The boarding community returns to campus

In January 2021, Dana Hall started the process of reintegrating its boarding students back to campus. About 30 boarders are back in the dorms, living with new regulations due to COVID.

All of the boarding students are currently living in singles. They have to keep their masks on when leaving their rooms or having visitors. They are only allowed one visitor at a time as a safety precaution, and they have to keep their door open. Boarding students have also been assigned bathrooms to use to make contact tracing easier.

New to the Dana Hall community, Martina Walsh ’24 said, “It’s been an interesting experience. It was really nice meeting our dorm mates because we were all new and we all got along really well. I hope we have more community-building workshops so that we get to know the day students better.” 

Ms. Donna Corrigan, the Dean of Boarding Life, commented, “The overall return and transition to boarding has gone well, and the student enthusiasm for being back on campus has brought much energy and excitement to the dorms and campus. The house faculty are also working hard to provide students with an authentic boarding experience, while they care for and support students during these unusual times.”

At the same time, Victoria Fuller ’21 expressed her concern for the mental health of the boarding community, saying, “Overall, the Dana Hall that many of us knew was not the Dana that we returned to, and that is stressful. We had to adjust to a whole new system in the middle of the year on top of being a Dana student which caused a lot of anxiety for many students to skyrocket.”

Boarding students have a COVID test every week on campus. Victoria said, “The testing is necessary, and the way they have it set up is very efficient. By the time we have our tests back it’s the start of the week.” Many boarding students noted positively the organization and productiveness of the testing procedure. Mikayla Darville ’21 added, “I think the school handled testing arrangements pretty well, but I think they could’ve handled some things differently. For example, protocols if a test comes back inconclusive.”

Another new guideline that the boarders have to adhere to is that they have to do their remote weeks — when their cohort is having instruction over Zoom — from the library. This guideline has now been modified for juniors and seniors, who are allowed to go back to their dorms during their study halls and free periods. Kristen Nwafor ’21 said, “I think it would be beneficial to our mental health if we feel like we’re actually having a remote week instead of being in the library. It feels more like an in-person week.” Ruby DeLuca Lowell ’22 agreed and added, “It’s really hard to focus [in the library], and if we were in our dorms, we could have our masks off, get water, and eat food.”

For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, there are assigned seats and tags to alert the dining staff if someone has occupied that seat and it needs to be cleaned. There are fewer dining alternatives this year because all the food is prepackaged, and the noodle bar, salad bar, and panini press are not currently available. Kiki Nartey ’22 commented, “Some days there are times where I don’t want to eat the lunch/dinner special, and so my only option is pasta or salad, which can get dull very quickly. I know other students have the same concern but are taking a different approach and not eating, which will affect not only their physical health but also mental health.”

       Mikayla offered the advice that “I think the school can do a better job of listening to our requests or concerns. I feel like when I bring up certain situations or things I don’t like, they aren’t taken very seriously.” Ms. Corrigan recognizes that there are some changes that need to be made to make the boarding students feel more at home. She said, “A couple themes that emerged from student/family feedback include: free periods and daytime study halls during remote weeks, which have already been addressed and tweaked. We encourage individuals to continue to share what is working well, and what could be changed, as we work together to provide the best boarding experience for students.”

Photo: Masked students socially distancing in their dorm’s common room.

Comments are closed.