During the beginning of STAC 2, Concord Academy welcomed the first group of boarding students back on campus since school became remote back in March. Currently, each of the six boarding houses has around six to eight students, with forty boarders in total, a relatively small number compared to the usual twenty-five to thirty students. The purpose of this program is to test out new rules and precautions around COVID safety in order to ensure a safe return for all future boarders.
In order to accommodate state regulations and local precautions, several changes have been made to boarding life. This includes, but is not limited to, issues regarding rooming situations, curfews, mealtimes, and weekends. In each dorm room, there is a fan and a HEPA air filter, which the student can choose to keep on during the day. Bathrooms have also been renovated so that every sink and toilet is equipped with automatic sensors. When outside of their rooms, students are required to wear their masks, including in house hallways and bathrooms. In the common rooms, some furniture has been removed in order to maintain social distancing. Curfews have also been moved in order to encourage students to take care of their bodies and immune systems by going to bed earlier. House meetings and faculty check-ins, which used to take place in common rooms or hallways, have all been moved online to Zoom. These are only a few examples of the changes that have been made to the boarding experience to ensure that everyone stays healthy and safe.
With so few pilot boarders and the current unstable COVID situation, every boarder, regardless of their grade, have been placed in a single. Personally, I think it is nice to have a room to myself, especially during these times. I find that being in a single allows me to have a space in which I can not only feel safe to have my mask off, but also unwind. However, I also feel the negative effects of being in a room by myself, especially during my remote days. At times, it can feel lonely to not be in the presence of someone else in my room. Future boarders who are planning to return next semester though will most likely be placed in a double in order to house the larger number of students.
Another big change to boarding life is mealtimes in the Stu-Fac. In the past, all meals were served buffet style, and students got to grab whatever they wanted from a large selection of food. This year, all meals have been packed in take-out boxes for students to pick up instead. Although I was hesitant about this method at first, it actually makes grabbing food really quick. With everything already packed in a box, I am able to easily bring my meal to wherever I choose to eat, whether that be in the Stu-Fac, the Quad, or back in my dorm. This method also works well in protecting an area that is otherwise prone to spread of diseases and viruses.
Although it is hard to compare the current boarding experience to what student life usually looks like, I think CA has done an amazing job preserving the essence of boarding life. Most of the previous years’ schedules have been maintained, and boarding traditions are still able to be carried out. In short, the pilot boarding program will definitely be very helpful for when remaining boarding students hopefully return back to campus.