Community Continues Despite COVID-19 Crisis


Luminaries lit up Main Circle last Saturday evening.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has physically separated the community, the school has continued to find ways to come together virtually.

As of April 13, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recorded coronavirus cases in the U.S. reached a high of 554,849 people infected and 21,942 fatalities. In an attempt to suppress the spread of COVID-19, schools across the United States have closed down their campuses and converted to online schooling.

The community has had to adapt to the new conditions of creating a virtual community. Ms. Nora Yasumura, director of student clubs and affinity groups and Prep class dean, said, “Anytime that there is a crisis…it makes us think about what’s really important and…appreciate [on] a deeper level the people and opportunities that we are each given.”

Despite everyone’s distance, students are given the opportunity to participate in almost daily community-wide events. Ms. Yasumura said, “The all-school meetings, chapel, [and] class meeting times [are] super important to maintain the essence of connection and community.”

Dr. Jason Larson, chaplain, plans to continue using chapel as a space for students to share their experiences and stories. He is encouraging Seniors to give chapel talks as a final way to reach out to the school as they will not return to campus this school year.

Dr. Larson recently organized the “Light in Darkness” luminary project, inspired by a nationwide luminary movement for medical workers. This project involved community members, on and off-campus, making luminaries and placing them outside of their residences on the night of April 11. Luminaries, which are a type of lantern traditionally used for vigils and celebrations, symbolize unity and serve as a physical representation of the community’s connectivity during this time of crisis. Before the day of the project, Dr. Larson said, “I am looking forward to seeing a visual reminder of 300 or so luminary lights around campus that… [help us] to realize we aren’t really as isolated as we think we are.”

In addition to school-organized meetings, many student club leaders have set up online gatherings for their clubs, supported by the clubs committee. These club meetings provide students with opportunities to connect with each other outside of classes. In the first two weeks of online learning, the Film Club organized a screening of Tiger King, on Netflix Party, a Chrome extension that allows viewers to watch Netflix synchronously; Triple A (Asian & Asian American) held a Zoom discussions on the upcoming Disney movie Mulan and “How to be an Ally to the Pan Asian Community”; and Hotchkiss Political Union (HPU) organized a meeting to discuss allegations that the Chinese government has covered up information on COVID-19. 

St. Luke’s Society has also started a number of online services, such as a pen pal program between students and the residents of Noble Horizons, a nursing home in Salisbury, as well as virtual art and baking classes for local children. Hotchkiss Republicans created a report for their club members compiling the week’s important news. Ink. has released a virtual issue of its arts magazine and is accepting submissions for the next issue which will be placed in an online gallery. Proctors have also begun organizing dorm meetings for their floors over Zoom and FaceTime for the residential community.

To help navigate scheduling and programming, the school created the “Maria” Student Intranet. The intranet contains information about the school’s response to COVID-19, a schedule for community happenings, links to class webpages, as well as information about school resources such as the Teaching and Learning Center, the library, the chapel program, and diversity and inclusion initiatives. In addition, the intranet’s school spirit page contains links to the school’s social media accounts and updates on the schoolwide Olympian vs. Pythian competition.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, Mr. Steven McKibben, dean of community life, believes that the time apart will increase the value of the school community. He said, “When we do get the opportunity to come back [to Hotchkiss], there will be a renewed sense of commitment not only to each other but to the ideals of what it means to be a part of the Hotchkiss community.”