Physically Distanced But Socially Connected


Matthew Kotcher, Staff Writer

When the Latin School of Chicago reopens its doors, its students and faculty will be eager to reconnect. Like the rest of Chicago and much of the country, members of the Latin community are home and sheltering in place. As part of its spring break edition, The Forum examined ways in which members of the Latin community are maintaining their community connections while still social distancing. 

Freshman McLaine Leik schedules times to FaceTime her friends. Leik feels that a set schedule provides a sense of routine which fosters an easy and comfortable environment to maintain her friendships. In addition to setting schedules, Leik bonds with her friends over books. She both takes and gives recommendations. Leik recommends Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Leik also maintains contact with her extended family by watching the same shows. Both she and her grandmother enjoy watching Ellen reruns simultaneously. Leik feels that when virtual connections are grounded in a shared activity such as reading or television, the experience is all the more meaningful. Leik advises “staying connected to the outside world, other than just your family or whoever you’re with.” However, she is skeptical of seeing anyone for a socially distanced walk, as she feels that extreme safety precautions hinder the fun in such activities. 

Freshman Will Del Hierro called to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to freshman Cameron Woan, who celebrated his 15th birthday on March 24th. Del Hierro, who seconds Leik’s efforts to stay connected through activities, enjoys online Monopoly matches with his companions. Del Hierro advises students to make the effort to stay in touch through whatever means possible. However, he also recognizes that students will be spending much more time alone, and it might be just the right time to learn something new. “Since you will inevitably be finding more time alone,” Del Hierro said, “find something to do and learn something new after this is all over like cooking or an instrument.”

Like Del Hiero, sophomore Sam Gibson plays games online with his friends. Gibson’s go-to is Fortnite. He advises all students to kick back and do everything they wanted to do that their typical schedules would not permit. He adds that students should “think about the things that they wished they could do when they had school every day because now we’ve got all the time.”

While freshman Ava Falk still communicates with friends and family from time to time, she has focused on using this break as an opportunity to take time for herself. Falk regularly enjoys bike rides and online dance classes. While she encourages social engagement, Falk sees no downside in unplugging and taking time for one’s self. However, she recognizes the importance of reaching out to friends and stresses “even if you feel it’s not very important, it can brighten someone’s day.”

Junior Marianne Mihas is part of a book club with her friends. They are using this downtime to read classics that they might not get the chance to read in school, such as The Great Gatsby. Mihas expanded “we had FaceTime meetings to talk about the book. Most of the time, we only spend about one third of our time on the book, but either way, it didn’t matter. It was fun.” Mihas, an accomplished runner on Latin’s cross country and track team, has also stuck to her disciplined running and exercise regimen. 

The faculty are also setting a good example. Mr. Greer, the Upper School Director, reads books with friends, enjoys virtual family dinners, and urges students to make sure they get outside, even for a short while. The faculty are staying connected with each other by preparing for the students’ return. Mr. Greer offered a preview in saying, “Looking ahead to when we return under remote learning, the deans are planning lots of fun community bonding activities with the help of student government. And for support, advisors will connect with each advisee once a cycle and deans and counselors will be available for 1-on-1 check in’s too.”

Along with the rest of the country, the Latin School of Chicago is in uncharted territory. However, students and faculty are taking the initiative so that when Latin reconvenes, the school will be just as–if not more–connected.