Greylock Community Reacts to COVID-19 Outbreak: Updates and Angles
March 25, 2020
The Echo is committed to providing coverage of how the COVID-19 outbreak is impacting the Greylock community. Below you can find the stories we’ve written so far. Come back throughout the week for more.
Teens Keeping in Touch
With the coronavirus putting the planet on lockdown, children and adults alike are in isolation from one another. In the past months, schools, stores, restaurants, beaches and recreational activity centers have been closed to avoid close contact between people.
As a result, students who could once see their classmates each day during school are now separated. FaceTime, Zoom, iMessages, and Snapchat seem to be the top platforms teenagers are using to stay in touch.
Sophomore Josie Dechane said, “I think it’s important that we continue to keep in touch with everyone just to keep a sense of normalcy.”
How students keep in touch, though, varies. Christian Sullivan, another sophomore, said that he “definitely hasn’t had as much face to face interaction during quarantine.”
“My friends and I have talked through group chats and social media,” he said, “but there haven’t been a ton of FaceTimes or Zoom meetings with my friends.”
Snapchat seems to be the most common application students are using to chat with friends. As Cole Filson, a senior said, “Most of the time we are just talking on Snapchat.”
Freshman Max McAlister said, “My friends and I are snapping a lot of the time, playing some video games, and FaceTiming. We try to do as much as we can together with the little freedom we have.”
Zoom, a newly popular video chat application, has made its debut during this time of social isolation. Although most students say that they hadn’t heard of it prior to the pandemic, Zoom is the number one used app for virtual classes, and teenagers are continuing to use it for personal calls with friends.
“Zoom is a great app that I like to use because it doesn’t matter the kind of phone you have, so every friend can join,” Junior Kyle Trottier said. “It’s relatively new, but it works great, not only for school classes, but also for fun calls.”
Freshman Max McAlister said, “My friends and I are snapping a lot of the time, playing some video games and FaceTiming. We try to do as much as we can together with the little freedom we have.”
Sophomore Henry Art has been taking his time in quarantine to learn a new skill–the piano. Since he doesn’t have the opportunity to show off his new musical talent to his friends in real life, he has put on a few virtual concerts via Instagram Live.
The Mount Greylock Volleyball team has also been using Zoom as a method of post-season team bonding and to offer their final goodbyes to the senior players who will be leaving.
Although people are conscious of the fact that they aren’t supposed to be in close contact with one another, students have found loopholes and are meeting for “curbside chats,” where a few cars pull into the same parking lot, and roll down their windows so they can talk from a distance.
“I have met a few times with friends for curbside chats, because I think it’s a great way to catch up with friends while still being socially distant,” said Junior Hannah Gilooly. “It’s hard to have a real conversation over the phone, so I’m glad there is a way to talk in real life while staying safe.”
The majority of the interviewed students said that they miss spending time with their friends at school. Sullivan said, “Seeing them is something that I really look forward to once we get back to school.”
The stories in this series are written and reported accurately, but due to the dynamic nature of this issue, information may become obsolete and incorrect. This section includes live updates, which will include corrections to previous stories as our reporters learn more. Updates will be posted regularly to this page.
For access to the most current information, Greylock community members should keep an eye on their emails and on Greylock social media accounts (@mgmounties on Instagram and Twitter).
As we roll out updates, we also plan to publish more stories about COVID-19’s impact on the community, and the Arts & Living team will continue to provide daily sources of entertainment, from book recommendations to recipes.
Now that remote learning has been extended to the remainder of the academic year, expectations set by the Department of Education. In an email to the Greylock community, Superintendent Grady highlighted two areas of focus (direct quotation)
- Further defining the recommended elements of a quality remote learning program, including a focus on teaching the content standards most critical for students’ success in the next grade level, and
- Encouraging districts to move all students towards successful engagement in remote learning, with a focus on addressing fundamental needs.
The spring sports season has been canceled.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has closed all MA schools for the remainder of the academic year. The final day for members of the class of 2020 will remain May 29, and other grades will finish June 16. Graduation will still be held, but the format has not been announced. The Echo will be publishing a story on the announced school closure soon.
The format for AP exams has been announced. See the story on AP exams below for a run-down of what your tests will look like. The short version: a majority of tests feature two free-response questions — one 25-minute one and one 15-minute one. There will be no multiple-choice questions on any tests.
Earlier this week, the Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education released a set of guidelines for MA schools to follow in developing remote learning protocols. Starting with the week of April 6, when optional activities will be replaced by a firmer learning structure across the district, MA schools will be urged to have students spend about half of the usual school day’s length on education. The guidelines from the Commissioner included the recommendation that grades be awarded pass/fail, that emphasis be placed on previously learned materials, and that some emphasis be placed on outdoor activity. Between now and April 6, there will be no mandatory work, but the district has provided an educational enrichment page on the district website for families to use.
