How is school different this year compared to last year?
The excitement of a new school year usually consists of hugging friends after months apart, gathering as a community, and playing sports in front of a large and enthusiastic student section. However, this fall, spaced out desks, mask-wearing, social distancing, temperature check-ins, and designated walking routes for students have all become a new reality at Gilmour Academy as a result of the worldwide Coronavirus outbreak.
Safe, Alternative Learning Options
Moreover, after meeting with a group of teachers over the summer, the Administration decided to switch to a hybrid schedule where students are in class every other day. On the days where students are learning virtually, they have the option to either stay home or work in one of the school’s Virtual Learning Zones.
Buildings such as the Athletic Center and the Center for Performing Arts have been re-purposed to accommodate students’ virtual learning.
Without the traditional classroom feel of all the students in the physical classroom at one time, splitting the class into half virtual classes and half face-to-face allows everyone to learn together and communicate with each other while still following the safety guidelines. Although the pandemic does not allow students and faculty to engage in school gatherings such as in-person Convocation or class Masses, Ms. Elizabeth Edmondson, Director of the Upper School, said that one way the Gilmour community may be restored and expanded is through live streaming sporting events.
Ms. Edmondson said, “While we don’t have the crowds at athletic events, there are thousands of people watching now all over the world that weren’t previously. So in some ways, the community is larger than it was before.” She also added that she is hoping to “bring students in and have them share their voices in order to look at how we can make school fun and bring a little bit of the excitement and joy that is typical in a school year to a year where we have to be physically distant.”
Keeping a Positive Mindset
Also, as a result of the hardship students may face at the hands of the pandemic, Ms. Edmondson emphasized that the Administration has worked to act as a token of encouragement and positivity by setting up cheerful signs at the entrance of the
school to remind students that as long as they stand strong with the community, they can overcome any obstacle.
To allow for utmost comfort and confidence, students have been permitted to express themselves through colored polos every day while back on campus. Regardless of the many challenges this school year brings, Ms. Edmondson said the Administration and Faculty will do everything in its power to instill happiness and hope throughout the student body.
How are these changes affecting the students?
Mary Lombardo (’22) and Giana Lonardo (’22) are overjoyed and thankful to physically be back on campus with all of their classmates and teachers after a long six months of quarantine in their homes. Although wearing a mask and having to social distance all day, every day may not seem ideal, both of these young ladies know that following these guidelines will be worth it in the end if it means protecting themselves and those around them. Specifically, Lombardo expressed that she is incredibly grateful for “all of the hard work Gilmour faculty members such as Mr. Pfundstein, Ms. Edmonson, and all of the teachers have completed to make sure that students are still learning and having a great school year while being safe.”
Lonardo also shared these feelings of extreme gratitude for Administration. However, even with helpful support from her teachers, Lonardo said she is “still anxious about how she will manage her time on virtual days in order to be able to fully comprehend the information that is being taught to her every other day.”
While both Lonardo and Lombardo also mentioned their concern for their sports seasons, they revealed that they are willing to make difficult sacrifices such as going without seeing their friends in large gatherings every weekend if it means being able to compete on the athletic field during their seasons. Overall, Lonardo and Lombardo agree that although life at Gilmour looks tremendously different than last year, it is up to all of the Gilmour community to do their part in order to keep each other safe with the hopes of returning to normalcy in the near future.