by Ryan Sanghavi, Staff Writer, March 2021

Art courtesy of Isabela Fitzgerald

It is an understatement to say that this year’s March Vacation will undergo a great number of modifications from previous years. Seniors’ hopes for a vacation to ‘Atlantis, Paradise Island’ in the Bahamas have been, unsurprisingly, dashed. However, for the Class I students who did hope to journey out-of-state with friends in March, a second challenge has arisen: the Nobles Administration’s new travel policy. 

An excerpt of the administration’s ruling, as follows, was sent to the student body in a ‘weekly announcements’ email on January 31: “Under current guidelines, those students [traveling out of state in large groups] will need to quarantine for the required seven days, after which they can get a Covid test on day eight which, if negative, would allow them to return to campus.”

The new policy follows national COVID-19 standards and obeys general protocol relating to close contacts, but the ruling has upset a number of students who hoped to have some semblance of normalcy in their senior year.

“I do wish that we were getting rewarded a little bit for how awesome the results have been for COVID [tests]. We have [few] positive tests, and [the administration] isn’t rewarding us for that,” Morgan Kendall (Class I) said. Many students feel that, after following stringent state COVID-19 restrictions during the 2020-2021 school year, they should be able to indulge with their classmates in a senior spring tradition.

Another major concern was that the spring preseason might overlap with a possible quarantine period. Kendall, co-captain of the varsity crew team, said, “[Some seniors] might not even go to preseason just because of the desire to get away and go on a trip.” To some, it seems like a clear choice; choose to go on a group trip and enjoy a staple of senior year or support one’s team as a senior mentor.

Kendall continued to explain the student body’s reaction to the mandatory quarantine protocol, saying, “Kids I’ve talked to are a little bit upset. They obviously understand that the school is trying to be safe, but a lot of them are going on group trips anyway. They’re [thinking], ‘it’s our senior year. We get to do this.’” Kendall believes that group trips will be smaller in 2021. Based on this, and in conjunction with safer practices and consistent negative COVID tests, some students believe that they should be able to travel out of state safely without a quarantine restriction.

However, it has become apparent that the first class is not monolithic in this regard. “To be honest, in my own mind, this policy should be more strict. But also, stepping outside of my mind, I think it’s in a good spot. I don’t think you could make it any looser,” Vivian Tao (Class I) said. Tao believes that, if anything, the quarantine period should be extended to reduce the possibility of the spread of disease when students return home.

Tao shared their concerns about the student body questioning the travel guidelines. “Why would you want to go on a large group trip, out of state, in a pandemic, and not want to quarantine when you get home?” Tao said. COVID-19 has now claimed more than half a million American lives, with thousands more casualties each day. Some students wonder why anybody would take any unnecessary risk at this time, especially at the expense of one’s own personal health or that of others. 

One major contention that a number of students hold regarding the administration’s policy was with the term ‘large group’ itself. “Be more specific than large groups – give a number,” Tao said. Students’ interpretations of a large group may vary from that of the Nobles Administration. In theory, without strict definitions, students could bend their own definition of the term to their own will.

Head of School Cathy Hall weighed in on the matter, saying, “I think our students do know what defines a party versus what doesn’t. I’m not going to put a number on what defines a party – it is the behavior that goes along with the kind of group trip, not just the number of people.” For clarity, Hall added: “If anyone has a specific question, they should just ask.”

Hall continued to address the issue of personal freedom that has arisen as a result of recent COVID-19 restrictions, alluding to students and parents that believe travel restrictions to be outside the school’s jurisdiction, but the school holds firmly to the belief that these policies are crucial in order to maintain campus safety and security. To students who wished for more freedom as a result of good behavior, Hall said, “I certainly don’t think we’re in a place where there’s a reward for doing things [well] at this stage, unfortunately, nor is this intended to be a punishment. Yes, there’s a huge light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s very clear that we’re not out of the woods yet.”

As the community passes the one-year mark of national shutdowns in the midst of the pandemic, students and faculty members alike have taken time to reflect on missed opportunities. “I know how frustrating this is,” Hall said, further adding, “I know how much loss there has been, how many milestones [are] gone. I know this feels like one more thing being taken away, and that’s not the intent. It is entirely about keeping our community safe.”

Hall and the administration alluded to their efforts to bring some ‘normal’ back to the end of the year, hinting at the possibility of five-day in-person learning (as recently suggested by Governor Charlie Baker), but, in regards to Spring Break, many seniors have a difficult decision and set of circumstances to assess.

March Vacation has seemingly become a two-sided problem of ‘fun’ versus safety. Now, as seniors finalize their spring break plans, we as a community wonder, will vacations be a tradition fulfilled or just another unnecessary danger?