Return to Upper School: what will it look like?


Since the announcement on September 30 regarding the part-time return to in-person learning, Upper School students and faculty have pondered what the new hybrid schedule might look like. New details have now been disclosed by Upper School Director Kirk Greer, outlining a strategic plan for the weeks to come.

Each grade level will have the opportunity to go to school for in-person learning two days out of the eight-day cycle, but students may also opt out entirely if they wish. On each of the two days, students will meet synchronously for four classes and can expect asynchronous work from the remaining two. After the first block of each day, there will be built-in community time for affinities, clubs, advisories, and the like to meet over Zoom.

“We certainly learned from last year that we wanted a limit on Zoom sessions a day,” Mr. Greer said. “We are expanding from three to four [synchronous classes] so students on campus for two days have the possibility to meet all classes in person.”

Since some teachers will remain remote and many classes at Latin are spread over multiple grade levels, each classroom will be equipped with a webcam, tripod, and microphone. Teachers and students who are not in the building will be heard through speakers in each classroom, and the instructor may have remote and in-person students join the class on Zoom.

Classrooms have been measured to abide by social-distancing guidelines set by the CDC, and an extra five minutes will be added to passing periods for sanitation measures.

“We are on track for a safe start knowing all of the protocols and measures that have been taken,” Mr. Greer noted. “That said, we look at the metrics every day, and should they move in the wrong direction we will change course to prioritize community safety.”

The decision to return to in-person learning was driven in part by the isolation many students feel, as well as the difference in learning itself.

“We have had success with a variety of remote engagement since March, and we are continuing to try new ideas and solicit feedback,” said Suzanne Callis, Dean of Community Learning. “I would encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and give alternative programming a chance.” Despite the circumstances, Ms. Callis, with the help of student government, has been coming up with ways for remote students to make some of the same connections they normally would.

But some students worry about the timing of this transition. Senior Alessandra Kaestner voiced her concerns about returning to school the week before early college applications are due. “I think that it might make some things more stressful,” she said. “We are already swamped with work, and changing things might mess up the flow some of us have.”

The change of pace right before early applications are due, after an already unusual application process, is something on many seniors’ minds.

Despite hopes for a successful return, Mr. Greer said that if the number of COVID cases rises to a concerning level, the Upper School will return to a full-time remote schedule and even cease cohort days “if the situation is dire enough.”