Administration Makes the Right Call to Reopen Campus

Nicholas Ji '22, Staff Writer

As the Loomis Chaffee administration begins to communicate the plans for students to return to campus for Winter Term 2, Connecticut’s COVID-19 cases continue to rise, with the recent positivity rate reaching just short of 11 percent, according to CT.gov. Around the country, many other states are also seeing record highs of positive tests partly brought on by family gatherings during major holidays.

Despite these numbers, I firmly believe that not only does LC have the resources, regulations, and community support to undertake a successful shift back to in-person learning, but also that contrary to what it might seem at first, bringing students back onto campus could in many ways fulfill our institution’s commitment to the common good.

While Connecticut’s COVID-19 case numbers are still not much better than those in Winter Term 1 and certainly higher than earlier in the year during Fall Term 2 when boarders were on campus, the school has adapted its policies and regulations to the evolving situation. In Dr. Culbert’s email detailing Loomis’ reopening plan, she describes the new plan of testing —“all students and student-facing faculty and staff once a week”— a significantly more aggressive testing regimen in comparison to the fall term’s surveillance testing.

In addition to the same distancing, masking, and individual conduct protocols from earlier in the year, Dr. Culbert also introduced the plan for a modified five-day quarantine for boarders returning to campus to ensure that our school community is able to become a bubble. Though the risk for spread is higher than in previous months, Loomis has adopted stricter guidelines capable of addressing the heightened risk. The administration has the resources and experience from the past year of living in a COVID-19 world, and I have full trust in the community to comply with the new procedures.

There is always the risk of spread, however, in the opening up of a community the size of ours, no matter how strict or cautious the new procedures are. Some might argue that assuming the inherent risk runs counter to Loomis’ commitment to the common good.

However, whether something is “serving the common good” is never perfectly black and white. The reality is every person performs individual risk analysis on a day-to-day basis, one must determine whether the potential benefit from a decision is worth the risk, whether it be crossing the street, driving to school, or putting off a Log article until the last minute.

Obviously, these situations are hardly comparable to a global pandemic, but the necessity of considering multiple factors and consequences is still relevant. In-person learning would allow students and teachers alike to be more organized and efficient in a classroom setting, provide students with the facilities and resources to pursue athletic and other extracurricular interests, and allow fellow-students to make strong connections and form a close knit community.

The potential benefits would also extend beyond just the Island. With a student body of roughly 700 people, consumer spending at Loomis likely constitutes a significant portion of the revenue of local businesses, especially those in Windsor. This year we have seen record high unemployment numbers and small businesses across the nation have shuttered. Government-mandated shutdowns of workplaces have impacted the livelihoods of millions. Many people are facing financial hardship, but the students, faculty, and staff at Loomis have the ability to support the local economy and the local business owners who have provided services to our school community for years.

While the danger of COVID-19 definitely exists, a reopening of Loomis provides great benefits to both students and Windsor’s local economy. The potential upside outweighs the small risk, greatly minimized by the administration’s firm approach to health and safety. The decision to shift back to in-person learning generally does the most good for the greatest number of people, consistent with the institution’s commitment to serving the common good.