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Saints Six-Week Stretch a Success!

Kelly Slonaker

It has been noted that time seems to pass differently during the pandemic—that days, in their sameness, blur into one another and stretch into weeks that drag us along. This was not the case for Canterbury’s Saints Six-Week Stretch—the time between the start of term in January and March Break! After a safe and successful in-person fall semester on the hilltop, Canterbury committed to bringing students back to campus in January and our time on the hilltop was filled to the brim with activity and joy. Those six weeks flew by in the blink of an eye!

Some students were welcomed back for the first time this school year, thanks to changes in travel restrictions. The ability for students to connect with their friends masked-face-to-masked-face was crucial for their well-being and especially important for the Sixth Form class. “It has been so wonderful to see my friends. To be able to be in the classroom with them and just be together, rather than only seeing them on Zoom or communicating by text, has been amazing,” said Margaret Ondrey ’21, a Sacristan and Day Student Proctor. “I am so thankful we have been able to experience our final year here together.” 

Logan Sanford ’22, an Admission Lead Ambassador, noted that he was also grateful for in-person learning: “I have loved seeing my friends every day, and being in the classroom with my teachers, learning firsthand.” Though the majority of students attended in person, classes continued to accommodate students who participated in distance learning. Some classes were even able to get off campus, albeit virtually. Syracuse University Project Advance (SUPA) Principals & Contemporary Issues In Sport Management course, taught by Associate Director of Athletics Misi Babington, took a virtual field trip to the Yogi Berra Museum and even had a surprise Zoom meet and greet with Yogi’s granddaughter. Science teacher Derek Richardson took his class to the shores of New England (by way of imagination) with his annual clam and oyster shucking class that is part of his Animal Anatomy course.

Students stayed busy outside of class, too. With the introduction of the Canterbury Winter Games, each day of the week included virtual and in-person challenges and activities. The Games included everything from riddles, brainteasers, and board games, to video games and scavenger hunts, to dodgeball tournaments and three-point shooting contests. Students were split into six inter-Form teams and accumulated points with each activity, with the winning team announced right before the March Break (congrats, team Columbia Cavaliers!). The activities were a way to bring the whole school together and foster friendly competition and school spirit.

Competition extended outside of Canterbury, as well. Amazingly, the Athletics Department was able to safely arrange for our winter teams to play in 58 separate games against several schools over the six weeks—a feat no other schools in our area accomplished. Students were elated to be back on the courts and the ice, and the games have proven a powerful tool for college recruitment. Sophia Crowe ’23 shared that her favorite part of being back in person was “being able to skate and play hockey, even with the COVID restrictions.” In addition to interscholastic games, teams enjoyed playing against each other and faculty—the Boys’ and Girls’ Varsity Squash teams and the Girls’ JV Hockey team each competed against their teachers in the name of good fun.

Over the six weeks, students also took part in an 11-session Social Justice Series that covered a broad range of social justice topics, each of them inviting open and honest discussion and encouraging continued engagement. Seminars included “The Impact of Systemic Racism on Public Health and Health Care: How a History of Medical Injustice Has Impacted 2020-21,” hosted by Head of School Rachel Stone; “Part of the Team: How Transgender Athletes Find Their Place in High School, Collegiate, and Elite Sports,” hosted by the Canterbury Gender-Sexuality Alliance; “Defining the Cultural Self,” hosted by the International Student Association; and “Student-Led Conversations on Identity and Inclusion” hosted by the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Student Leadership team.

Even though students were not able to volunteer in person with many organizations, they still took part in several community service initiatives. Ian Fernandes ’22 organized a book drive for New Haven Reads, an organization that increases the literacy skills of children, and students donated over 250 books to the cause. Students also decorated 500 eggs to be donated to Yes!Solutions, Inc. Valentine Winter Picnic event that is hosted for individuals who are homeless in New York City; helped run our annual Red Cross Blood Drive; donated 1,000 pounds of food to Camella’s Cupboard in New Milford, CT and Dorothy Day House of Danbury, CT; and sent Valentine Grams to benefit healthcare workers.

When students were not busy with activities, they spent ample time in the Steers Center Commons, simply basking in each other’s company and partaking in the myriad delicious offerings at the newly opened Commons Cafe. One would be amazed how many bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches our Saints can go through in six weeks!

Of course, the Saints Six-Week Stretch would not have been possible without the expert guidance and careful planning of our Medical Task Force and the cooperation of our students. Prior to the start of the second semester in January, students were given the option to attend classes either entirely in person or entirely remotely during the Saints Six-Week Stretch. A testament to how much they value being together on our hilltop, only a small number of students opted to enroll in the Remote Learning Program. As was the case in the fall, the remote group was primarily composed of those for whom travel restrictions prevented their ability to return to campus. With a limited number of rooms available, day students were offered the opportunity to board on campus for the duration of the Stretch, and several chose to do so. The School continued to adopt a rigorous approach to mitigating exposure: students were asked to cease participation in outside sports and activities, adhere to all mask and social distancing guidelines, remain on campus for the entire six weeks or pledge to only interact with people in their household when not in school, and undergo an increased testing protocol. All students, faculty, and staff were required to submit two negative PCR tests before the semester began and again once classes resumed. Once all results were received, weekly surveillance testing of the entire day student population, the entire athletic rosters for teams competing in weekend games, and a random sample of students, faculty, and staff also went into effect. 

Our students rose to every occasion, as they always do, and took great care in helping to ensure that their six weeks together were a safe success. While it was certainly a challenge for students to be away from family for that amount of time, many noted that they would miss campus and their friends while at home over the March Break, which began Saturday, March 6. Maggie ’21 shared, “I will miss this community while I’m home during the break. Canterbury is not like any other place in the world; I have been here for four years, and each year is even better than the last. Even when I graduate, I will miss being at Canterbury.”

Following the March Break, students will learn remotely for three days, and in-person classes will resume on March 29.