COVID-19 has sent a chilling effect across the United States and across the world. Offices, schools, and businesses have already begun adapting to telecommunications substitutions and avoiding in-person contact to limit the spread of the virus. Like many other educational institutions, Concord Academy is no different to this global pandemic and has taken steps to ensure classes can continue, albeit virtually. Students and faculty have already been introduced to the Zoom spiel, with not only classes but also senior chapels, announcements, and sports meetings being conducted on the platform. Administrators first drafted the distance learning plan during late March with numerous accommodations and adjustments to support students, teachers, and faculty in continually running the school during the pandemic. Schedules shifted into one-hour-long blocks for each class, the terms asynchronous and synchronous are now considered a commonplace, and grades switched to pass/no credit. The uncertainty of the virus also played much of a role in planning and the current state of the school. Citing the Distance – Learning Plan released this March, it anticipated a “May 4: First day of on-campus classes or continuation of distance learning.” By the time this article is published, I think it’s quite certain that members of the CA community will not be returning to campus this academic year.
In light of these recent events, CA continues many of the scheduled programmings that would have been commonplace on campus with online substitutes. During the interim week of April 4, CA hosted a modified version of Red and Blue Day, a school tradition filled with activities and competitions that enriched the traditional rivalry of both teams. The week had also been earmarked for faculty to continue planning for the remainder of the semester and for students, it quickly transformed into a mixture of activities including Kahoots!, friendly rivalries, book readings, and talent shows while still acting as a planning week for course requests, elections and finishing the curriculum for the remaining weeks left.
Another event that just concluded was the Concord Academy Model UN held on the 2nd of May. Originally planned to be the first 2-day conference hosted by CA, it was cleverly renamed “Phoenix CAMUN” to symbolize the rebirth of the program. Spearheaded by faculty advisor Ben Stumpf and secretary-general Charmaine Ko ’20, CAMUN has been running since 2004 and the pandemic did not stop it from celebrating its 16th anniversary. Filled with eager staffers and 100 delegates from 20 schools, a 3-hour conference consisting of both general assemblies and crisis events were underway. Charmaine credits the success to the chairs and rapporteurs “who did an amazing job running parliamentary procedure while tackling confusing tech for the first time.” Although lacking the formalities such as opening and closing ceremonies, awards, and position papers, CAMUN was still regarded as a victory by many.
Heading into the final weeks of the academic calendar, graduation services have been modified to fit an all virtual schedule with Baccalaureate and Commencement to be held on May 28 and May 29, respectively. Citing Head of School Rick Hardy’s message sent on May 4th, “CA Now and the Road Ahead”, shares that the Board aims to “celebrate our seniors for all they have given to CA during their time here” with showcasing students’ works throughout the exercises. Sticking true to tradition, performances, and Commencement exercises will be accompanied by a virtual morning breakfast with Rick Hardy. This year’s Commencement speaker will be Ambassador Samantha Power, the 28th Permanent Representative of the United States and a member of former President Obama’s cabinet. She is currently a professor at Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Law School.
As the world gripes with the pandemic, it is becoming uncertain when many educational institutions will reopen. As a boarding school with a significant population of out of state and international students, readmitting everyone back to campus safely will be a challenge that CA has to tackle in the coming months. The boarding population of CA is struggling to acquire their belongings left in the houses as they deal with transportation difficulties and reopening guidelines, trying to safely acquire items while avoiding the spread of the virus as retrieval becomes more of a pressing issue. Although the Board is still deciding whether or not to reopen CA in the Fall, which will be announced by July 15, returning to campus in September is becoming increasingly less probable as nonuniform reopening protocols are occurring in the United States and the death toll of COVID-19 continues to rise around the world. The economic windfall is also apparent as mass unemployment alongside a bearish economy in the nation plays with enrollment tuition and Annual Fund donations; the Board predicts a “drop-in CA’s endowment value” in the May 4th address. At this time, whether or not CA will reopen campus this Fall remains uncertain until a decision is reached in July.
The key to remember is that everyone is experiencing and tackling the same difficulty, at whatever magnitude. Whether through social distancing or working in the frontlines to keep everyone safe, we must continue to limit the spread of COVID-19 to safeguard our future interests. And as the Persian adage perfectly puts it, “this too shall pass.”