In regard to the Echo’s coverage of how the outbreak is impacting the MIAA and Greylock sports: this week, the MIAA released a statement that the association will discuss the status of spring sports on March 30 and will provide updates immediately. The Tournament Management Committee will recommend that in the case of a spring sports start date after April 27, the MIAA should cancel the tournament.
In regard to the Echo’s coverage of the AP exam situation: the College Board will release specifics for exams on April 3. The Echo plans to provide run-downs of each exam relevant to Greylock as soon as the Board makes these exam formats available to the public.
COVID Profiles: Caleb Low
During quarantine, many Greylock students have been finding creative ways to spend their time. Caleb Low, an eighth grader at Greylock, recently created an Instagram account to post cello covers (@caleblow_cellocovers). “I started this account because I wanted to do something more in quarantine,” said Low.
Caleb started playing cello about five years ago, in the summer of 2015. Since then, his passion for the instrument has only grown. Thus far, he has shared beautiful videos of his covers of “Bach Cello Suite Prelude” and “Tarantella” by William Henry Squire. Low said his account “is a fun outlet from the strife of daily life.”
Regarding his motivation for starting the account, he said, “I thought of it as a challenge to learn something new each week and perfect it enough to be ready to play. Additionally, I wanted my followers to enjoy some cello music.”
So far, Caleb has shot his videos in the parking garage neighboring the ‘62 center. The reflecting pools at the Clark Art, along with the wooden sculpture at the top of the hill, are two more promising settings for future recordings. Additionally, Caleb expressed interest in playing near the marble steps on Williams College’s campus.
Although only junior Oscar Low and senior Max Rhie (both musicians themselves) have been present at his past playings, Caleb is open to the prospect of an audience (socially distanced, of course) in the future.
Athletes React to Cancellation of Spring Sports Season
As a result of the school closure announced by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker on April 21st, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) has decided to cancel the 2020 high school spring sports season and any postseason tournaments. While the MIAA Board of Directors worked to create a revised structure over the course of several weeks to allow athletes to play the remainder of their sports season, the closure of schools ended any hope of a season.
In their official statement, the MIAA said, “Despite this disheartening but unavoidable action, it is paramount to applaud our constituents, principals, athletic directors, coaches and student-athletes for their positive power of example and cooperation during this unprecedented crisis.”
Many high schoolers are reeling from the shocking end to their sports season before it began, especially the seniors. Senior track and field captain Brendon Goss said, “Understandably I was frustrated and discouraged with it being my senior year, but as I thought on it longer I began to realize what a good and well structured team we would be leaving behind.”
The news of a canceled season was particularly devastating to those who considered their spring sport to be their main one. Junior softball player Jordyn Codding said, “I know myself along with a lot of teammates consider softball their number one sport so it is pretty sad to not have a season.”
Others looked on the brightside. Junior tennis captain Hannah Gilooly said, “The full season would’ve been ideal but as the season kept being shortened I found myself happier it wasn’t going to happen because there would be too many matches a week.”
For a lot of athletes, the cancellation of spring sports has illuminated the gravity of the situation. Sophomore tennis player Piper Schulman said, “I think it just shows that this is really serious and not something we should be taking lightly or brushing off.” Sophomore baseball player Derek Paris said, “It has made me cautious. It’s a scary thing.” For sports that don’t involve a lot of contact already, it has made the danger of the virus especially apparent. Sophomore baseball player Jack Cangelosi said, “If you can’t play a sport with natural social distancing then obviously it’s something that can’t be taken lightly.”
Now, non-senior athlete’s have shifted their focus towards preparing for the next season. Eighth grade track and field participant Ollie Swabey said, “I have been running at the Clark a lot with my dogs and I have been doing lots of biking and roller skiing for cross training.” Junior track and field sprinter Elizabeth Dupras said, “Throughout the week, I go on a run almost every day and do a core workout just to keep myself in shape for the summer.” Many have simply extended their offseason training and will continue to play a club version of their sports when COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. Paris said, “I have been working out every day, and I also try to take batting practice and do other baseball training every day.”
Seniors, on the other hand, will miss the opportunity to have one last season with their teammates. Senior track and field captain Maddy Ross said, “I was looking forward to enjoying one last season with this team and I was excited to see what we could’ve accomplished. Senior lacrosse captain Cole Filson said, “I worked extremely hard for the last 3 years to become the player I am now and it really hurts to know that I won’t be able to play the sport that I love.”
Despite the end to their high school athletic careers, many seniors shared fond memories of their times on and off the field with their teammates, emphasizing that the camaraderie was one aspect they would miss the most. Ross said, “I loved becoming close with everyone on all of my teams and I’ll never forget the times we spent together outside of the sport.”
