safe regarding the pandemic, she said. “I hope that people in the community will be responsible and there still definitely is a risk,” she said. “However, if we can follow the rule like we have with other COVID measures, I think there will be no issue.”
Sophia Paley (10) is looking forward to being able to go off campus in the future, but is enjoying ordering to school in the meantime. “The first day we were able to order, Monday, I got my group of lunch friends coffee from Dunkin Donuts.”
Hanzhang Swen (10) also ordered to campus for the first time this week, she said. “I ordered Burger King for myself and sushi for my friend. We have to stay after school every week for debate tutoring, so I expect that we will be ordering a lot, and I am looking forward to it.”