When students left Cheshire Academy last March, many were unsure if they would be able to return to campus come the fall.
Cheshire Academy’s Head of School Julie Anderson and her team of dedicated teachers and staff worked over the summer to get the campus ready for students, and this month, for the first time since the winter, in-person classes were held at the Academy.
“It has certainly been a shift in what we are used to, but we have a really great plan in place to ensure that the students and staff are not only safe but productive,” explained Anderson. “We are utilizing a different approach than some of the other prep schools by having almost all students on-campus attending classes.”
Cheshire Academy currently has 230 students on campus and roughly 75 students who are attending school remotely utilizing technology. According to Anderson, Cheshire Academy is trying to mirror a college campus model for the students’ daily schedules.
“Our students do have longer class periods, sort of like in college,” she said. “In person classes start at around 9:30 a.m. and their first class is about 65 minutes. Then, the remote students will come in for their classes, and then there is a period called ‘concurrent’ (where) we integrate remote learning students with in person students.”
The reason for this, Anderson states, is to give students the ability to feel like they are all connected with one another, and allow for collaboration despite the potential difficulties of holding classes while adhering to restrictions forced by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are finding it really helpful that the students are able to see and interact with one another even if they are attending school remotely,” Anderson said. “Although this model is a lot harder on the teacher, we think it’s really important to keep that sense of community alive.”
Most classes, at least for now, can be held either outdoors, weather permitting, or held indoors in appropriately spaced rooms with students and staff wearing masks. Students are also allowed to gather in specially-created “social circles”, with CA blue adirondak chairs approproiately spaced outdoors throughout campus.
The CA lunchtime is another situation Anderson had to rethink before opening the Academy back up for students.
“We changed lunch from about 20 minutes to almost 45,” she said. “It really gives students and staff ample time to get what they need and go and sit either outside, in the cafeteria, or bring it back to wherever.”
The new lunchtime, and the overall increased attention to the students needs, has changed the vibe at Cheshire Academy to something much more relaxed—much more like a traditional college campus.
“Typically, high school can feel really rushed, you have to be at all your classes one after the other, and there is no downtime,” said Anderson. “But now, and especially now, we have created a time and a place for students to take a moment and relax, which we didn’t have before.”
As for extracurricular activities, Anderson has specific tents set up outdoors for students participating in music or theater classes, but the fate of CA sports is still being decided.
“It’s hard for us to gauge how sports are going to go,” she explained. “If we say we are going to have sports, but all the other schools don't, then we need to obviously change things. Right now we have conditioning practices starting, but that's all right now.”