At 133 years old, Benet Academy has seen two world wars, The Great Depression, and the Spanish Flu. But the COVID-19 pandemic brought all new challenges to the school.
Though many schools in the area have started off the year with full-time remote learning, Benet has taken a creative approach to get kids in the building.
“Right now we are operating under an every other day model,” said Assistant Principal Bill Myers. “So students based on their last name, either A-K or L-Z, come to Benet every other day. The students who are at home are still either given an assignment to do asynchronously on their own schedule or they’re told to meet during their period when the teacher can have them remote in.”
Though it’s a new format for everyone, some compare it to a college curriculum, where students meet less often and are responsible for more out-of-class work.
“I personally love it, just having a day in school to ask all the questions and then a day at home to teach yourself everything,” said senior Mia Manuel, who is also the Student Government Vice President. “I think it’s really helpful.”
“I think especially for the humanities, there is something really great about giving you time and space to dig in, thinking about how to pace and how to balance is still a big challenge, especially at an academically rigorous place like Benet, but we’re trying,” said English teacher Ashley Alcorn.
Besides bringing only half the students in each day, other precautions include mandatory face masks, one-way stairwells, and monitoring absences. Some teachers even bring class outside when the weather permits. Those not comfortable with the in-person format can do a fully remote option, though only about 10 students opted for that.
Benet has had one student test positive for COVID-19 so far, though Myers said the safety precautions that were put in place prevented the transmission of the disease to other students.
But the every-other-day model brings challenges, especially to teachers.
“There’s still tons of things that as individual teachers were working out in terms of classroom procedures, how comfortable you are walking the room, setup, all that kind of stuff,” said Alcorn. “There’s a ton of other things aside from your curriculum that you’re thinking about every day, but we’re starting to maybe get into a routine.”
Another challenge has been what to do about extracurricular activities. Myers said student clubs are starting to meet and they’re hoping to offer sports and fine arts in some capacity. School dances however, pose too much of a risk at this time.
“It’s worst for the seniors because it’s our last year but if we can do stuff it’s better than doing nothing,” said senior and Student Government President Jake Dourdourekas.
Despite that, the student body is trying to make the most of the year.
“I feel like all students here have some hopeful optimism,” said Dourdourekas. “Some people call it false hope; some people call it just pretending. But in a way, we’re hoping that things are going to get better and if you lose that you’re going to lose everything. We’re hoping in February we’ll be able to come to school with all our classmates and as long as we have that hope, we can accomplish anything.”
Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.
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