The COVID-19 pandemic has altered numerous aspects of everyday Belmont Hill life, from sports practices to the academic schedule to meals, and has allowed students and faculty alike to reconsider long-held school traditions. While many of these changes will likely be discontinued after the pandemic, such as the necessity to wear masks or the inability to compete in normal ISL games, it may prove beneficial to consider continuing a few of these modifications even after the pandemic. By forcing Belmont Hill to dramatically restructure school life, the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed students and faculty alike to reconsider long-held school traditions. Thus, as more people continue to get vaccinated, some individuals may even advocate for a few of these modifications to remain even when a return to normalcy is eventually permitted.
One potential modification that Belmont Hill could keep is the new structure of lunches. By allowing advisories to eat lunch together every day of the week, students have been able to strengthen bonds with their classmates and advisors in a way that had not occurred prior to the pandemic. Additionally, this extra time in the middle of the day has allowed advisories to discuss Chapel talks, DEI initiatives, and current events in a more intimate and interactive manner. Advisors have been able to stimulate conversation among students surrounding these topics in ways that were previously impossible, as prior to the pandemic, students would often leave Chapel directly to their next class without the ability to discuss the content of the speech that they had just heard. Although students do miss ‘family-style’ Dining Hall lunches, the pandemic has shown that an alternative way of gathering for lunch can have its own benefits as well.
Another aspect of school life that could remain even after the pandemic is the potential for remote learning. In the past, if students were sick, away from the school, or unable to attend class, those students would miss an entire day of classes and classwork, often leaving them behind in their understanding of academic topics and with much more work to catch up on. However, due to the new ability to learn remotely, students can still attend classes despite the inability to be physically present at school. While most students have expressed their feeling that in-person classes are much more engaging than remote learning, keeping the option of remote learning available for students who are unable to attend a given class will allow them to more easily adjust.
Parts of the structure for the new academic structure could also continue in a modified way after the pandemic. While allowing classes to meet less frequently, the new class schedule implemented this year has minimized wasted time in between classes, allowed classes to engage in longer and more thorough discussions and projects, and reduced the number of classes that each student has to prepare for on a nightly basis. Due to the reduced wasted time throughout the day, classes have been able to start half an hour later and there has been extra room for DEI time in the middle of the day. Also, by aligning the Middle School schedule with the Upper School schedule, and by having lunch in separate advisory classrooms, school-wide events such as Chapel talks can occur in the middle of the day, when the entire school can listen. Upper School students perhaps appreciate this change the most, since, as opposed to a later lunch, students can eat together at a more optimal time. Lastly, having adjusted to the 75-minute blocks, students and faculty may feel that the 40-minute blocks are extremely condensed when school does return to normal.
While many of the modifications made to school life during the pandemic will likely revert back to normal, students and faculty may also advocate for some of the changes to stay. Overall, while the pandemic has caused many unfavourable modifications to school life, such as the necessity to wear masks, it has also highlighted some areas of the school’s structure that could be changed for the better. As the days left in the pandemic dwindle, reconsidering whether to modify or keep Belmont Hill’s structure the same will be vital.