School prepares for possible coronavirus disruptions

The entire school gathers for Opening Day, September 4, 2019 – photo courtesy of Communications

One measly snow day. That’s all we asked for. It snowed a few times, and we pressed our noses to the window panes, praying for the drop in temperature that never seemed to fully come. Every five-day week evoked thoughts of sleeping in, drinking hot cocoa, catching up on television rather than biology. And now our wish of staying home from school may be granted. Sort of.

We laughed about the coronavirus when it was far away. We were happy it wasn’t us once it reached Italy and the West Coast. But it’s inching closer, knocking on our doors, whispering in our ears. What does it say about us that we only started stressing now that it reached Montgomery County? That’s a problem for another time.

In the past few days, more and more cases have been popping up: first in Delaware County and most recently two more in Montgomery County, according to the Governor’s office.

Last Wednesday, March 4, the Haverford faculty met to discuss the possibility of closing the school over COVID-19. The upper school faculty is now enrolled in classes on how to conduct online schooling March 9-March 13.

For now, here are the facts. Coronavirus has arrived. According to a spokesperson from Germantown Academy, a parent of a student has been quarantined.

“While that family member is experiencing only mild, cold-like symptoms, and while the GA student has no symptoms, the student will self-quarantine at home for at least two weeks,” read an email sent out to both parents and students attending GA, “The family member has not been on GA’s campus, but the student was in attendance through Friday, March 6.”

GA will begin online schooling this week. GA has announced they will be closed Monday, March 9, Tuesday, March 10 and Wednesday, March 11. Afterward, they will begin operating Virtual GA from March 12th until the beginning of their Spring Break on Wednesday, March 18th.

If you take the Blue Route, we are 13.6 miles away from Germantown Academy. If they are closing, will we? There is reason to believe we will. Before GA’s breaking news, we have already cancelled not-fully-refundable trips and taken precautionary steps to ensure one of our own does not spread the virus.

Cases have been soaring in many countries overseas, particularly in Italy, where, in a mere two weeks, fourteen Haverford students were scheduled to travel over Spring Break. As the number of cases in the country cracked 5,000 and with hundreds more being confirmed each day, the CDC and the US Department of State advised citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Italy—the final nail in the trip’s coffin.

 “We feel that we would be putting our students and teachers in dangerous and compromised situations if we allowed the trip to go forward as planned,” Chair of the Global Studies Mr. Andrew Poolman said.

Additionally, the janitorial staff has been informed to partake in new, more effective disinfecting practices.

“We are currently developing distance learning plans, in case local health authorities determine that school closures are necessary.”

Dr. John Nagl

In Dr. Nagl’s “Message from the Headmaster: Coronavirus Preparedness Update,” he reported a sobering possibility.

“We are currently developing distance learning plans, in case local health authorities determine that school closures are necessary. We ask that you comply with instructions from your son’s teachers on tests of these systems.”

Think about all the work that is done in school. Part of every student’s motivation is the setting: jackets, ties, dress shoes (sort of), and most importantly, the requirement to get out of bed, commute from one zip code to another, and follow a strict schedule.

Yes, there will be more time to complete work in the proposed long-distance learning plan, but there will also be less motivation. Homework, coupled with classwork, will be an almost insurmountable task with every distraction at our fingertips. Imagine having to follow along with a lecture with the power button to your gaming console within arm’s length.

As we continue to hear new information daily, it is important to keep in mind that much is still unknown about both the virus itself and how to prevent it. Many of the decisions made by both Haverford’s administration and people/businesses around the world will be more conservation as they try to hinder the spread of this deadly disease. 

Temper your expectations and send your prayers to the infected patients—this is not a snow day you want to have.

Weeks or months off-campus sound ideal. Sixth Formers can’t wait for their senior projects. 

Temper your expectations and send your prayers to the infected patients—this is not a snow day you want to have.

Author: Matthew Schwartz '21

Managing Editor Matthew Schwartz has written for The Index for three years. He previously served as News Editor.