Are We There Yet? Latin Looks to Next Year

In mid-February, Head of School Randall Dunn shared with the Latin community his sole goal for the 2021-2022 school year: Have every student be fully in person. For Upper School students, this year has been unlike any other, with constant changes to the learning format. Latin’s faculty, staff, and administration has four months to plan and execute what next year will look like. Dean of Upperclassmen Joe Edwards shared that this task will be done “in a way that is safe and responsible and meets the guidance provided by the CDC, IDPH, CDPH, and others [which] may require some adjustments to our typical experience. Nevertheless, my hope is that things look and feel much more familiar next fall.” Given that Latin has released few details for next year, the Latin community is left to hope and dream about what next year might look like.
So what should next year look like? What silver linings have students and administrators found that could improve student life and learning for future years?
For freshman Amalie Wong, this academic year has been unexpected and challenging, but it still had positive aspects. “I thought that the sports opportunities during the pandemic were definitely a highlight,” she noted. “That being said, I still miss interacting with people more often, and I hope that next year will have more opportunities to do that. I think that I’ve finally adjusted to this at-home schedule, so late starts to the day would be key in helping me readjust to being fully in-person.”

Similarly, sophomore Callie Milner said, “Most important for me was the later 9 a.m. start time. It allowed me to sleep more, which in turn helped me focus more, be more productive, and just be my best self. I was able to exercise, go for walks, etc. during the school day when I had time, as I was mostly home.”

In previous years, Latin has started at 8 a.m. and 8:25 a.m. on alternating days, but a 9 a.m. start to the day creates consistency and comes with health benefits for teens.

Mr. Edwards added, “This past year has really taught us the value of community. Whether learning alongside each other in a classroom, supporting the wonderful performances of our artists and athletes, engaging in lively conversations and debates in the halls and commons spaces … we must surely appreciate the value of sharing space with each other so much more after this past year.”

Kristine Von Ogden, Latin’s newly-hired Upper School Director from Lake Forest Academy, said, “Many people in our local communities and around the world have been rallying together to work towards a more just and equitable life for all, acknowledging the pervasive nature of systemic racism and working towards putting an end to it. I think that many people have become more empathetic.” She continued, “That is an incredibly beautiful silver lining.”

While discussing aspects of her former workplace, Ms. Von Odgen cautiously noted, “Taking something specific to LFA and applying it to Latin is not how I would approach change. A Caxy is not a Roman! However, I can say that LFA has made excellent use of Canvas as our learning management system, particularly during COVID, and both faculty and students have benefited enormously from this.”

Callie added, “It’s hard to know what next year will look like, but people getting vaccinated will help keep our community safe and help us return to normal. Also, I hope we’ll be fully back in person, but if we can’t be fully in person, I would hope to see advisory added back to being in person. Another thing that I think could be a great addition going forward is having the option to Zoom into class and listen if you are sick. This will help encourage community members to stay home if they are not feeling well while still being able to attend class.”

Along with more students missing long lines at the kiosk and small talk before class, integrating lessons learned from the pandemic could make for an even better day-to-day experience going forward. Above all, Amalie remained optimistic about her sophomore year, sharing, “Starting high school in a pandemic is not what anyone would have wanted, so I have high expectations of sophomore year. I hope that it can fill in any gaps of what I missed not having a normal entry to high school.”