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MHS responds to coronavirus outbreak

By Ella Kohler
Hometown Weekly Intern

With the coronavirus outbreak growing more serious each day, it seems the world has been turned upside down. Many aspects of daily life, from working to socializing to schooling, have been changed dramatically — and life at Medfield High School is no exception.

Due to the statewide school closure, MHS has turned to new learning methods for its students. On Thursday, March 19, MHS began its alternative learning approach, which centers around online assignments and communication with teachers. Notably, in an email introducing this method to the school community, Principal Robert Parga wrote: “The work assigned is not designed to replicate our face-to-face classroom experiences; rather, it is designed to allow for enrichment to occur in an engaging manner.”

In planning the digital curriculum, Assistant Principal Jeffrey Sperling said that the faculty has worked to “figure out where that sweet spot is between keeping kids engaged, but certainly being respectful of everybody’s limitations.” He also said that the faculty is dealing with obstacles like working away from the building’s offices, sorting through an influx of available online resources, and translating subject matter into an effective online form.

As an educator navigating these online lessons, Social Studies Teacher and Department Chair Kathleen Emerson said, “Most of us have a ton of resources available; it’s just a matter of switching your mindset from face-to-face to online.” According to Emerson, teachers have reached out to each other to “ensure continuity and similar goals,” as well as to help each other with any technology issues. 

“As a history teacher, I look back to times where the country really pulled together: the Great Depression, World War II, 9/11,” said Emerson, “and I think we should take the best of lessons from those times and apply them: that we’re all a community and to look out for each other.”

One way the school is looking to put those lessons into action is through its efforts to provide lunches to Medfield students. With 190 students in the school district usually receiving free or reduced-price meals, Director of Food Services Caitlin Fahy said that the school will be providing pre-packed lunches for no charge outside of Medfield High School from 12:00-1:00 p.m. for the time being. (For more information, contact Caitlin Fahy at cfahy@email.medfield.net).

In addition to academics and meals, students are facing a variety of extracurricular changes. Due to the outbreak, the original March performance dates for MHS’s production of "Into the Woods" were cancelled. Hearing the news, “it was like somebody knocked the wind out of me,” said MHS Theatre Society President Anna Debettencourt. “It was like our last mainstage show, and for me it was probably going to be my last time on stage, ever.”

The rights to the show were later extended by Music Theatre International (MTI). “I’m not willing to give up,” said MHS Theatre Director Andrea McCoy. “Having heard back from MTI, I’m definitely a lot more cautiously optimistic.”

Spring sports have also been affected. On March 16, the MIAA announced that the season’s start would tentatively be delayed until April 27. Lacrosse captain Jimmy Cosolito said that this change was particularly disappointing following the team’s loss in the championship last year. “This year was supposed to be the redemption year.” said Cosolito. “But everybody's keeping their spirits high hoping that we can come back.”

With this delayed start to spring sports, Athletic Director Eric Scott said, “What we don’t want people to do is go to school, congregate, have any sort of captains practice, because with that you’re going to possibly expose others and just continue the spread.” Scott emphasized that social distancing will both improve health outcomes and the athletes’ likelihood of having their seasons at all.

Spring also marks an important time for high school juniors preparing to apply to college. These students face a variety of disruptions to the process, including the cancellation or rescheduling of certain SAT and ACT dates, as well as adjustments to this year’s AP exams. 

Junior Class President Chloe Dudley said, “I know that, really, the big concern of most juniors is the fact that our college process has been interrupted, and that is very stressful. Grades are frozen. Every college is shut down, so we cannot tour them. Really, just the biggest parts of junior year have been stalled.”

Despite the many challenges the school community and world are facing because of the virus, the situation has also fostered gratitude. 

“From this experience, I know I’m never going to complain about having to get up and have a place to go to and have a community to be in," said junior Andrew Barrette. "It’s something that I think I take for granted.”

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