With on-campus Covid-19 restrictions now shifting to the yellow zone (lower risk), Andover is allowing students to take overnight leaves off campus. On September 17, Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, sent an email to all students describing the new policies for leaves.
Before Covid-19, students used the REACH browser in the process of receiving permission to leave campus overnight by their parents/guardians, house counselors, and cluster dean. Claudia Scofield, Dean of Students and Residential life provided information about REACH and policies in an email sent to all students on September 21.
“You must sign out and back into the dorm. This is done through the Reach app. You must practice masking indoors whenever possible, including in public transportation. You must check back into Sykes upon your return to pick up your Covid testing materials. You must test twice (Mondays & Thursdays) and receive two negative results before being allowed further permissions. If you miss either of your Covid tests, you will lose all permission privileges for the remainder of the fall term. You must follow school rules while away; if you have questions about specific situations, please be in touch with your cluster dean,” wrote Scofield in an all school email.
Although, with the reinstallation of REACH in students’ off-campus travel permissions, Andover will regulate students requests based on necessity (club sport commitments, auditions, music/dance/theater rehearsals, and time-sensitive activities such as official college visits approved by the College Counseling Office and family events), according to Scofield.
“Typically, in a non-Covid-19 year, students may request to go home on the weekends just to visit their family or visits that don’t necessarily have a purpose. Those [were usually] approved, but right now, we’re trying to limit the number of students that get off campus because it limits exposure. We have asked students that the leaves that they take right now are for things that are time sensitive or need to be taken care of [quickly],” said Scofield.
For Juniors and Lowers, overnight permissions are something completely foreign, as most travels outside campus were limited due to health measures regarding Covid-19 last year. Lora Oh ’23 expressed her concern and appreciation for the addition of REACH this term.
“I think changing to the app was definitely [better] for the sake of convenience. Filling out all the forms and sending the emails was a lot of work and seemed unnecessary, considering how troublesome it was. To have everything so accessible in an app makes things so much easier. If the school is headed towards a more digital system, I’m hopeful that they may go for digital sign-in or something [similar],” said Oh.
She continued, “Something I’m worried about is how no one has really tried out the app. I’m sure that the developers have, but not [most] students. So I know people are a bit uneasy about how well it would work. In the past, Andover apps were always really buggy. If the app actually works [though], it could do a lot of good for people.”
Kiran Ramratnam ‘22 also shared similar worries towards the REACH app, noting that while it could be a step towards a more digital and convenient system, getting used to it may be difficult.
“Making sure that students are checking back in with REACH [is very important]. That was a huge issue in my ninth grade year. With students not knowing exactly how to use the app, there were a lot of students who missed checking in. Then the faculty wouldn’t know where the students were. It’s also definitely going to be a challenge for a lot of students to get acclimated to using REACH, especially because we didn’t use it for the past two years. So younger students in 9th and 10th grade might have a harder time adjusting to the app,” said Ramratnam.
Although off-campus requests are limited, the school hopes to lessen restrictions for Andover students, while maintaining the safety measures on campus.
“We’re continually monitoring testing results for students. This weekend those students who do go off campus and they come back, they need to be in the testing cohort next week. So based on those results and as we watch what’s happening with Covid-19 in the country and the community and the state, [they] will determine our decisions,” said Scofield.