After Christmas break, Westminster followed several safety protocols in order to ensure the safety of students, staff, and their families. These protocols required a lot of organization, creativity, and money. The question is: Was it worth it?
Before returning to in-person school following the holidays, Westminster required that everyone attend a drive-through testing on campus and two days of virtual school until they received a negative COVID test result. Students who tested positive were required to continue virtual school until they were cleared. When students and staff returned to learning on campus, Westminster maintained their general safety protocols from the first semester: masks, social distancing, testing, and one-way hallways. Although COVID remains a problem and quarantine hits new Westminster students and faculty every week, the school has done everything in its power to keep the community safe and maintain in-person learning.
The most difficult part of the coronavirus is that we make individual decisions without knowing how much those decisions could affect others. “The strangest thing with this whole bug is that everything seems like it’s normal,” says 8th-grade boys’ Grade Chair Patrick Egan. “But you know that there are people sitting at home and a lot of those people who have been sitting at home could infect others, so we really don’t know the consequences of our actions. And maybe that’s something that’s kind of important: the whole thing is confusing to everyone.” The benefit of attending a school like Westminster that is willing to spend their resources on keeping everyone healthy is that students and staff get tested every week. This process has helped limit both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers on campus. As soon as someone gets a positive test result, the school requires that person to quarantine and get further testing.
Overall, most Westminster members and families think that the school has done an extraordinary job keeping everyone safe. “I’m really proud of the way our school has handled COVID, and I think that it’s important that our students realize that this is not the norm and this is not the experience of students that don’t go to Westminster,” says Westminster parent and teacher Hartley Glass. “I think that it’s important that we be really grateful that we have the testing that we have so that we can be in person.” This is true: while Westminster has been in person all year, Atlanta Public Schools have just recently been starting to return to their campuses.
Students appreciate the benefits of attending Westminster and the efforts put in on their behalf. “I think it’s gone pretty well,” says 8th grader Kensi Nichols. “The way that they’ve handled everything has gone smoothly. Every time they have found out that someone has it, they handled things pretty quickly.” If the school hears about a student testing positive, the COVID team asks if that student has been in close contact with any other members of the school. Then, those close contacts would need to switch to online school until they test five to seven days after the exposure. These protocols have been especially helpful in limiting the spread of corona on campus.
All in all, Westminster has done a remarkably good job keeping everyone safe and healthy during this global pandemic. Students, staff, and families are grateful for the efforts and resources that have been utilized to reduce the spread and allow learning to continue in person.