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Returning to Campus and the First Week of Classes



Students in class during first week of classes for fall 2020.

Gibbons started in-person and distance learning classes last week. But this back-to-school season and the hustle and bustle that comes with returning to campus has been anything but routine.

Student welcoming students during first week of school 2020.

Still, Head of School Jeff Bell said that if the return to classes and the recent Welcome Days for each grade level – a Gibbons first – were any indication, there was a great deal of energy and excitement in the air as students, parents, and educators began the fall semester. The Welcome Days, he added, were a good way to stagger the opening of school, provide each class the opportunity for fellowship, and help ready students for an in-person learning environment shaped largely by the need for social distancing and wearing masks to keep our community safe and healthy.

Parents will get a chance to hear all about the excitement of the first week as well as the year ahead during the online Back to School presentation on YouTube planned for Thursday, August 27, starting at 5:30 p.m. The virtual presentation replaces Gibbons' traditional in-person night, underscoring our school's continuing commitment to safety. (For the YouTube link and details, see Back to School Night Update.

Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of the start of classes last Tuesday. Most students signed up for the Plan B hybrid learning option. That means that the students have been split into two groups - Green and Gold. When one group is learning in-person, on-campus, the other group is distance learning at home.  ( See the Google Doc of Hybrid and Distance Learning Expectations for Students for more details.)

“It is a different way of teaching, a different mode of instruction,” said Assistant Principal of Instruction Nancy A. Barkan. “But we had a robust distance learning program at the end of the last school year that we have enhanced, enabling us to continue to offer an exceptional Gibbons educational experience while keeping our students and educators safe.”

Students working on a puzzle together at Short Journey.

So, how do the students feel? Alexander Fanney ’23 for one said he is “feeling pretty good about starting the school year in the hybrid learning environment. “I can still see most of my friends and I can still stay safe at the same time,” he added.

Asked about the benefits and challenges he responded: “While a benefit is the amount of time we have to finish our homework, a challenge is understanding educators via Zoom because of the masks.”

Among the students who opted to learn 100 percent off-campus in a distance learning environment is Ariane Lemaire ’22. “This will be a new experience, but I am sure that I will learn new skills, and this could help prepare me for online classes in the future,” Lemaire said of her decision.

What does she see as the benefits and challenges of being a remote learner?

“There are now more opportunities for flexible working times so I may be able to plan a more personalized schedule based on the workloads of all my classes,” she noted. “Communicating with teachers and navigating technology might be more difficult, but I know everyone at Gibbons has been doing their best and we must simply have patience.”

And how do educators feel about being back?

It feels like home being back in the classroom,” noted Mark Cashin, Director of Bands, Percussion, and AP Music Theory. “Nothing can replace seeing the students in person … and making music.”

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