Back From Break– Now What?

Teachers+such+as+History+and+Social+Sciences+Teacher+Mr.+Damon+Halback+are+on-campus+in+KN-95+or+N-95+masks%2C+utilizing+the+school%E2%80%99s+new+view-only+Zoom+policy+to+help+students+learning+from+home.

Teachers such as History and Social Sciences Teacher Mr. Damon Halback are on-campus in KN-95 or N-95 masks, utilizing the school’s new view-only Zoom policy to help students learning from home.

Shirley Xu, Staff Writer

After two days of asynchronous learning, Bishop’s announced various modifications to the school’s COVID-19 procedures via Knights News. So what exactly were these new mandates, and what do these updates mean for students and families at the school? 

Prior to the school’s scheduled return to campus, Head of School Mr. Ron Kim and Assistant Head of School Mr. Michael Beamer announced two days of asynchronous classes on Thursday, January 6th and Friday, January 7th to allow all students and faculty a chance to be tested for COVID-19. A negative COVID test was required to return to school the following Monday. 

Dean of Students Ms. Michelle Shea helped out with the on-campus testing on both days. Ms. Shea mentioned the community’s overwhelmingly positive response to the school for making COVID-19 testing so accessible. “People were incredibly grateful that we were trying to get the pulse of things,” she said, “And that we were trying to understand what the state of disease was in our community before we launched back into school.” 

Through the school’s on-campus testing program, 761 employees and students were tested for COVID-19 as they returned from winter break, and 46 positive cases were identified (a positivity rate of 6 percent). Prior to break, the school reported 3 positive cases out of 138 employees and students (a positivity rate of 2 percent). Most recently, 344 students and faculty were tested, with 29 positive cases (a positivity rate of 8.4 percent). 

To account for an increased number of COVID-related absences, the school also announced a new view-only Zoom policy. As stated on Knights News, students at home who “are at home and feeling well, but are isolating or quarantining” may join each class period over Zoom. Depending on the content of classes, teachers may decide on a day-to-day basis whether it would be helpful for students at home to remain online for the rest of the period to listen to the day’s class or to complete class work asynchronously. 

According to Ms. Shea, one of the school’s main priorities at this time is to remain on campus. She explained that much of Bishopian culture—in addition to the quality of education—can be lost in translation over Zoom. “We think it’s critically important for students to be on campus. To interact with each other. To interact with teachers. To interact with the people making them delicious lunches,” she said. “That’s the kind of school we are: an in-person school. Education is not just about information transfer, it’s about a whole host of other things. A lot of those things were difficult to achieve on Zoom.” 

Ms. Shea also brought up that students have been in a pandemic for 17% of their lives. “That’s a strange way to grow up,” she stated. “A lot of our philosophy lies behind just thinking about how we can establish some calm or at least some comfort in a time of real uncertainty.”

The school also encourages students to wear N-95 or KN-95 masks. Cloth and disposable medical masks are medically proven to be less effective in protecting their wearers against the omicron variant. Additionally, lunch has been indefinitely moved to outdoor spaces, including lunchtime meetings such as affinity groups and clubs. Personally, Ms. Shea felt extremely grateful to “work in a place that prioritizes the things [she] thinks are important.” She explained that she is “really glad” to be in an environment willing to “do all of that extra work”—whether it is enforcing a mandatory negative test or advising mask upgrades—“to get students in front of their teachers, in chairs, on campus.”