Different Perspectives on Hackley’s Reopening


Credit: Emily Koch

Students find a way to work socially distanced during free periods.

In recent months, people all over the world have been immersed in strange new circumstances. Many of these vast changes have been implemented right here on the Hilltop. One of the biggest changes and problems the world faces amidst the COVID-19 pandemic is education. After going online in the spring of 2019 with little warning, administrators and faculty had to come up with a creative plan for reopening that complies with COVID-19 guidelines. While school is nothing like what we are used to, the faculty at Hackley was able to jump through hoops and get students from Kindergarten to Senior year back on campus for full-time, in-person school.
One of these major adjustments has been wearing masks during school. Adapting to wearing masks for hours on end has been a difficult aspect of this “new normal” for students. Sophomore Catie O’Rourke said, “I don’t like the mask because I can’t breathe with [it on].”
Part of the responsibility of wearing a mask is also staying socially distanced from others, especially inside buildings. Sophomore Zara Yusaf said that “it’s really hard to stay six feet apart, even inside, but it’s essential.”
Although these guidelines are of utmost importance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this is something that students struggle with. Students expressed that the aspect of learning that has suffered the most due to this new set up is the sense of community in the classroom. New classroom styles with dividers and assigned seats have taken a major toll on discussion-based classes like English, history, and language classes.
“It makes it harder to see the board, and it changes the flow of the discussion,” sophomore Emily Rifkin said about her English and history classes,“I really enjoyed the Harkness table discussion style, and this makes it more difficult for me to learn.”
Sophomore Esther Choi echoed Emily’s ideas saying, “With [Harkness] tables it was hard to not talk to one another, but now that we are facing in the same direction, I feel like the discussions are a little choppy.” English teacher and Dean Jenny Leffler said, “I [feel] like our discussions [are] not quite where we wanted [them] to be.”
“My interactions with teachers, they don’t happen as much. The dimensions of the classroom changed so that student-teachers’ one-on-one interaction during class is pretty rare,” Esther said. Overall, the main effect of the new classroom structure has been the lack of communication, which ultimately makes it more difficult for students to learn.
For the Hackley students who chose to participate in fall sports, they were met with the harsh reality that the competition season that they know isn’t possible under COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines. Many sports have adapted to a modified schedule which has been difficult for students. The new guidelines restrict games and require that students wear masks if not more than 6 feet apart.
“It’s not terrible,” Sophomore Liam Abraham said in response to whether it has been difficult to adapt to the new football practices. This was surprisingly a common response from many students, with many feeling like it is not a huge change from normal sports.
One of the main concerns in sports was about the mask-wearing. While it is difficult to adjust to wearing masks during practice, for cross country, sophomore Zara Yusaf said that “they’re not that bad because coaches are good at accommodating.” The coaches ensure that the runners are 6 feet apart, purposefully spacing them out so they don’t need to keep their masks on.
When asked how this sports season is affected due to restrictions, sophomore Catie O’Rourke said that she thinks the field hockey season has been “100% affected because now we can’t play games… I would love to play games.” Catie’s beliefs were also voiced by field hockey coach Ms. Leffler, who said, “We are missing the games and the intensities that it brings to the season.” Sports seasons may not be the same as they used to be, but many athletes are just glad to have some sort of sports.
Although the entire Hackley community has had to adapt to a new reality, most students get to go home every night and return to a familiar environment. On the other hand, for boarding students the change is immeasurable. Now, boarders are not allowed in their rooms until 7 p.m., in order to properly organize temperature checks. Additionally, they are only staying in single rooms and must maintain social distancing at all times. While these precautionary measures are there for borders’ safety, the restrictions create an extremely isolating environment.
According to Esther, a 10th-grade border, the common area used to be a lively place where everyone was always interacting, doing homework, or just hanging out, but this is no longer allowed, leaving the place feeling empty. Another huge factor of boarding used to be the community, but now because of COVID, it is difficult to recreate that same environment without being near one another. Recently, teachers have had to be extra creative in order to make the boarding experience fun and social, like planning movie marathons and other socially-distanced gatherings. While boarders’ daily lives are pale in comparison to what they were, it is important to remember that the boarders and the Hackley community are extremely fortunate to have the option to fully return to school this fall.
Ultimately, we have all had to make sacrifices in order for us to return to school. The Hackley community being back together on campus makes all of these changes worth it.