By Greta Lawler ’23 NEWS Reporter
On Sunday, September 13, Head of School Katie Titus welcomed the school at Convocation with very important news. To replace the lost athletic season, the MAPL league would be competing in only one, high stakes competition: which MAPL school can stay open the longest?
In order to achieve this goal, faculty worked tirelessly over the summer to create protocols and procedures that would curb the spread of COVID-19 on campus, and hopefully, keep our school open all term. For the past two weeks, students have been putting it all into practice, experiencing a new academic schedule, casual dress code, grab and go meals, daily health checks, and campuswide physical distancing.
One of the biggest changes to Mercersburg this year is a new academic schedule. Going from a seven rotation, six classes per day schedule to a two class per term schedule has been an adjustment for both students and faculty. Mel Cort ‘23 said “given the situation” she thought that taking only two intense classes a term “seemed really smart.” However, she also expressed concern that the amount and depth of content covered may suffer in the condensed, nine week time period. Her concern is shared by many community members, but after two weeks, it is clear everyone is taking the challenge head-on and doing their best work, despite the novel circumstance.
Another significant difference in campus life this year is a new dining hall procedure. Gone are the days of salad bars and buffet lines, of mass mingling behind the microphone, replaced by comprehensive grab-and-go items from Mercersburg’s new dining provider, Meriwether Godsey. While many miss the choices they had in previous years, students are adapting quickly. The variety and quality of the new food has helped with the transition.
The other ramification of a to-go dining hall is the loss of family style meals, a Mercersburg tradition dating back to the school’s founding in 1893. Normally, the entire school community eats lunches and several dinners a week together in Ford Dining Hall. Students are assigned to a table each week, with two faculty and several other students from all grade levels. This is an amazing opportunity to get to know new people whom you may not interact with in classes or athletics, and it helps new students integrate into the campus community. While many look forward to a return of family-style meals, there are some pros to the new process. Especially with the beautiful weather of the past week, the freedom to eat outside with friends has offered essential social time for many students. During mealtime hours, students spread around the fields and quad in small groups: eating, playing frisbee, and doing homework. While the community is not gathered in the same way as usual, these meals still feel like a congregation of sorts, with much of the school community coming out to enjoy being outside and being together.
Other changes to campus mostly concern health and safety of students and faculty. These changes include wearing masks, physical distancing, sanitation of desks and chairs, limitations in PGAs (especially for contact and ball sports), temperature checks, and less movement within and between dorms.
Although some of these changes are difficult for our community, students and faculty alike are facing this year with understanding and resilience. We know that the privilege of in-person school is one we cannot take for granted. Even though we must interact with our community in a different way than ever before, our community is bonding through a shared gratitude for where we are and the people we are with.
Oh, and we also really want to win that MAPL competition!