After a year filled with COVID-19 safety precautions, cancelled or altered events, and constantly changing circumstances, the Kingswood Oxford community is looking forward to the upcoming school year as a return to so-called normalcy, albeit with several restrictions undoubtedly being carried over from this past year.
Despite the fact that the pandemic posed a tremendous challenge, KO surmounted this obstacle, quickly putting in place many reforms to our campus. The dining room and library became completely reorganized, the schedule was changed, the dress code was modified, and classroom settings were altered. While students appreciated these changes, as they let us have an in-person school year, the Editorial Board believes that next year, some of the new adjustments should be reversed.
Due to changes stemming from KO’s athletics policy, the dress code for the student body has shifted to one in which guidelines are essentially non-existent. The previous dress code created a sense of professionalism that the current dress code simply fails to foster. By reverting the dress code back to that of previous years, we can enhance cohesion within our community. Another possible addition would be instituting “casual Wednesdays” where students would be able to dress down or wear their sports gear on Wednesdays.
Another factor of life at KO that changed due to the pandemic was the schedule. At the beginning of the school year, the schedule was altered to a two-day block schedule, where classes switched back and forth each day. This was made to provide a simpler template for class scheduling, to provide teachers with a greater amount of time to sanitize classrooms, and to limit COVID-19 exposures. However, we believe that moving into the next year, the old schedule – which consists of a ten-day rotation with five classes each day – should be reinstituted. The previous schedule allowed for more variety in the day-to-day lives of students unlike the monotonous routine of the two-day block schedule. The old schedule has additional benefits, such as hour-long classes and less time wasted in the middle of the day, while also diversifying the time and day in which certain classes meet.
Despite this, the newer schedule also introduced a new idea that was well-received among students and faculty alike: passing time. While passing time was originally implemented with the intention of providing students time to go outside and take off their masks at a distance from others, it has proven to be even more useful. With the old schedule, it was up to each individual teacher to let students out a couple of minutes before class officially ended so the next class could start on time. However, this wasn’t always the case because oftentimes, teachers would hold students until the very end of class, making them late for their next period. The 15 minute breaks in between classes this year were more than enough time to go from class to class and be on time. We believe that a passing time should be implemented into the old schedule in such a way that we have five minutes between classes; this would give students enough time to get from class to class. However, we would also like to acknowledge the fact that a tremendous amount of careful consideration goes into making a schedule, as it must correspond with the Middle School academic day and other obligations, so such a change would take additional planning.
Another change that students have had a positive reaction to is outdoor dining. Because of limited space in the cafeteria, both the library and Outlook Circle have opened up as spots where students can eat. Especially in the warmer months, eating lunch outside is quite enjoyable. It is much easier to hear the people we eat with, and, overall, it is really nice to have the option to eat outside. Previously, Outlook Circle has been used for parking but since no visible problems have arisen from the reduction in the number of parking spaces, we would appreciate having tables set up for eating outdoors next year.
This past year, the set-up of classrooms has changed drastically. Desks went from being arranged in a Harkness style to being organized in rows. Although this shift was necessary to uphold COVID-19 health and safety protocols, it was not a widely popular one among not only students but also among faculty members. But now that the entire Upper School is able to get vaccinated, it is possible for teachers to rearrange the seating to make it easier to have Harkness style discussions, which foster a deep sense of communication and connection within classroom communities – feelings that become lost when the desks are spaced apart in rows. Additionally, in math classes, teachers could put students in “pods” to work together on problems. Either way, the hope is that next school year, KO can move away from strictly placing students in rows.
One last thought for our community to ponder is the adherence to certain traditions here at KO. Heading into next year, we feel that some of the classic KO traditions should be welcomed back with open arms, such as the Senior Green. All forms agree that this is a treasured privilege that has been much more open and accommodating in recent memory.
Moreover, as we move into next year, many COVID-19 measures and practices will undoubtedly remain in place in order to maintain a self, healthy environment on campus. However, hopefully the widely-popular and well-loved aspects of pre-pandemic life at KO will be reinstituted. All in all, it is our job as the community to be the filter for these traditions, preserving school spirit yet blazing a new trail.