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San Domenico School News & Events

Boarding Life: September 11, 2020

Without dipping into hackneyed expressions while stirring life's lemons into a refreshing drink on these scorching days, it is clear to us who live on campus that some of our recent challenges have given us the unique opportunity to reimagine our program. Resident Faculty and returning students have all noted positive changes in Boarding. Each week the Boarding Bulletin will highlight some of the key events of the week as well as one of these larger shifts to Boarding Life.

“Blowing the Bubble”. When I first moved to Marin 14 years ago, I kept hearing it referred to as a "bubble." Bubbles often have negative connotations in terms of limiting exposure to the "real" world and all that it entails. It didn't always feel like an accurate representation of all that is Marin, however. Who doesn't like bubbles? Bubbles are beautiful, and fun, and yes, safe. Is that such a bad thing? We have been working hard in the dorms to create a bubble of beauty, fun, and safety ever since our students first began returning to campus. Creating that bubble required all students flying into Marin to be under quarantine for 14 days (don't worry, we went outside daily for walks, swimming, soccer, painting in the Garden, distanced socialization, and so on), and for students driving onto campus to follow strict protocols of masking, distancing, taking daily temperatures, not visiting in rooms or on other floors, and so on. It was not easy. It wasn't easy for our student boarders, who wanted a return to "normal" in their interactions, and it wasn't easy for the Resident Faculty, who also wanted the same thing for them. We all worked hard to hold the line, knowing that our efforts would pay off.

And they did! After three full weeks of following procedures, everyone was tested on August 31st. When Director of Residential Life, Kali Baird, made the announcement that we had achieved "bubble status" students cheered. They removed their masks, they hugged each other, they made arrangements for long-anticipated sleepovers, and they celebrated with a cozy fire and ice cream bars. It was one of the happiest moments we've ever seen in the dorms.

We know that the future is uncertain, and we know that bubbles are beautiful but ephemeral, and we will enjoy our bubble for as long as it is safe and prudent to do so. Our "Bubble Boarders" now wear masks only when going through the dining hall, while Resident Faculty and their families will continue to wear masks to help to protect our community. We all know to keep to our side of campus during the day and we will continue to keep all current boarders on campus for the foreseeable future.

So what can we do? As it turns out, quite a lot!

With everyone, including our regional boarders who would typically go home for the weekends, on campus for now, we've given a lot of thought to ways we can keep our bordering students active, healthy, living in community, or to put it more plainly - "out of their rooms." We continue to offer the events we've always offered: evening barbecues, fires and s'mores, movies, swimming, the Library, music practice in the Chapel, and so on. We're lucky to have so many resources on our campus, and yet we still needed a way to reach all of our students, and to ensure that everyone is getting some exercise in the absence of sports.

Our own Mark Churchill, who has recently become our school's Athletic Director, saw an opportunity to engage our students in after school activities and instituted something we have wanted to do for years, creating after school physical activities for all students:
"We want valuable activities for our students after school. As we saw last year when we went into shelter in place, we needed to create opportunities for students to be active. This year we have set aside an hour a day for students to benefit from movement, exercise, building community, social interaction, and fresh air! Last year that wasn't possible because we were in red alert mode. Starting this year we want kids to get off their screens, get outside, and ultimately stay healthy. Students are really engaged in the activities and it has allowed for a social aspect as well - they're playing around and having fun. In some ways it's more like a PE class than a sport, and our students will in fact earn some PE credit. It removes some of the pressure and expectations of playing a sport while holding students accountable and providing a challenge. We wanted to offer a variety of activities so that everyone could find something that interests them whether it's strength and conditioning, dance or yoga, soccer, swimming, hiking, and so on so they can choose something that fits them - or trying something new. Students can choose as they go if they want to choose something more rigorous they can and if they want to choose something more relaxed they can do that as well. We hope to continue to expand our offerings as we go. - Mark Churchill, Athletic Director and Resident Faculty

Every school day from 3:30-4:30, all students are required to choose a "fundatory" physical activity. These activities include: hiking, strength and conditioning, badminton, open pool, running, yoga, open studio for dance, or soccer. It's been great to see students outside each day. As Mrs. Baird noted, "I love seeing students active after a full day of distance learning. On a regular school day students would be walking around the school, and in distance learning it's a lot of sitting, so this has been great." We are fortunate to have so many Resident Faculty members who are coaches, teachers, or experience with a variety of forms of exercise. Senior Prefect Anaya has enjoyed having access to the studio, "It's fun to have dance so that we could do activities that are both physically good for our bodies and artistically expressive." Coach Fulton put it more simply, "I think it's great and I'm glad we're doing it!"

We're looking forward to continuing to take a break from our screens, to get up and go outside, to get our hearts pumping and our muscles working while enjoying our time together as we blow off some steam! Thank you to Mark Churchill and all of our Resident coaches, instructors, and supervisors who are getting this new program up and running, literally and figuratively.

-Sonya Evans, Resident Faculty and Upper School English Teacher