Currently, Concord Academy’s policy is to wear masks indoors at all times except when actively eating, with masking being optional outdoors. These guidelines are similar to many other schools in the area, independent and public alike, and follow state and nation-wide health guidance. The policy is more than adequate, with one caveat.
Meals, especially lunch, pose a problem within the CA mask policy. Despite the revised schedule aiming to disperse some of the crowds at lunch, there are still many people eating together at one time. Obviously masks are not worn while people are eating, but the Stu-Fac is relatively small and the chairs are close together. To me, this seems a little contradictory. I can sit at a table eating right next to other people, but as soon as I stand up my mask must go back on. In many classrooms, desks are further apart than the chairs in the Stu-Fac, yet in these rooms, masks are required. Every lunch block, I could be sitting near, next to, across, or behind someone with COVID, and I might never know it. This seems to go against the school’s goal of only having masks off outdoors, where there is maximum ventilation.
I am uncertain about how the school could fix this sort of issue. Spacing the chairs out a little more in the Stu-Fac seems like an obvious solution, but it would cause there to not be enough seats at lunch. An additional one foot between the chairs could help mitigate risks, but eight chairs would no longer fit at a table, and there is no additional room to add more tables. Luckily, there have been very few cases of COVID within the community and no on-campus spread has been recorded so far. At this point and time, I am not entirely sure that this problem even needs to be addressed.
However, in the case that the school begins to start seeing additional cases in the community, including on-campus spread, I think the Stu-Fac would be an excellent place to start tightening COVID restrictions. Hopefully, it will never come to that point, and the close seats and current lunch set-up can stay as is. Most of the CA population is vaccinated, but breakthrough cases can occur. We have a responsibility to help keep both Concord and the state of Massachusetts safe.