The 2020–2021 school year kicked off at the Elementary•Middle School (EMS) on August 31 in hybrid mode, with each class divided into two pods, A and B. One pod is on campus each week, while the other learns remotely. Students spent the first week in orientation, meeting new classmates and teachers, getting reacquainted with teachers and friends they hadn't seen in person since March, and learning how to navigate the new model.
Students returned to find countless COVID-related changes to buildings, the grounds, classrooms, and the covered faces of peers, teachers, and staff. What hasn't changed is the spirit, optimism, and flexibility of the school community.
"Hearing students laughing in the courtyard, seeing them sitting in classrooms, and watching them successfully navigate the arrow-laden hallways continues to buoy us and makes all of the preparations and the carefully-weighed decisions worth the time and effort," said Claire Sullivan, head of EMS. "We can now rely on our community, whether to share innovative lesson plans with one another, cover newly assigned duties, or take on additional responsibilities both in person and virtually, to forge a path together through the different-looking school year that lies ahead of us."
Amy Conant, an EMS faculty member, shares Claire sense of optimism and collaboration.
"It's wonderful to be back with the students. I'm excited to build two communities, in person and remote. The dynamic is certainly different in the two formats," she said. "We are focussing on gratitude, with students reflecting on what they appreciate about learning in person and remotely. They have been respectful and considerate of each other in both settings."
She sees the benefits of both models. "There's a lot to be said about connecting with students in person, but many students are showing strong executive function skills and independence. It's building their self-esteem."
Students Embrace Both Models
Students are also enthusiastic to be back on campus, learning, interacting, and playing. At a recent milkbreak, several students gushed about how refreshing it feels to see friends and teachers in person and also cited positive aspects of remote learning.
"It's so nice to see my friends and teachers—it feels like real school again, even if it's a little weird to be social distancing and wearing masks," said Somers K. '29. "But I also like to learn at home, in my room."
Riley H. '28 shares Somers's zeal for returning to campus. "It feels nice to see my friends and teachers and have more interaction with them," she said. "I like seeing them on campus rather than on a computer."
Aaron O. '26 much prefers being in person. "I'd rather be six feet apart from my friends in person than see them on a screen," he said. "The environment at Landmark puts me in a good mood and helps me learn."