May begins ‘All In’

Mary Randolph, Editor-In-Chief

On the first day of “All In” learning on May 3, a sunny Monday, Math and Computer Science Teacher Christine Oulton’s BC Precalculus class gathered outside the woodshed to share a box of donuts she’d bought—not an unusual scene in past years, except that this was the first time the whole class, comprised of three different grades, had physically been in one place to eat them.

The togetherness and the belated debut of donuts were much appreciated.

“In this year with so many changes and so much weirdness, it was great to be able to celebrate anything,” Ali Roche ’22, a member of the class, said. “It was so nice of [Ms. Oulton] to put it together for our class. I woke up that morning, and I was like, ‘We have our little math party today!’ It’s just nice to honor these things after we’ve been through so much.”

The return to near normalcy has brought with it much-needed connections, Upper School (US) Director Geoff Theobald said. With the Middle School joining the Lower School in attending classes altogether five days a week and the US campus open to all students four days a week, his favorite part of the “All In” model, he said, has been watching students and adults alike being able to sit together to simply chat.

“We have all battled isolation this year, so these connections are huge,” Mr. Theobald said.

Getting to this point, he added, involved a lot of maneuvering with respect to assigning classrooms and was made easier by the fact that a majority of the seniors are off campus for projects.

“That wasn’t the only consideration when building the last round of schedules, but it did become a bit of a numbers game.”

Head of School Jen Price said the main factors making May “All In” possible were the positivity rates in the state, which she said she “checks like a crazy woman” every day; the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, which recently changed social distancing guidelines to 3 feet; and vaccination rates for faculty and staff, which was 93% when the school last surveyed them in April (see “Community herd takes shot at immunity,” Vol. 50, No. 1).

“Those three things coming together this April really opened the door,” Dr. Price said.

Though the logistics of unmasked dining would be challenging, Dr. Price said, she knew the impact of “All In” on teaching and learning would be well worth it.

“I hope we look back at this year as a hard year, but actually a year where we learned a lot about ourselves and came together as a community,” she said.

If vaccine and positivity rates continue their current trajectories, the US can hopefully return to a normal schedule and use of campus next fall, she said.