By Zoe Wang (V) By the middle of March 2020, the coronavirus pandemic sent schools and educators into a frenzy. Phil Murphy, the Governor of New Jersey, announced that all public and private schools were to be immediately closed to prevent the virus’s spread. The safety of students and staff were of the highest priority. Following the state’s orders, Pingry closed its doors to the community during spring break, and plans to commence remote learning ensued. After Pingry’s shift to remote learning, the question remained: what will school look like in September?
In July, the administration announced Pingry’s plan to resume school in the fall, titled “Pingry Anywhere.” As Head of School Matt Levinson stated, “The philosophy of Pingry Anywhere is to be able to provide education from anywhere.” Pingry Anywhere is a flexible education model that integrates in-person and online learning to accommodate students learning on campus and at home.
The plan meticulously considered all factors that make up a student’s typical school day at Pingry and implemented necessary precautions and safety measures. Every morning before arriving on campus, everyone must complete a pre-screen form that asks for your temperature, if you have any of the COVID symptoms, or if you have traveled outside of the state recently. At each school entrance, everyone’s temperature is checked to ensure that it is below 99.9°F.
Lunch has been redesigned so that Form III and IV students eat in the Hyde and Watson Gym, while Form V and VI students remain in the Engel Dining Hall. Additionally, all meals are pre-packaged, with plexiglass dividers at every table to minimize the risk of contact while eating. One of the most significant changes, however, is how classrooms now look. There are plexiglass barriers between every desk and TVs in every classroom for those opting to learn remotely. To encourage students to go outside for some fresh air, Adirondack chairs and tents have also been installed at the back of the school so students can interact with each other or take a “breather.”
After the first month of school concluded, COVID-19 testing began rolling out. The non-invasive antigen test is saliva-based and uses pool-testing. Along with wearing the mandatory masks and face shields, testing provides community members with another cautionary measure. The test results will allow the affected individuals to quarantine and contact tracing procedures will follow while mitigating others’ risk at school.
The efforts of several individuals at Pingry who have put in countless hours to make the students and faculty’s daily lives seem as ‘normal’ as possible are extremely appreciated by the community, as we truly are lucky to be able to go back in-person.
Like Pingry, Newark Academy has instituted similar protocols such as a daily COVID-19 questionnaire to complete before entering the campus, increased cleaning of high-touch surfaces throughout the day, and social distancing procedures. The key differences lie in the flexibility of attending school and testing. Pingry allows students and families to decide daily where they will be attending in-person or remote learning. Newark Academy also gives students the option to shift to remote education; however, they must wait until designated transition times to return to in-person learning. Unlike Pingry, Newark Academy has not yet announced plans to implement COVID-19 testing. This additional measure is beneficial for Pingry in keeping the community safe and campus open for as long as possible.
As a Pingry community member, everyone is expected to uphold the Community Pledge and follow all of the contact tracing and quarantine protocols. It truly is commendable what a great job the faculty and staff have done to bring the students back on campus to a thriving environment filled with exceptional learning.