COVID-19 Pushes Spring Term Online, Students React

When Dr. Amy Patel, Medical Director, sent out the first informational email regarding COVID-19 on Thursday, January 23, there were only six confirmed cases in the U.S., none of which were in Mass. Six weeks later, students and faculty departed campus expecting to return on March 24 for the start of Spring Term.

Then, on March 10, Interim Head of School Jim Ventre ’79 announced that break would be extended a week and that students would partake in online learning until returning to campus on April 6. All events involving outside guests and off-campus trips, including Non Sibi Day, were canceled.

Several days later, on March 16, Ventre announced that online classes would be extended to April 30 and be assessed on a pass/fail basis. Andover then decided to suspend all domestic and international off-campus summer programs on March 24.

Finally, on March 31, Ventre announced that remote learning would continue for the remainder of Spring Term. The Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020 was delayed indefinitely, and class reunions were postponed to next year.

According to Kylie Frank ’22, it is important for Seniors to experience the last moments of their high school careers. Frank noted that while returning to campus would have been a major risk, it is also saddening to have Spring Term canceled outright.

Frank said, “Looking back, it would mean something just to have some of the season. For the Seniors, it’s devastating. It’s kind of life-changing because everyone imagines their Senior year as their best year. Some of them are captains, some of them are big team leaders, and it’s their last year being taken away.”

Victoria Kadiri ’20, captain of Andover Girls Track & Field, shared the same sentiment in wanting to return to campus for the month of May, but still understands the safety risks.

Kadiri said, “I definitely think as a Senior, I would want that chance to close off my high school career on campus, but I do understand that it’s not safe for us to be on campus, and I totally get that. I feel like [track is] a big part of what makes Spring Term so special.”

Kadiri also highlighted that by losing the season where the upper and lower classmen are meant to bond, the team will face an even bigger challenge next year in terms of group cohesion.

“I think that next year’s upperclassmen are going to have to make a much greater effort to connect with this year’s lowerclassmen to make sure that they feel included as a part of the team. It also worries me because [the lowerclassmen] don’t have the chance to connect with us this year, so they might not want to do track next year because they’re not going to have a connection with the team,” Kadiri said.

The closing of the school also impacts the time in which clubs can meet and will make board turnovers more difficult, according to Katie Wimmer ’21. Still, many clubs will try to engage members online.

Wimmer said, “I think everything is just going to have to be a lot more rushed. People aren’t going to have enough time to fill out board applications, and we’re just not going to have enough time to read them. Also, when we name new board members, there’s going to be a very limited time window to teach them what they need to do. Once online stuff starts, we’ll definitely engage club members and give them something to do.”

The virus also poses a challenge for the international students. According to Marcus Gao ’22, an international student from Shanghai, China, the process for traveling in and out of the U.S. is much more complicated and time-consuming than usual. As a result, Gao feels that cancelling Spring Term is the safest option for international students, as well as the campus as a whole.

Gao said, “I don’t think it would be worth it to come back to campus because the international students [would] have a two-week quarantine in the U.S., and then after that there’s only two or three weeks of school left, so there’s really no point. I think it’s safer to have the rest of the school year online. Everyone comes from different places. If everyone comes back to one place, like our campus, then if one person or a few people are infected, it creates a risk for the entire community.”