Schools nation-wide respond to the pandemic

March 11, 2020

Responses to the threat of COVID-19 have varied across the country, depending on conditions in various areas. Massachusetts, California and New York, among others, have declared states of emergency, and at least 130 colleges across the country have cancelled in-person classes as of March 10.

“[Amherst College] announced we were being sent home by Monday,” Sophie Caldwell (‘19) said. “We understand why it had to be done, but it’s not the way I wanted to finish out my freshman year.”

As universities across the nation close their doors in an attempt to contain the outbreak, St. John’s is also responding. On the morning of March 9, while students enjoyed an extra hour of sleep, Upper School faculty met to address concerns surrounding the virus and prepare for the possibility of school closure.

“[If necessary], we would create a distance-learning setting for faculty and students and operate off of a modified daily schedule,” Head of Upper School Hollis Amley said. “Faculty would use existing resources such as Google Hangouts and Pear Deck to facilitate classes.”

Some Houston schools, such as St. Thomas’ Episcopal, have already closed campus as a precautionary measure due to COVID-19. Many SJS students, including junior Maya Estrera, believe that online school is a likely and unfortunate possibility.

“A lot of stuff is going to get pushed back,” Estrera said. “Our learning and our progress will be stunted.”

Fareen Dhuka
SJS clubs are taking initiatives to prevent the spread of the virus.

In addition to preparing for possible school closure, St. John’s is taking precautions, including implementing more in depth cleaning regimes, stocking classrooms with sanitizing supplies and emphasizing student hygiene. Spring break travel, especially to severely affected regions such as China and Italy, is also a major concern.

An email sent out by Headmaster Mark Desjardins asked that families who visit these high-threat locations over the break report their plans to the student’s Division Heads and self-quarantine for the duration of the 14-day incubation period. 

Those who alert the school to their travel plans to these areas will receive excused absences during their period of self-quarantine, whereas those who do not inform St. John’s of their plans will not. Many members of the St. John’s community with potential exposure to the virus have already self-quarantined for the duration of the 14-day incubation period, though they currently have remained asymptomatic.

As SJS students continue to keep close communication with peers through grade-wide GroupMe chats, many alumni are finding their way back home. 

“Now, the next 48 hours aren’t about studying for midterms or being with our friends or enjoying this time in our lives,” said Eli Maierson (‘19), who currently attends Amherst College. “It’s about saying goodbye, and the worst part is, we don’t know for how long.”

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