In recent months, both statewide and national COVID policies have changed immensely. Many businesses have reopened their doors to excited customers and social distancing guidelines have been eased. Schools are among those organizations greatly impacted by the shifting guidelines. In various aspects, our very own Winsor and Belmont Hill have both begun to phase into normalcy.
At Belmont Hill, this year feels more like the school we know and love. When we walked back on campus on August 30th, all students were required to wear masks indoors at all times with no exemptions for those who were vaccinated against Covid-19; however, social distancing requirements were relaxed. In similarity to the 2020-2021 school year, lunch normally consisted of sandwiches, chips, drinks, and dessert, choices in a “grab and go” format. Until the 15th of November, Forms I-III ate lunch together between 12:05 and 12:45 in the regularly scheduled Upper School F-Block while Forms IV-VI were allowed to grab lunch at any time between 11:30-2:00.
On October 18, with the entire school testing negative fo4b3w r COVID, masks were no longer required indoors (apart from those unvaccinated), except for during events in the chapel. Due to the fact that Belmont Hill has a 99% vaccination rate. Mr. Schneider explained at Friday Forum on the 15th of October that the Belmont Hill administration had devised a two phase plan on a return to normalcy. In Phase I, vaccinated students had the choice to not wear a mask in classes unless their teacher required them to, and hot menu items such as soup and burritos were featured on the lunch menu. Starting on November 15, Phase 2 began with lunch returning to family-style and students being able to remove masks during the all-school David Brooks chapel meeting. Aidan Lee ’24 said, “I’m really excited to get back to sit-down lunch,” and with this long awaited return to normalcy at Belmont Hill, many of the students will return to the lunch they remember from two years ago, while for a few students, these changes will be new and their first introduction to the real Belmont Hill program. The reintroduction of lunch to the school will finally bring school back to normal and we are thankful to everyone in the community who is helping to bring back the classic Belmont Hill experience.
On Pilgrim Road, the Winsor community has seen quite a dramatic shift in terms of COVID policies and restrictions. Masks are required indoors at all times, but are optional in outdoor spaces. Classrooms are at full capacity, with desks and chairs moved back to where they used to be. Many students at Winsor have noticed the many positive changes in our learning environment and are optimistic about the school year. Aleksaundra Handrinos ’22 commented, “This year at Winsor has definitely felt more normal than last! While we are still wearing masks, which feels pretty normal at this point, just the ability to spend time in spaces like the senior homeroom and the library reminds me of our pre-COVID time at school. I love spending my free blocks working with classmates and enjoying these spaces we missed for some time.”
Certainly, many community spaces at Winsor have been transformed since last spring, including the dining hall. There, food is served buffet-style, with a self-serve sandwich and salad bar—just like it used to be! Similar to Aleksaundra, Tia Sheth ’22 appreciates the reconnection of our community. As one of four SASS (Students Advocating for School Spirit) heads, she said, “while Winsor never lost its community feel, on UTL, being all together for the pep rally felt like the past two years have only brought us closer together. With masks, without masks, being in person for school has made the Winsor School community feel alive and each day, I am grateful that this is not a normal senior year; it is more special.” While Winsor continues to promote safety and health this new school year, we are incredibly grateful for all of the changes that allow us to stay connected with one another.
Both Winsor and Belmont Hill students are experiencing day-to-day lives at school that still reflect the unusual times we are living in, but that allow us to closely interact with our communities nonetheless. If we continue to prioritize our health and safety, we will make possible a school year filled with fun traditions and exciting events.