SSFS Dorm Life During COVID-19

Leah Anderson, Staff Writer

When I was a five-day boarding student at SSFS I had more freedom than any of the seven-day boarders, however, I still often felt trapped. Whether that be the strict rules around transportation that left my family and I in difficult positions, or the limitations for students to socialize with friends after the school day, I struggled at times with feeling caged in.  Although I never thought dorm life would be perfect, and I valued my time there and the relationships I made, there was a consistent feeling in many dorm students of entrapment. 

When COVID-19 struck, my family and I knew it would be difficult for me to be isolated in the dorm.  This ultimately led to my family moving from New York City so it would be possible for me to attend school in person when school reopens. While I am grateful that I have the option to live with my family during these challenging times, I often wonder about my friends who don’t have other options — how they are faring on dorm and what measures have been taken to ensure everyone’s safety.

These questions inspired me to reach out to a close friend from the dorm last year who made the decision to return to the dorm for the 2020-21 school year. I wanted to learn more about day-to-day life, what the new rules were, and what may have changed. 

The weekday routine consists of waking up around 7:00am, having breakfast, then getting to work. Dorm students do their synchronous classes in Hartshorne and have lunch at 12:30pm.  When they’re finished with their work, they often walk around campus, use the gym, and socialize in the dorm. 

A major difference between this year and past years in the dorm is what students are and allowed to do. For example in past years students ordered delivery all the time, many choosing not to eat the dinner provided by the dorm, however this year due to covid concerns delivery is not allowed. As is going on trips to DC and Rockville, hanging out with friends off-campus, and going to the mall, which were all usual weekend activities in past years. Additionally dorm living itself has changed ;you no longer have a roommate (which almost everyone used to have), eat at the same tables, or share a bathroom. The number of people living in dorms has also significantly decreased this year, however this is expected due to effects from the pandemic. 

Besides COVID-19 there was already going to be a significant change to dorm this year, with the new dorm management. Although circumstances are different it sounds like the change has been a positive one for dorm students and they feel more supported then they were in the past. Dorm staff along with the school nurses have created an environment where students feel safe when it comes to covid. There are strict protocols in place, whether that be always wearing a mask when you go out for groceries in Olney, or using hand sanitizer when you come back. The dorm is known as a “dorm bubble,” and the people in it are able to be around each other safely without masks. 

Although there seems to be improvement from past years, it still sounds like there is a key issue around dorm, student’s privacy. Students this year are restricted from having the door of their room closed with someone else inside, even if it is a private conversation. Students also feel like they are very controlled, as if they can’t do anything without dorm staff asking them “where are you going?” or “who are you with?”. While something like that may be understandable during a pandemic, it sounds as if the dorm staff takes it too far and implies there is no trust. 

Living on a dorm in high school is going to be hard no matter what, with or without factoring in a deadly virus.. It sounds like the dorm has done an impressive job when it comes to creating a safe environment that allows for students to live on campus, and students can still have a good time. Nonetheless, from what I’ve heard, it still sounds like dorm staff and students have issues around privacy which definitely isn’t unique to this year.