An education in safety


The drill team follows mask and distancing guidelines during practice. photo by Anna Connolly

Staff Stance

Our world is very different than it was six months ago. More than 33 million cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed and more than 200,000 people have died in the United States alone. Five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have mandated full or regional school closures.

Amid these drastic changes, Hockaday has effectively responded to the current climate. The school’s approach of opening the campus while also allowing a hybrid learning plan let students gain some sense of normalcy.

For one thing, humans are social beings. Drs. Dabney Ingram and Rebecca London wrote in a report for the education group BeyondDifferences “humans are a social species” who “have an inherent need to feel connected to others and to feel like we belong with others.” In children, social isolation is linked

to both mental and physical health effects. These mental effects include depression, increased anxiety, suicidal tendencies, lower self-esteem, and sleep disturbances. In fact, of 64 Hockaday seniors asked in a Groupme conversation, 50 percent reported sleeping worse than last year due

to online school. Physical health effects include increased risk of substance abuse, higher risk of poor cardiovascular health, and a general worse physical health. Students need social interaction and staring at their computer for 6 hours a day was not providing them with these necessities.

In addition, Hockaday has maintained health guidelines to ensure student safety. Students wear masks at all times, except when eating lunch outside six feet apart. Lower School, Middle School, and Upper School have been divided into cohorts and do not interact throughout the day to ensure minimal contact. Arrival times have been staggered between the divisions and Upper School student drivers and non-drivers enter through different locations. Upon entry, each student must get their temperature checked along with aconfirmation that their parents filled out a form on the SchoolPass app that they were healthy that day.

As students enter the school, hand washing stations are dispersed throughout every building and hand sanitizer outside every classroom. The hallways have been labeled with directional markers to keep students six feet apart and separated while walking in opposite directions. Each set of stairs has been designated as an “up” or “down” stairwell. Every desk in each classroom is six feet apart with an assigned seating chart in case of a possible contagion, in which case students would quickly be told of exposure. After each class, students wipe down their desks and work areas.

In science classrooms where the tables cannot be separated three- foot tall plastic barriers were put in the middle of the tables to separate students. Students can only go into the bathroom three at a time and leave their name tags by the door to let other students know they are inside. The water fountains have been locked down, replaced by water filling stations. Each cohort eats lunch in a different area with Upper School eating by advisory. For sports, students are required to wear masks and socially distance.

This is just a brief overview of the countless guidelines and health procedures Hockaday instated to ensuring the school was safe enough to reopen. The school has added a COVID-19 dashboard on the website to keep parents and students informed, answer frequently asked questions and provide links to other resources. Hockaday is more than prepared if an outbreak happens and doing everything possible to prevent that.

At this point, no students have tested positive for COVID-19 and only three students in all divisions are in quarantine due to possible exposure. Hockaday is doing very well keeping its students safe.

As well, a hybrid learning plan allows permanent distance learners to still feel connected to the classroom. Currently, Upper School has 86 distance learners. The school accommodates these students by installing two cameras into every classroom. Distance learners can see the class from the front or behind. Students are live streamed to the class through Zoom and participate like any other student. Distance learning or not, teachers make time to meet with any student.

Any schoolwide or form assemblies or meetings are Zoom videos so all students can participate. While students may still feel somewhat disconnected by not being at school, Hockaday has made the transition as smooth as possible.

Through these measures Hockaday has been successful in adapting to an ever-changing and stressful situation. The school has shown its resilience and ability to work with students during these difficult times.