The administration has restricted open campus privileges to maintain accordance with the U.K. COVID-19 restrictions. Now, students are only allowed to leave the building for lunch once a week: Grade 9 on Mondays, Grade 10 on Tuesdays, Grade 11 on Thursdays and Grade 12 on Fridays. Lunch on Wednesdays will remain an advisory meeting period for all except Grade 12 students, who can leave if they have advisor permission.
The announcement, made Nov. 7 via email, came after students spent two days with closed campus Nov. 5 and 6. As U.K. lockdown measures are in place until at least Dec. 2, further, more permanent alterations to the open campus policy have followed.
Director of Student Life James Perry said there is no “hard and fast rule” from the government that dictated this decision.
“When the whole nation shuts down and we’re told to reduce day to day contact, like, we have to interpret that the way that we think is appropriate,” he said.
Off-campus privileges increase the number of bubbles in which students interact, which Perry said was a primary consideration when the administration extrapolated the government’s new guidance.
Spencer Towfighi (’23) said he was upset when he read about the change to the open campus policy, but accepts that the measures are necessary.
“Obviously I was a bit disappointed because lunch is normally the highlight of my day, being able to spend time with my friends, but I understand why the restrictions were put into place because of the new lockdown rules,” he said.
However, Towfighi said these new measures may prove to be counterproductive.
“It kind of creates the problem that now there’s a group of people who are all in the Commons eating lunch and I feel like there’s actually less social distancing taking place than if everyone were to just go off campus,” he said.
Concerning overcrowding, Perry said the modifications account for such problems as best they can.
“By letting one class off campus each day, then it relieves some congestion both in the cafeteria and in the black chairs and everywhere else,” he said.
To allow students to get fresh air, Perry said that outdoor on-campus spaces are open during lunch, provided students maintain social distancing: behind the Community Arts Building (picnic tables and chairs), the back of Community Arts Building (turf area), the side of the school on Loudon Road and the gardens of 47 and 49 Grove End Road.
Elsie Androulakakis (’22) said that allowing students to eat outside helps tremendously.
“That’s a good idea, and will help for our mental health because I think if we were forced to eat in our classrooms every day, it would lose the sense of free time,” she said.
Moreover, Androulakakis said that although these measures are appropriate, she is frustrated she will not be able to see her friends as much.
“Unless you have classes with your friends, you won’t see them during the school day,” she said. “You don’t even see them in the hallway because of the one-way system, so I think that would be a downside of closed lunch.”
Similarly, Towfighi said that closed campus for lunch makes it more difficult to socialize.
“Because there is no conference time during the day, there’s no real time to socialize with your friends besides class,” he said. “Lunch is really important because it gives you the chance to go out with your friends and the off-campus rule, in a sense, takes that away.”
Perry said the administration recognizes how closed campus impacts students, as free time at lunch is vital for students to be able to break from the strenuous school day and have fun with friends.
“I’m sad that the kids don’t have this outlet right now,” he said. “I really wish they did. I hope it’s something that we can get back to soon.”
While there is no concrete plan for relaxing or tightening the policy, Perry said the administration will evaluate it daily, taking into account its effectiveness as well as student feedback.
You can access the full policy here. (Note: Only those with an ASL G Suite account can access the document.)