With masks on and while six feet apart, classes began with enthusiasm earlier this month. After a summer of planning, preparation, and anticipation, the first day of the school year was at once familiar and brand new.
“The biggest thing on day one is just to make sure we’re connecting with the kids,” says Dean of Studies Lori Bohan. “Typically on day one we are building classroom environments, but also getting into the curriculum. This year, we needed to immediately help students get to know one another and get to know their teacher.”
Alongside the nurturing of a classroom dynamic that will be central to navigating the upcoming term, there are also a number of protocols and practices that had to be established as classes began in order to lay the foundation for long term community health. Students create sanitary muscle memory by using hand cleaning stations and disinfecting surfaces before and after each class. Despite all the new procedures, seeing students in a classroom was a breath of fresh air for the community. “I think it kind of reignited us,” says Bohan. “This is why we teach.”
In order to accommodate the type of community health needed for a return to the grounds, and to best facilitate learning inside of those guidelines, it was also necessary to evaluate the physical spaces in which classes are taught. The Architectural Concepts course has moved into the Crumpacker Gallery and the Sheldon Library atrium is now home to a Spanish class, to name just two examples.
“We are so lucky to have as many spaces as we do,” says Bohan, who played a role in evaluating the many options the School had to choose from. “The experience taught us about being together. We have to think about a space, not just how it lends itself to teaching, but also how it lends itself to bringing people together.”
The new normal at SPS also means increased use of the outdoor spaces the campus has to offer. Classes are moving outside when feasible – sculpting classes can be spotted working at tables outside their studio, foreign languages classes are taking place on the steps of Schoolhouse. New tented areas outside the Friedman Community Center and in the Lindsay Center courtyard have also become quick favorites for students who are eating lunch or meeting up for a study session.
There is adversity in the new landscape of learning as the fall term begins, something the community is facing together. “There are both joys and challenges when you are at a boarding school,” says Bohan. “It's through the challenges that we grow.”