The School launched “10 Grades in 10 Days” on Monday, Sept. 21, welcoming each grade back to campus for a day of in-person learning prior to rollout of the full Hybrid@Holton Learning Model. The program gave both students and faculty and staff alike to practice the many new procedures and protocols necessitated by the pandemic, before larger groups of students and staff begin returning to campus on Tuesday, October 13.
Fourth grade students returned to campus first, carrying their giant plastic tote boxes with materials for their day. Eagerly awaiting the students’ return, security staff and School Nurse Lori Herringa checked in each student, making sure they had turned in required health forms and test results. Head of Lower School Christy Diefenderfer cranked up the music from her playlist and greeted families along with Athletic Director Julie Treadwell, Head of School Susanna Jones, and of course Percy, Jones’s charming Scottish terrier. This scenario repeated over the two weeks that followed, as each grade made their debut for in-person learning. To keep traffic through the building to a minimum, Middle and Upper School students entered school through the side doors of the academic building as teachers handed them their complimentary Holton-branded face masks, a new twist on Holton swag.
Faculty and staff arrived extra early to cheer the seniors’ arrival, standing socially distanced in the Farmers’ Garden with signs expressing love and enthusiasm about their return. In keeping with first-day tradition, seniors, in turn, lined the driveway donning “Aliens/Area 21” costumes and signs to greet the new third grade and their fellow Upper School classmates.
Inside the building, Upper School students figured out where they were supposed to be with the help of many caring adults. Facilities and technology staff prepared the halls and rooms with signs, projectors, and iPads. If a classroom reached full capacity, students joined an overflow classroom. Students who opted to remain in distance learning (Hybrid@Home) joined classes remotely as well. The Simms Reception Room and Senior Lounge provided additional classrooms to accommodate the growing need for space. Fortunately, the weather proved sunny and pleasant, allowing for lunch to be served outside.
Middle School History Teacher and Grade 8 Dean Lea Hunerkoch says, “Being back at Holton was energizing. I really loved seeing my students in-person. There was a sense of awkwardness at first because we haven’t been together since March, but that soon faded into a sense of familiarity like, ‘Oh yeah, we know how to do this,’ even though things are so different. Even our tech-related glitches were great learning experiences for when we truly come back for Hybrid@Holton.”
Lily Darcey ’23 says, “For me, 10 Grades in 10 Days was a great experience that I really appreciated. It allowed me to have a glance back at the normal world by being able to see my friends, while also still learning and keeping everyone safe by abiding by the social distancing guidelines.”
Our newest Holton community members, the third grade, finally experienced their first taste of the Holton Lower School spaces. Third grade teacher Eileen Shelton says, “It was great to see the girls and have them experience their new classroom. It didn't feel like the first day of school. The girls worked so nicely together and followed the routines as though they had done them before. Transitions took a little more time than planned, but we improved with each one. We made sure our Hybrid@Home students were with us not only in the classroom, but for transitions, too; the iPad travelled through the hallways with us. What an adventure! The day flew by, and before we knew it, it was time for carpool.”
By the end of the two weeks, Holton faculty and staff learned from this new routine, identifying practices that went well and areas for improvement and thus laying the groundwork for a stronger, more successful reopening in Hybrid@Holton mode this fall.
While Holton spent months of planning for the ever-changing circumstances of this pandemic, seeing the smiling faces and hearing the laughter in the hallways from students and teachers made all the hard work a worthwhile endeavor. Holton is ready to welcome our community back on campus and build on lessons learned.