Second Semester In-Person Learning Still a Priority as Latin Goes Online

With an abrupt transition to remote learning, multiple factors dictated and will continue to dictate the status of academic instruction and athletics at Latin. Yet another adjustment means a short period to adapt to the new circumstances and reflect upon the previous ones.

The willingness to be flexible during these periods of transition is proving to be a necessary component of constantly readjusting to this unusual school year. Senior Luca Craigie said, “I think the key this year is to just stay flexible whether you are a student or a teacher.” The Illinois Department of Health uses the term “adaptive pause” to describe the current situation Latin, like many schools across the state, is facing. So how does Latin move forward on the path back to in-person learning?

With transparent and frequent communication from the administration, students can understand the factors that influence whether the school can reach its goal of returning to in-person learning. The major elements that could help Latin achieve, and later maintain, an in-person model include a necessary amount of human resources—the in-person faculty and staff—to create a safe environment, no transmission of the virus at Latin, and approval from the city and state.

On a Zoom call answering parents’ questions, Head of School Randall Dunn explained that a tipping point for Latin’s in-person model is evidence of internal community spread. Once notified of a transmission that occurred at Latin, the hybrid model reached its tipping point for the semester. Regarding the community spread and increased cases, Mr. Dunn, in a recent Head of School weekly update, wrote, “Based on how the caseload increased on Tuesday alone, we also knew that soon, the pressure on our workforce would begin to compromise the integrity of our in-person educational program.”

Latin’s Senior Medical Consultant, Dr. Leslie Cordes, pointed out that amid this uncertain and unfortunate situation, in-person learning remains a light at the end of the tunnel. On the call with Mr. Dunn, she said, “Let’s just buckle down and try to get through this so we can continue on the goal of in-person learning.”

During a restorative Thanksgiving break, the administration discussed how in-person learning might look in the second semester. By using this upcoming time of remote learning to evaluate and reflect on the successes and pitfalls of previous hybrid learning, the administration hopes to consider adding other mitigation efforts but needs to see the COVID trends before making any determinations.

“We will have prepared schedules for both 25% (one grade level/day) and 50% (two grade level/day) in advance of next semester,” said Upper School Director Kirk Greer. However, even with a potential slight increase in in-person learning experiences during the second semester, Latin’s facilities have their limitations. In order to concurrently implement effective mitigation strategies and maintain the integrity and excellence of an in-person educational program, a significant amount of space in the Upper School is needed. “I believe that for the extent of the year, 50% is probably the maximum in terms of space that we will be able to do in the Upper School,” said Mr. Dunn. “We have to implement a schedule that we’re going to be able to manage for an extended period of time, because it could even go into next fall.”

Regardless of the learning format for the second semester, the same goal of preserving and increasing in-person learning experiences remains. But how will Latin, in the long run, be affected by these confusing and demanding times? Mr. Dunn said, “We are developing the muscle to be a school that, on the other side of this, will be strengthened.”