Academics / Arts / Athletics / Community

Dana Hall at a distance

Dana Hall School’s return from Spring Break was a virtual “return” that did not include physically coming back to campus. On Thursday, March 26, the Dana Hall community began its distance learning program via Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has now required all schools to remain close through the end of the school year. 

Head of School Katherine Bradley says that the campus “doesn’t feel the same” without the students there. She also assured the community by email that “Dana Hall entered this crisis in a position of relative strength” and has not had to furlough or lay off any employees; all employees will be paid through the end of the school year. The School has also established a “Dana Cares” fund that will provide financial assistance to members of the Dana Hall community adversely affected by the pandemic.

Dana Hall classes have continued both asynchronously and synchronously. Synchronous learning happens in 55-minute classes held through Zoom, a video messaging application. Students attend one “live” class session for each course per week. Each class is offered twice a day, with afternoon sessions from 1 PM to 3 PM and evening sessions from 8 PM to 10 PM in East Coast Time. Because Dana Hall students live in ten different time zones, the two class times allow students in various parts of the world to have class during the day.

Director of the Upper School Jessica Keimowitz says that having only one class session a week is leading teachers “to really focus on the most important concepts: what are the key skills and content areas that we need to focus on?” 

Ms. Paushter’s English course, “Speaking of Class,” continues to do service learning. Here the class, via Zoom, sends a message of support to Heading Home, an organization that works with Boston families moving out of homelessness.

Asynchronous learning occurs through Schoology, which allows teachers to assign homework and assessments. Students can also meet with teachers over Zoom through office hours and extra help sessions during the week.

To reduce the level of stress for students and account for the varying situations that each student is in, the distance-learning portion of Trimester 3 is being graded on a pass/fail system. Individual assignments are still graded, but students pass if they earn at least 60% in their work.

Classes will end on May 29, and the School will hold a virtual Commencement ceremony for graduating seniors on May 30, with an in-person event at a later date. Alternative plans for other traditional end-of-year ceremonies are being considered in light of the closed campus.

Dana Hall is finding ways to keep students around the world feeling connected. Each day brings a new “good morning” video from various community members to share updates and provide inspiration for this challenging time. Ms. Lindsey Galveo, the Student Affairs Coordinator, is keeping up with a new version of the “usual weekend activities.” Instead of the classic Route 9 shuttle and trips to the mall, weekend activities continue through Zoom with events such as trivia contests, crafting hours, and poetry nights. The student activities club is also planning asynchronous activities, so that students from all over the world can stay connected despite the time differences. Ms. Galveo encourages students to not be shy and look for ways to stay connected with friends and faculty. 

(clockwise from upper left) Ms. Derr, the two Ms. Jacobs, Ms. Hanig, and Ms. Fitchett share announcements and good cheer in the April 16, 2020 morning video.

Many of the traditional spring activities are moving online, including elections for All School Co-Presidents, class officers, and other leadership roles. Candidate speeches will be made via pre-recorded video. In addition, this year’s All School Co-President election is particularly special because middle schoolers get to vote for the first time. 

The Athletic and Performing Arts departments have been trying to keep students connected as well. Associate Director of Athletics Janet Sullivan said that each team has “once a week Zoom meetings” in order to bond the team and keep the season in mind. She also said that fitness classes, as well as teams, have provided their athletes a workout guide to keep them in shape for the possible season ahead. Ms. Sullivan, as the Varsity Lacrosse head coach, expects her athletes to be practicing their skills and working out every day. Dance classes have been meeting twice a week over Zoom. Ellie Fazio ’21 says that she “finds it challenging to find a space in my home to practice my dances but nevertheless is happy to be connecting with my fellow dancers.” Performing Arts is working toward an Upper School Spring Showcase to highlight the work of actors, dancers, singers, and musicians.

College Counseling is holding optional Forum meetings every Friday to continue guiding juniors through the college application process. Many colleges have announced “test-optional” applications for next year, particularly since the SAT and ACT March and June test dates were both cancelled. The Advanced Placement tests have also been changed to 45-minute online exams in place of the usual three-hour in-person exams. In light of these changes, Dana Hall School has also changed its policy and is making the exam optional for students enrolled in AP courses.

Ms. Bradley assured the community, “The extraordinary challenges we have faced together during this time of physical distancing have prompted us to rely on the spirit of the Dana Hall community and look to our motto, Amor Caritas, with fresh appreciation. That spirit endures whether we are together or apart.”

Anca Fu, Anna Kurtin, Sophia Lindstrom, Zoe Szeman, Shayna Tribush, Megan Wong, and Co-Editors Samiha Farooqi and Sarah Syed all contributed to this article.

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