COVID-19 cases are increasing around the world and in the United States. On October 23, the U.S. reported more than 80,000 new daily infections—the highest number of cases since July 16, which had the last pandemic high of 77,362 cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that by November 14, 3,500 to 7,600 deaths will occur, bringing the national toll to 235,000 to 247,000.
Although Massachusetts is doing better than many other states in regards to containing and handling the virus, the state is not immune to the rise of cases and its grim reality. As of Thursday, October 22, 986 new confirmed cases were reported within the commonwealth; 154 were in Middlesex County, where Concord Academy is located. Massachusetts has already identified seventy-seven new towns as having high risks of exposure, though Concord is still within the green zone, meaning that the rate of positivity is low.
Yet, CA has already reopened with a hybrid system for the second module of Short Terms at Concord (STAC). Faced with criticisms for not reopening during STAC 1, the school has heavily prepared to allow a semblance of normalcy within campus. New television sets, tracking webcams, and air filters were installed in each classroom to support hybrid learning. Each room has a maximum occupancy limit to ensure the safety of those who choose to return to campus. Roaming proctors travel campus to help setup classroom technology and reinforce the safety guidelines outlined in the Concord Pact. Students could choose to take a hybrid or all-virtual schedule, but not continuous in-person learning as of this STAC. Boarding students were also invited to join back on campus, although with much stricter regulations. All rooms were converted into single unit residences where each boarder has no roommates. Furniture in the common rooms were removed to help limit the spread of the virus and to create more available classrooms during the day to help offload the occupancy limits within classroom buildings. Currently, around 60 boarding students are living in the houses.
CA has been preparing since this summer to reopen with adequate testing and strict safety guidelines akin to many other private schools. However, it is hard to predict what will happen next. With the rising cases in the state and no clear vaccine or nationwide guide in sight to help contain the spread, it is not farfetched to question the decision of reopening now. STAC 3 will be all remote to allow any required renovations for a STAC 4 reopening with accommodations for more boarding students and to help mitigate any spread that might occur during the holiday season. Let’s all hope for a safe and successful reopening for both this STAC and the months later in the year.