As the pandemic continues, restricted in-person learning at Concord Academy continues in STAC 5. Community members are now adjusted to this new way of living and are on the way to embrace the “new normal,” In this STAC, 336 CA students physically returned to campus for not two, but four days of in-person classes each week. As more people are returning to campus and changes are made to our learning system, students now have a new experience of our CA life amidst this difficult time.

Overall, students are satisfied with how the in-person learning is going and are grateful for all of the things the school has done. The Freshman class president Anghelo Chavira ’24 commented, “I have the pleasure to see the behind-the-scene thing, everything that has been happening ……I think whatever [CA] is offering is the best that they can giving the circumstances, and CA has lived up to its expectations to [have] a more open program for students.” Jolyon Breckon ’21, the student head of Wheeler House, lauded CA’s success in protecting its students from the pandemic, “I think [CA] has done a better job than any other school that I’ve heard of, at least. I can’t name another school that has zero community spread cases. That is not even a thing.” The reopening of CA has undoubtedly been smooth and safe.

One of the most special changes made in this STAC is the new 4 days learning system. The benefits of having a full in-person learning experience are obvious. “I think in-person learning, at least compared to online learning, creates a much more structured environment.” Kelly Kong ’24 commented. “It’s also good to interact with classmates and peers, to actually talk to them face-to-face in classes.” Yet, despite students’ excitement, the return to in-person learning has made students far more tired. This is especially the case for freshmen who have never had the full experience of CA life. As Kelly pointed out, “The transition from two days to four days [in-person] learning was a bit overwhelming. [This is] because I’ve almost forgotten what a normal school year is like, going back to this 7:30 to 3:00 in the afternoon model is a bit stressful at the beginning.”  Anghelo expressed a similar opinion, “I thought that [four days of in-person learning] is gonna be  tough, it’s gonna be really exhausting, which it is.” On the other hand, he also believes that: “Life before COVID worked like that. It was Monday through Friday waking up, at least in my case, at about 6 or 7 AM and getting out of school at 6 PM, and I was totally happy with that …… I think that [four days of in-person learning] is exhausting, nevertheless, it was necessary for us to adapt, learning how to go back to reality.” Starting to be in-person for four whole days might be tiring at first, but it is certainly very much needed for us in order to prepare for the future reality.

However, despite the advantages of in-person learning, there are still some problems existing around this system that are quite difficult to solve. One of the biggest concerns around the system is the situation of remote students. As more and more students are returning to campus, the remote students are now becoming the minority. The school is now working hard to include the remote students in the community. Anghelo said, “I think that CA has been considerate for those who can’t be in person. All of the activities, at least speaking from my perspective, in the council, every single activity that we’ve planned, there’s always the intention to make it available for in-person students but also for online students. People are really trying their best for the people who are not here to not feel left out.” 

Another big problem now is about how to preserve the culture of CA while following all of the COVID restrictions. Jolyon expressed his concern upon this matter, “Just because CA is such a touchy school, everyone’s always on top of each other, and just as friends, people are always messing with each other all the time. And now, if that happens, a teacher freaks out, and it’s so against the culture of the school,” Jolyon continued, “It’s going to be interesting to see how all the COVID protocols and everything are phased out, and whether or not they are phased out culturally.”

It is good news for all of us to see that CA is gradually returning to normal safely, but it is equally important for us to be aware of the potential problems in our systems right now and do our best to improve the situation. Most importantly, we should all be grateful of the great effort everyone, especially the CA administration, has put into maintaining a good learning environment in such a chaotic and crazy time. It is everyone’s wish to have all of the members of the CA community to return on campus and continue making CA a better place.