Op-Ed: Applauding Changes to Attendance Policy

Alphonse+Houndegla+%2721+learns+in+person.+Photo+by+David+Barron.+

David Barron

Alphonse Houndegla ’21 learns in person. Photo by David Barron.

Michael Young, Writer

Remote learning is a double-edged sword, providing instruction, but in a less engaging and potentially more distracting manner. Still, the option to learn from home has its allure—and not just for reasons related to the pandemic.

Earlier this year, I was forced to learn remotely when I sprained my ankle. This made walking around difficult, and attending school could have caused further injury. Thanks to remote learning, I did not miss out. To be clear, I had a doctor’s note that required me to stay home. I wasn’t playing fast-and-loose with the School’s policy, which asks that we engage in remote learning out of legitimate health concerns about the pandemic.

Still, Upper School Head Joshua Neudel recently announced plans to move toward a more normal routine after spring break, as vaccines continue to rollout and COVID-19 infection rates decline.

“As we look ahead to the final few months of the school year, we are asking that you make every effort possible to have your student in school,” Neudel wrote in a recent community email. “This year has taken an emotional toll on students, and we believe strongly that transitioning those who have been concurrent back into the classroom for the final months of the year will help them end the year successfully and restore healthy learning habits before heading into summer break.”

This is a solid move by the School. On any given day, I know that students choose to remain home out of convenience—not because of any health concerns due to the pandemic. Then again, I also know that wearing a mask and social distancing causes students stress, and they prefer learning at home because of fewer restrictions. Still, it’s about time for the administration to take a firmer stance and I’m hopeful that spring ushers in a greater sense of normalcy.

The School has also made a wise decision by asking families who commit to remote learning to inform Nurse Beth Escobar of the decision.

“All other options—part-time and occasionally—will not be allowed unless the nurse approves it on a case-by-case basis,” Neudel also wrote. “This information will help us decide how best to proceed with a spring schedule”

Students should feel secure in knowing that the School is committed to keeping everyone safe, and we would do well to abide by these sound policy changes. Between weekly COVID-19 testing, strict social distancing protocols, and enhanced cleaning protocols, I feel as safe as possible on campus.

However, I fear the slow but inevitable death of traditional snow days. Enjoying a day off because of Mother Nature seems like a rite of passage, especially here in New England. For any administrators reading this article, please don’t take away this tradition.

As we approach spring break, keep your guard up about the virus, but also remain optimistic about what the future holds. More vaccines are going into arms each week, including here, and hopefully the warmer weather will slow the spread of the virus even more.

For our part, we should do everything we can to keep ourselves safe.