Reintegrating Day Students: How Lawrenceville Can Better Include Day Students in the Spring Term
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, students and faculty alike worked to create a proper Covid-19-safe plan for the Fall Term, and in many ways, the Lawrenceville community succeeded.
Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, students and faculty alike worked to create a proper Covid-19-safe plan for the Fall Term, and in many ways, the Lawrenceville community succeeded. With what little time we had, the administration and faculty somehow managed to keep our campus healthy and safe for the entirety of Fall Term. However, the management of day students created a definitive divide between day students and boarders. Thus, as the School prepares to reopen, the administration must consider day student needs, starting by allowing day students into common house spaces and academic buildings.
For much of Fall Term, day students were continuously shuttled from one place to another, from the deskless KAC auditoriums and frigid tents to the rowdy Irwin pods, but the central narrative remained the same—sophomore and junior day students were limited to these areas and these areas only. As a junior, I was not allowed in any of the Houses or class buildings (outside of classes themselves) on campus. Frankly, I was barred from far more places than I was welcomed.
While inconvenient, walking the extra couple of minutes to the Irwin bathrooms—the only bathroom day students could use—or shivering in the Crescent tent were not key problems. I could have chosen to stay within the comforts of my home, Zoom to classes from my room, and eat in my kitchen, yet I chose to come onto campus because it’s Lawrenceville. I wanted to chat with my friends in the House common room, bounce ideas Harkness-style for an essay, and eat dinner with a group. However, as a junior separated from the boarders, I couldn’t help but feel excluded from the humdrum of the Lawrenceville lifestyle. As the days grew colder and outdoor social events became a less attractive option, I found it nearly impossible to see my boarder friends in person—they took their classes and meals in their room, while day students bundled in Irwin. A definitive split formed between day students and boarders on campus, both emotionally and physically.
While part of the issue stems from innocent negligence in planning, the regulations were largely based on the implicit suspicion towards day students and the supposed health risk they brought. Preventing day students from entering certain spaces such as Houses was not simply to limit the flow of people—the flow of people could have been easily dealt with by a simple limit to the number of students in the common room. Instead, these regulations were put in place to actively minimize the interactions between borders and day students because of the day students’ ability to leave the safe campus bubble and break the Best for All Agreement (BFA). Throughout Fall Term, rumors, most of them greatly exaggerated or completely false, of day students attending secret parties and ragers ran amok.
Ultimately, however, Lawrenceville’s BFA and its campus-based social life lower the risks that day students pose. Day students will always pose a higher risk than boarders. In the end, however, our students are responsible and do their part to minimize that risk. With infection rates in the hundreds of thousands in the United States, deliberately attending Covid-19 unsafe parties (or simply seeing people outside their immediate family bubbles) means students are consciously putting the Lawrenceville community at risk. No one wants a school-wide shutdown, much less to be the root cause of it—thus, the vast majority of day students are extremely cautious. Yet even if a student were careless (or caught Covid-19 through chance), there are safeguards in place. Under Lawrenceville’s BFA, students get tested twice a week, wear face masks (removed only when eating outside), and wear POMs that enable contact tracing. Greater integration of day students would only slightly increase the risk of Covid-19, and that risk is outweighed by the benefits.
While health is still the primary concern, day students and boarders must be given a chance to mingle, bond, and create social and academic connections in order to maintain some sense of normalcy and unity despite the drastic changes this year. Under normal circumstances, day students spend the majority of their time on campus—most stay until at least 7:00 PM from Monday to Saturday. Thus, the more enticing our campus is for day students, the more time they will spend on campus. Instead of only being allowed into Irwin or the KAC, day students should be allowed to make Crescent and Circle House common rooms their “home bases” once again. Class building areas such as Pop Hall should also open to all Lawrentians for engaging academic forums. If day students are permitted to enter Houses and other spaces, they will pose less of a risk because they will be more securely ensconced in the Lawrenceville bubble.
As Spring Term nears and the community prepares to come together once more, we must learn from both the successes and the failures of Fall Term, modifying the system set in place whilst simultaneously maintaining a safe environment.