Matthew Mckoy ’22
The administration of Salesian High School has made many efforts to provide the most comfortable, and most importantly, the safest environment for its students, considering the due circumstances of the pandemic. Prior to the new year, the Salesian administration implemented what became known as the “Cohort System”, in which students were given the option of attending in-person instruction for two-consecutive days of the week. Therefore, the student body was divided into two Cohorts: Cohort A and Cohort B. Students apart of Cohort A attended in-person instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays, and resumed remote-instruction for the remaining three days a week. On the other hand, students apart of Cohort B began their week by attending remote-instruction from Monday through Wednesday, and resumed in-person instruction on Thursdays and Fridays. In the midst of this new schedule, students were also given the option of staying fully remote, which would allow them to stay at their residencies while attending class online for the entire week. This system of maintaining a two-day in-person instruction, accompanied by a three-day remote instruction proved to be satisfactory, as many students were able to adapt to this new way of life, perceiving it to be a “new-normal”. However, this would all change, as students were notified in mid-December that a new schedule would be implemented upon the coming of the new year. This new schedule entailed a 4-day in-person learning instruction, with all students from Cohorts A and B. As with anything, this new schedule has raised some concerns, however, it still remains to be a satisfactory source of education for students both in-person, as well as those who are fully remote.
From a student perspective, many of my friends voiced their concerns about the new-schedule, mainly their fear of coming into contact with someone who had the virus. Considering that both Cohorts A and Cohorts B were now going to be combined into one group, many students and parents did not feel comfortable physically attending the campus. Therefore, at the commencement of the new schedule, the student body experienced a relatively large decline in the number of students who chose to attend in-person instruction for 4 days. Currently, there are approximately 85 students attending “in-person instruction”, which accounts for about 20 students per each grade level. Although this number may seem more suitable to maintain social distancing, the school nurse, as well as the Salesian administration, still enforce strict hygiene rules, along with the required mask mandate that must be abided by each student. Salesian has also taken extra-precautionary measures, as students are required to sanitize their desks or working area after each class. Many of the safety-parameters from the two-day in person instruction schedule remain in place, as students are still required to do a mandatory temperature check before their arrival to school, in addition to the pre-screening survey on the Salesian website.
Although the presence of less students on campus may seem to create a less-engaging platform for students, many of those who chose to return to school on campus did so for the purpose of the need to socialize with others. When students who are in-person were asked why they chose to return to the campus, many of them voiced that socializing with other students creates a more comfortable environment for them to learn in. At times, remote-instruction has posed an impediment upon the learning capacity of many students. It turns out, the presence of others appears to stimulate their minds, and has allowed these students to attain some sense of normality in the midst of the pandemic. It amazes me to see the optimism that many of these students have, as they are hopeful for the day in which the entire student body is able to return to campus. Despite the dangers of the virus, these students on campus feel as though the Salesian community accommodates their needs, as it establishes a healthy and safe environment that feels just like home.
Nonetheless, Salesian’s implementation of the new 4-day schedule has not changed it’s main priority, which is the student body. Within each classroom setting, many of the teachers who face the arduous task of teaching both students in-person and remote simultaneously, continue to hold their heads high, as the success of their students really matter. Each teacher and member of faculty helps to ensure that each student is performing to the best of their ability given the due circumstances. This provides many comfort to many students, as it appears that although the pandemic has slowed down the world, it most certainly will never slow down the Salesian way of life. Upon the commencement of the second semester, the student body continues to face this form of adversity bravely, as each member of the community lifts up one another to ensure both the health and well-being of their fellow brothers and sisters.
Although the new 4 day-schedule put into effect is all “trial and error”, it has helped to bring forward many ideas in regards to the future of Salesian education. Some of which involve the use of one-on-one technology in the classroom, as opposed to using textbooks. Despite the growing concerns about the virus, the new schedule has created an open platform for students to envision and help in the process of creating a new and innovative way of life throughout the school. It is great to see the presence of unity within the school community, as we are beginning to shift towards a new sense of “normality”. Throughout these difficult times, the Salesian administration still remains optimistic about the future of the school, and continues to find new ways in order to create a safe and healthy environment for its students.