Advisory Day For Upper School Cancelled

Why this In-Person Event Didn’t Occur


On November 10, Head of Upper School Justin Brandon sent an email to the Upper School informing them of an in-person Advisory Day meeting on the 19th. The day was divided into four 75-minute advisory periods, with advisories meeting in their classrooms or outside. Social distancing and masks would be mandatory as well as temperature screenings at the doors. 

With the Upper School fully virtual, students looked forward to in-person events but were also apprehensive due to the rapid rise of cases in the city. 17 percent of the Upper School students said that going wasn’t worth the risk of catching the coronavirus, and 16 percent said the day shouldn’t have been planned in the first place with the pandemic raging in the city and cases surging. 

“I was planning to go,” junior Elsie Rattner said. “I missed seeing people outside of my social circle, and I missed being in the building. I knew that the administration would have good precautions for COVID-19, so I wasn’t worried about that.” Almost a third of the Upper School agreed with her, saying that they were slightly worried about the virus but not enough to keep them from attending. 

Sophomore Phoebe Friedman agreed. “As long as people wore masks and stayed socially distanced, I think it would have been fine,” Friedman said. “I saw a statistic saying that 1 in every 15 Chicagoans have the coronavirus. That’s scary. I totally understand why people wouldn’t want to go, and they shouldn’t feel like they’re missing out by staying home.”

Although students could be in contact with adults and higher risk groups, teachers are at a much higher risk of suffering from the virus. “Teachers had the right to stay home if they’re concerned about their health,” Upper School history teacher Susan Elliott said. “So it wasn’t mandatory. I was planning to go, and I was excited to be back and see everyone. I was surprised when I heard some people didn’t want to go.”

Advisory Day was created to help the Upper School students feel like a community again and boost the mental health of those who might be feeling lonely with online school. While students thought this was an admirable goal, reality fell a little short. “It’s just one day,” Friedman said. “I know that online school has taken an emotional toll on me, but how much can one day really do? I miss seeing a diverse group of people every day, and I see my advisory through Zoom anyway.” 

Advisories consist of a small group of people who students already are talking to twice a week. For students who don’t have friends in their advisories, the prospect of over an hour with them wouldn’t be exciting. “I personally love my advisory,” Rattner said. “But I know that there’s a lot of people who don’t feel the same way, and to them 75 minutes with their advisory isn’t something they’d want to do.”

But most of the Upper School felt that the Advisory Day itself wasn’t the reason they weren’t excited. To accommodate for the day without classes, extra classes that would normally meet on Thursday were added to the other four days. The extra classes made the school day longer. 

Almost half of the students in the Upper School described the schedule as “awful,” with only 7 percent saying that they liked it. “The schedule wasn’t ideal but I see why they did it,” Friedman said. “I don’t know what else they could have done to keep us on track that week.”

Rattner suggested asynchronous learning as an option. “We could come back from the building, watch some videos and do some work,” Rattner said. “That way we could have a normal schedule but still get through material on Thursday.” 

With the coronavirus cases rising, both Rattner and Friedman questioned the decision to hold the Advisory Day late in November, rather than earlier in the year when the cases were lower and the weather was warmer. “I feel like they missed a window,” Friedman said. “We could have been outside when fewer people had COVID-19, but now it feels more dangerous.”

For students who are in contact with higher risk groups, meeting indoors may not be plausible. “Personally, I’m not in regular contact with high risk people,” Friedman said. “But I know that many of my friends are, so they have to be more careful. I’m not worried about getting the virus myself, but I am worried about passing it on.”

What the future holds for in-person plans is on both Friedman and Rattner’s minds. “We’re in a bad situation,” Rattner said. “What people want for in-person events isn’t realistic. I want to see my friends that I don’t see in my classes or outside of school, and I want to see my friends in other grades, but that isn’t possible right now.”

“I think that the administration is trying hard,” Friedman said. “I know that they’re bringing up the conversation of what we can do and how we can be more connected.”