It is difficult to put into words how drastically different this school year has been in comparison to years past. From sitting four people to a lunch table between muffling plexiglass dividers to filling out Ascend each morning to online school after winter and spring breaks, COVID-19 has brought a myriad of unprecedented changes to our lives at KO. For a large portion of the year, it seemed as though life would never fully return to normal and that there would be no escape from this pandemic-ridden world; in fact, just this past January, national COVID-19 numbers continued to steadily rise. However, with vaccines becoming available to a wider spectrum of the population, there is, at present, a much greater sense of hope and optimism for the future.
With the Pfizer vaccine now available not only to those aged 16 and up but also to those above the age of 12, a much larger sector of the student body is now eligible for vaccination. Thus, hopefully by next fall, life at KO will regain a sense of normalcy. But even now, we are starting to see a shift toward more relaxed school regulations and, consequently, increased opportunities. For example, on Friday, May 14, KO held its first performing arts concert since Winter 2020. Families were able to gather outside socially-distanced to enjoy music in a community setting – something that wasn’t possible earlier this year. That night, KO also held an on-campus art show, in which students and their families were able to enjoy the works of KO’s budding artists. These events were highly-missed among students, faculty, and families alike, and the fact that KO was able to bring back these programs speaks to the increased ability we now have as a school to re-institute a greater number of other pre-COVID-19 activities.
Changes to quarantine rules are another sign of the much-desired easing of COVID-19 restrictions on campus. On Monday, May 17 in a letter to families, Head of School Tom Dillow announced a positive update to KO’s quarantine policy. Moving forward, “Students who were in contact with [an individual who contracted the virus] will quarantine for seven days in line with the CDC recommendations,” Mr. Dillow said. This is true as long as the exposed student tests negative on days five, six, or seven of the quarantine period. This is a shift from KO’s prior 10-day quarantine requirement for those exposed to someone with COVID-19, even if they themselves tested negative for the virus. The fact that the KO administration is making such adjustments to COVID-19 health and safety protocols is extremely hopeful; because a large portion of students and faculty have received their vaccines, more lenient requirements that foster a greater sense of normalcy while still maintaining a safe, healthy environment can be instituted. However, despite the increased accessibility of vaccines and the new, more relaxed mask mandates recently announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for those who have been fully vaccinated, it is vital that we as a community remain vigilant in our efforts to contain the spread of the virus both on and off campus. Connecticut still mandates the use of masks at schools, and if you are not fully vaccinated, keep your masks on and respect the COVID-19 requirements and restrictions of businesses, restaurants, and other facilities. If we want to continue this trend of positive advancements toward a more “normal” world, we must continue our efforts to keep not only ourselves, but also those around us safe and healthy. And who knows? Maybe by next fall, we will be able to cram one too many chairs up to a single, plexi-glass free lunch table once again!