While some schools have outdoor tents and others are online, Haverford has “Virtue Village.” Originally intended only to be used as classes for the middle school during the construction of their new building, Virtue Village has been instrumental in allowing the upper school to return to campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. It currently sits atop the tennis courts where it is home to fourteen active classrooms, including a majority of the history department along with classes for mathematics, English, and a single foreign language course.
“Late last spring, early in the summer, we realized that in order for us to reduce the population density in [Wilson Hall], we would need additional space and were really fortunate to have the trailers available,” Acting Head of Upper School Mr. Mark Fifer said.
Along with keeping the trailers, Registrar Ms. Karen Skidmore and the upper school administration had to decide which teachers would be moved out and which could stay in the main building. A key factor in that decision was the number of students in each class. The class placements were created with the idea that all students, should they choose to attend school in person as opposed to virtually, could safely be in a classroom while following CDC guidelines. Some teachers will even move back into Wilson Hall at the end of quarter one due to a smaller number of students in their new class. The history department often offers the larger class sections, which explains its increased presence in Virtue Village.
“As a teacher, your classroom is like your sacred land, so I was definitely bummed to not be in my main classroom, but I understand what’s going on, and I care more about being able to teach in person than I do about where I teach.”Mr. Brian Long
One of those teachers, Mr. Brian Long, who teaches Ancient World History and Finance, was disappointed moving to the trailers but is appreciative of the unique opportunity it offers.
“As a teacher, your classroom is like your sacred land, so I was definitely bummed to not be in my main classroom,” Mr. Long said, “but I understand what’s going on, and I care more about being able to teach in person than I do about where I teach.”
Virtue Village provides few differences from Wilson Hall and subsequently, students have expressed minimal complaints regarding the condition of the facilities.
“It’s a lot nicer than I thought the inside would be. The classrooms are bigger, plus there are still bathrooms and Smartboards,” Sixth Former Carter McIntyre said. “The walk [from Wilson Hall] is only a little annoying, but I understand why we have to do it.”
Although students regularly travel back and forth between Wilson Hall and Virtue Village, teachers may often feel slightly isolated from the rest of their co-workers. For example, looking around at the unplanned fire drill on the opening day of school, you would be hard pressed to spot any students or faculty from Virtue Village, as they continued on with their curriculum, unaware of the crowd forming on the football field. And just like the students, who only interact with students in their own classes, teachers in Virtue Village do not get to see their colleagues who do not work in the same building as them.
“I saw Dr. Fenton in person today for the first time since March, which is pretty crazy to think about,” Mr. Long said.
What makes it all worth it to Mr. Long and others by the tennis courts is the ability to control their own air-conditioning. In an attempt to make his classes a bit more exciting, Mr. Long spins an online wheel numbered 50 to 70 before each period and sets the temperature to whatever it lands on. Individual use of the thermostat throughout the trailers has worked to varying success.
“It’s either way too cold or way too hot,” McIntyre said.
“Teachers and students have been really good-natured about it. I think they entered the year knowing they had to be flexible, and we’re all just glad to be back in person.”Acting Upper School Head Mr. Mark Fifer
Hopeful of no longer needing the mobile classrooms next fall, Mr. Fifer summed up the school’s feelings during these times.
“You know, teachers and students have been really good-natured about it,” Mr. Fifer said. “I think they entered the year knowing they had to be flexible, and we’re all just glad to be back in person.”