“In accordance with the guidance issued this afternoon by Governor Wolf due to the increased risk of community transmission of coronavirus, The Haverford School will be closed Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 as the faculty prepares to implement ‘Virtual Haverford’ on Wednesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 19. We will then go on spring break and hope to resume classes as usual on Monday, March 30. All extracurricular activities are canceled March 13-30.”
These hopeful words began a letter to the Haverford community two years ago this month. At that time, understanding COVID-19’s impact was still developing, and it is easy to forget that the move to virtual school was intended to be brief—a few weeks—and then back to life as usual. As all now know all too well, the two-week quarantine morphed into almost two years of modified school life.
Haverford, like other schools around the country, remained virtual for the remainder of the 2020 school year. At first, virtual school felt like a novel break.
“The first week was amazing, I was productive and got so much done, but by the second week I was bored out of my mind,” Fifth Former Ronan Wood said.
For the first half of the year, many COVID-19 related restrictions remained in place…but glimmers of hope appeared, especially because sports and extracurricular activities returned. School felt more normal, but COVID’s impact persisted.
Sixth Former Fisher Bond said, “The first weeks of virtual school were great, but then everything became a blur, the same thing, day after day after day.”
In 2020-2021, the upper school came back to in-person learning but with restrictive routines. The upper-school administration implemented a quarter-system schedule to help reduce class size and maintain social distance, teachers set desks six feet apart, community members conducted daily symptom screening through an online app, all wore mandatory masks, and frequent handwashing was encouraged. The dining hall closed and students ate boxed or bring-from-home lunches in advisory. Sports and extracurricular activities were severely curtailed, many canceled altogether. While it was good to be in school, it was not a normal school year.
This year has brought a more hybrid experience. For the first half of the year, many COVID-19 related restrictions remained in place: the quarter schedule, masks, and social distancing. But glimmers of hope appeared, especially because sports and extracurricular activities returned. School felt more normal, but COVID’s impact persisted.
“For the first half of this year, we watched assemblies over Zoom, and we were still not allowed to eat in the cafeteria,” Third Former Alex Krey noted.
This month, two years after first moving to virtual learning, students feel a sense of relief as COVID-19 case numbers remain low and restrictions further scale back. Now, students are not required to wear masks, Third Formers have been welcomed into assemblies in Centennial Hall and are allowed to eat in the cafeteria. Spectators can return to sporting events, and dances and school trips are planned.
Campus has a lighter feel, almost as if we are breathing a collective sigh of relief.
There is no question that Haverford is a place of resource and privilege. Everyone here has a COVID story, and many felt the pandemic’s impact. But unlike many schools, Haverford was fortunate to be in-person for most of the last two years: learning continued, teachers were accessible, and even when not totally “normal” the community found ways to engage in clubs, sports, and friendships.
“I’m looking forward to a return to normalcy,” Bond said, “but living through a pandemic since my sophomore year taught me that, while you can’t know what will be thrown at you in life, you can always work hard to make the best of any situation.”