Students Pleased with New COVID-19 Protocols


Chase Zur

The administration has tried to direct traffic flow with “Up Only” and “Down Only” signs in the stairwells. The hope is to keep students socially distanced.

Although we are all ‘sick’ of the pandemic, it’s not quite over yet. While COVID-19 is still a problem, it is different than it was last year, and as a result, The Benjamin School has changed its policies and procedures based on the current situation. 

“This year, we are trying to keep people safe without the isolation,” said Head of Middle School, Mr. Charles Hagy. “We are using lockers this year but we invented a protocol for them with the bells. We are letting kids eat lunch outside and next week you will be able to choose who you want to sit next to as long as you are four to a table. For lunch orders, students will be picking up their lunch at the Buc Cafe while keeping physical distance.  Clubs will start by the end of the first quarter and students will be able to select which clubs they want based on interest. Trips are going to be happening this year as well. The first week of May is the Keys, the fourth week of April is Washington D.C, and the St. Augustine trip will be happening in February or March,” said Hagy.  

Seventh grader Morgan Dunlap wears her mask while doing some work in Mr. Ginnetty’s F-period class. (Chase Zur)

Students have noticed many of these changes and are excited by what the year has to offer. “I am really happy that we started in person this year because I like it one hundred times better,” said seventh-grade student Braxton Peterson. “It’s really difficult to look at a screen and be focused on school all day. I love sports, so I am super excited to be able to play real football games that my parents can come watch in-person and not on a live stream. I also really like this new schedule better than the schedule last year because we get to see more classes each day and we still have a lot of study hall [and] break time.”  

It seems that Peterson is not the only one delighted about this year’s start. Eighth-grade student Owen Olbers said, “One of the main reasons that I was so excited for this year was because we got to start it off on campus. Another reason I’m so happy this year is because we will be able to play sports competitively against other schools in comparison to the intramural we did last year.” 

“I am really happy that we have more classes and that we have the opportunity to use lockers,” said fellow eighth grader Kenna Kujawa. “I am also really happy that we are not in pods anymore because it was hard being so isolated from half the grade. I think that the mask mandate is fair, and I am super happy that we started in-person this year. I feel way more motivated and more into my school work. Honestly, I am just excited to get as close to a normal year as possible.” 

Because the COVID-19 situation is so unique, the policies and procedures that were put in place were tweaked and revised.“We learned a lot last year because none of the teachers or administrators had ever run a school during a pandemic. That’s how we ended up with pods, a six-foot distance, and indoor lunch with your advisory. I think what we learned is that we don’t need all of those protocols and some of it wasn’t worth it,” said Hagy.  

Most new students had similar protocols to TBS in their previous school, so they experienced transitions compared to TBS’s returning students. Eighth-grader, Stephen Cecil, had a similar experience in his old school. “Last year, I went to school at GCDS, which is a school in Connecticut. GCDS was not as open outside as The Benjamin School, so we were wearing masks all year. Even though it wasn’t ideal, I think that the masks are essential to keep everyone safe and healthy,” said Cecil.

Another huge difference from last year is the number of students attending school remotely. This year students are only allowed to go online for COVID-19 related reasons which have allowed everyone, apart from about four or five students, to return back to the middle school campus. 

While it is very important to make sure everyone is safe and healthy, the school is very much looking forward to a time when it does not have COVID-19 overshadowing every aspect of the school day. 

Health and safety signs are still posted around campus, reminding students to wear masks, wash hands, and keep socially distanced. (Chase Zur)

“As soon as we possibly can, we are going to relax our policies. I do know that there are a lot of sick people out there and more sick kids so we really need to keep our masks on until the numbers allow us to take them off. I think the biggest challenge is just making sure that everyone is safe without totally isolating our students and teachers,” said Hagy. 

For the last two years, COVID-19 has impacted aspects of our life in unpredictable, uncertain, and historic ways. Despite the two hundred fourteen million cases of the Coronavirus worldwide, emergency vaccines, school closures, and remote/hybrid learning, one thing has never changed: our sense community at TBS. 

“I think the biggest lesson that we have all taken away from this experience is how important relationships are,” said Hagy. “What made me so proud of the Middle School last year was that nothing got in the way of building relationships. We really had one of the more incredible years in my career in spite of all the challenges. As a teacher and an administrator, it was a remarkable experience. I hope that we will be able to build a home away from home for kids and teachers.”