Diogo Fernandes Tavares
On March 13 at the end of the school day, DHS Principal Ross Thibault announced that after school activities would no longer be permitted due to COVID-19 concerns amid everyone’s speculation that school would be closed. Then an hour later, DPS Superintendent Bonny Gifford tweeted, “Out of an abundance of caution in response to COVID-19, Dartmouth Public School District will close March 16 to March 20 to deep clean the building.” Two days later, MA Governor Charlie Baker closed school until April 6.
In the span of a weekend, COVID-19 radically rattled DHS students, educators, and administrators by adding more confusion to the uncertainty. “I’m taking it day by day, hour by hour, instead of being easily frustrated,” said Mr. Thibault. “Do the best you with what you’ve got until somebody tells you otherwise.”
I interviewed Mr. Thibault via Zoom, a remote conferencing service. Many students and teachers are exclusively communicating through Zoom. For example, an orchestrated theatre rehearsal. “We full-heartedly encourage teachers to take advantage of Zoom,” said Mr. Thibault. “With certainty, we’re in a better position than if we’re in this crisis 10 years ago. In 2020 the ability to teach classes or even interview through Zoom or Google Hangouts is a gamechanger.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is causing a disruption in the learning world, but it is also quickly revolutionizing and reshaping the learning world as well. “Somebody I knew used to say ‘Crises are opportunities,’” said Mr. Thibault. “The opportunity in this crisis is utilizing technology for educational purposes. 80% of teachers were on Google Classroom, but because of adversity, hopefully it will be 100%.”
Every Thursday teachers will be sending out ‘Enrichment Activities’ on Google Classroom and DPS Extended Learning. “Enrichment Activities are learning experiences that are meant to minimize the gap. When Enrichment Activities are sent on Thursday, expectations will be clear,” said Mr. Thibault. For now grades will not be attached to those assignments. “As of March 23, we don’t expect teachers to grade.”
Students and parents are worried about grades and the potential of an incomplete semester jeopardizing GPAs, but Mr. Thibault reassured, “We are committed to make sure students’ grades do not suffer.”
While many students are figuring out what’s the next step for AP exams, Mr. Thibault suggested taking the exams. “I think students shouldn’t refund. The College Board is streamlining the test on two different days and providing free resources for motivated students to do well,” said the principal. “Excelling on the exams is an investment for college.”
“A negative from the pandemic is how disruptive it is to the senior class,” said Mr. Thibault. Mr. Thibault is supportive of holding a prom for the 2020 class. “The senior class is very resilient and upbeat while other classes would’ve been selfish. It’s a great class to work with, so I’m the first onboard to support a prom on a later date.”
He said he would be surprised if school resumed on April 7. Sure enough Governor Baker announced on March 25 that all public and private schools would be closed until Monday, May 4.
Mr. Thibault said that people in the Dartmouth community should practice common sense and take personal responsibility so the pandemic will not exacerbate. “I do think as leaders, we can’t model behaviors we condemn,” said Mr. Thibault.