What a difference a year makes

Connor Simpkins ’25

In my first month as a Third Former, I have met more of my classmates than I did during all nine months of my Form II year—my first year at Haverford. This fact best sums up how the COVID-19-related safety precautions in the middle school last year differ from what Third Formers experience in the upper school this year.

Last year, the middle school’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to implement a cohort system. Middle schoolers were each assigned to a group with approximately 8-12 classmates; cohorts spent the entire day in the same room. Every day, all day. Teachers would rotate into cohorts to teach. 

Third Former Zack Oswald describes his Form II year as “very limited.”  “We just didn’t have the freedom we have now,” Oswald said.

For the majority of the year, cohorts were not allowed to intermix or socialize. Every day was spent with the same group of guys. We ate lunch together, went to recess together, and did everything as a group. All year long. We wore our masks inside and outside, had a temperature check before entering the building each morning. There were no sports or clubs.

Third Former Kevin Covington, another student who joined Haverford last year, said the restrictions felt overbearing. 

“We had like ten guys to talk to and that was it,” Covington said.  “It’s more relaxed now; we get to do things.” 

“I love being able to take my mask off outside, and going to the cafeteria for lunch is really nice,” Third Former Will Suter said.

The upper school’s safety protocols reflect the knowledge and lessons we all have learned about COVID-19 throughout last year. 

Mr. Steve Cloran welcomes students on the first day of school – Communications

Middle School science teacher Andrew Grossman, reflecting on the start of last year, said, “In terms of how it was going to spread in schools, we didn’t really know yet. We didn’t really know the effects it was having on children.” 

The cohort system was not an ideal solution, but it worked. Mr. Grossman credits the middle school being in-person for the majority of the year to “incredible safety measures [Middle School Head] Dr. Greytok and the school put in place.” 

The cohort system felt stringent and unreasonable at times, but it kept us in school and in-person most of the year.

The cohort system felt stringent and unreasonable at times, but it kept us in school and in-person most of the year. That was no small feat.

The cohort system has also had another benefit. As a class, Third Formers are now more optimistic and appreciative. We may still have to wear masks, and there are still worries about the Delta Variant, but this same time last year, none of us could have even imagined the freedom we now have. 

While things may not be returning to normal as quickly as we might want, Third Formers are in the unique position of appreciating how much better things already are. 

“We did the best we could last year, but the situation was far worse. In comparison this year feels easy and controlled,” Oswald said.