Building Leave Safety for the 2020-2021 School Year


As the Friends Select community approaches a return to in-person education, the school administration is working to ensure that those who physically return are as safe as possible. They have implemented precautions such as the requirement of mask-wearing, social distancing, more hand sanitizing stands, and temperature checks upon entrance, but haven’t decided whether or not to grant upper school students building leave. 

For in-school dining, the administration plans to create outdoor spaces on the plaza and perhaps part of the roof. Upper school students will be permitted to eat inside in groups of approximately five, sitting six feet apart with minimal talking and acrylic partitions between them. Any student who leaves the building will be required to sanitize when re-entering. 

Nurse Kelly Papianou believes that socially distant outdoor dining and appropriate sanitizing will not jeopardize the school community, but no plans are final. The administration has made it clear that they are still discussing what will be safest for both students and faculty and are welcoming feedback from all members of the community. 

There are many benefits for offering students the opportunity to purchase food from local restaurants and eat outdoors. Philadelphia set clear and effective guidelines for restaurants to follow to increase dining safety, including mask-wearing, social distancing protocols, regular environment cleanings, and ventilation requirements. 

Students’ well being would likely improve from extra time spent outdoors: according to Cornell University, many students greatly benefit from spending time outdoors, particularly in green spaces. The effects are fairly immediate and improve both mental and physical health. 

Jeremy Cohen ‘21 says, “It is important to allow students to leave the building if they feel comfortable doing so. The virus spreads less efficiently in open air, making outdoor spaces safer than indoor ones.” Fewer mask-less students in the building during lunch periods may also make a safer environment for everyone. The dining hall will be closed during Friends Select’s hybrid-model, which limits dining options for students.

However, many students have concerns about the safety of allowing students to take building leave. Some are doubtful that everyone in the entire school community will follow CDC guidelines. Genevieve Raju ‘21 believes many students will be responsible and understand the importance of safety, however, “there will definitely be some that won’t.” 

While FSS will require students to observe many safety measures inside the building, they cannot oversee all behavior off of campus. Many students like to go to densely populated places like Wawa, Comcast, and Liberty Place during lunch time. Even if students are required to re-sanitize when re-entering the building, they may have put themselves in compromising situations beforehand, and just one mistake could ultimately be very dangerous. There is a possibility that students within the community will not socially distance and wear masks appropriately while outdoors or in public places. If those students re-enter the school building, they could increase the likelihood of community transmission. When students put themselves at risk during lunch, they are endangering the rest of their classmates and community.

Chris Crisden ‘22 says, “We have to keep in mind that when we go out of our school bubble some people might not be as safe as the FSS students are. I believe that we can handle being out of the building but it’s the people outside of the community who I’m worried about.” Although our students and faculty may be following the CDC guidelines, there is no way that we would be able to predict how people outside of the Friends Select community will respond to the virus. 

As Friends Select reopens, building leave privileges may need to be amended in order to keep the community safe. Perhaps there are solutions, like including outdoor food carts and nearby parks while excluding more crowded eating spaces, that will make this privilege safer for the greater community.