Senior track and field captain Brandi Gill remembered the fun times she has had cheering with her teammates during track and field meets. Gill said, “There is this insane energy when we are all rooting so hard for our teammates.”
Many seniors shared advice for their teammates, both for dealing with the cancellation and for the seasons to come. Goss said, “Kids should keep their heads up in these trying times and their time will come.” Senior softball captain Taylor Cornell advised the underclassmen to “keep working in the off season.” Gill said, “Treasure the moments that you have with this team. No matter where you go in life, you will never find another like it.” Many of the seniors wished that they could just play one more game. Filson said, “Understand that each game and practice is special and that even a loss is better than not playing at all.”
Updates on Standardized Testing
The closing of schools due to COVID-19 has led to confusion and uncertainty in relation to standardized testing across the county. With the switch to online schooling, many students have been searching for answers regarding the APs and SATs. The Echo is here to answer your questions.
APs–how will they be taken?
In past years, the APs (advanced placement tests) have been taken in school, but due to COVID-19, the College Board has issued for all tests to be taken online and from home instead. But, the College Board has stated that if schools reopen, the exams can be taken there. Since Mount Greylock will not be opening back up for the rest of this school year, students had the option to either skip the exam and not receive college credit, or take the exam at home, online.
Each student will have approximately 45 minutes to complete each exam, which is a significantly shorter time than exams administered in the past. However, they must log in 30 minutes before the exam begins. Each subject’s exam will be taken at the same time by all students. All exams will be administered between May 11 and May 22, with makeup dates from June 1 – 5.
Students can take the exam on any device they have access to, whether it be computer, phone, or ipad. Alternatively, students can write their responses to the exam by hand, then submit a photo, or type it up and then upload their responses.
What will the AP exams consist of this year?
Instead of the majority of the exam being multiple choice as it has been in the past, this year’s AP exams will consist of one to two free response questions. However, world language exams may have a different format.
Due to the closing of schools, some students have lost valuable learning time in relation to others. This year the AP exams will test students only on topics that classes have learned from the beginning of the year to March.
What am I allowed and not allowed to do during the exam?
The exams are open book, meaning students can use their textbooks, in addition to resources from their class and teachers such as previous assignments and exams, study guides, and notes.
Additionally, students are allowed to search on the internet during the exam, but The College Board strongly advises against it, as they say, “The information won’t be helpful for your responses, and searching will waste valuable time.”
During the exam, students can also use digital documents such as google docs for their work, but the documents must be private, meaning they are not allowed to be shared with other people.
The College Board has put a list of rules in place to prevent cheating on the exam. For example, students are not allowed to talk to and consult with anyone during the exam, including other test takers and family members.
Students are also not allowed to use any sites, including social media platforms, to collaborate or communicate with other people. Sharing answers in any way during the test is forbidden by the College Board. Additionally, just like past years, all work must be your own, and plagiarism is not allowed.
Regarding plagiarism, The College Board said all work “will be reviewed using a variety of methods, including digital security tools to detect plagiarism.” The teachers of the students taking the exam will also be given the opportunity to review their students’ work to “check for inconsistencies.”
Furthermore, The College Board said any student who “gains an unfair advantage” during the exam, will have their scores completely cancelled. It will also be reported to the student’s school, as well as college admissions offices.
Which standardized tests have been cancelled?
Although the APs and SATs are still being administered, a number of standardized tests have been cancelled. The PSAT 10 and 8/9 are among those exams which have been completely cancelled for this spring.
The MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) is usually taken in the spring by students in Massachusetts from grades three to ten. But, it will not be taken this year due to the closing of schools.
When are the next SAT dates? When can I register for them?
The College Board has said that if it is safe from a public health standpoint, they will be offering SAT administrations every month of the calendar year beginning in August. As the May 2nd and June 6th exams have been cancelled, a test date has been added for September 26. Students will still have these previously scheduled test dates available to them: August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5.
Starting in late May, students will be able to sign up to take the SATs on one of those dates. The College board has said they will “contact students directly during the week of May 26 to provide an exact date.”
Students who have already signed up for June can have early access to register for August, September, and October. Additionally, students who are in the class of 2021 and do not yet have SAT scores have access to early registration for those dates as well.
How will they be administered?
If it is safe to administer the SAT exams in person as has been done in normal years, the College Board will do so. But, if schools do not reopen in the fall, They will be providing online SAT exams, similar to the APs this year.
Are colleges going test optional?
A number of colleges have gone test optional due to the Coronavirus, taking into consideration the difficulties it has presented for students attempting to take the SATs, ACTs, and APs. Harvard and Cornell recently became test optional, along with over 24 other colleges and universities across the country, including Williams and Amherst.
Photo courtesy of Maddy Art
Food in the Coronavirus Era
The coronavirus has disrupted nearly all ways of life. Where we spend our days has also drastically changed: students are no longer in school, and adults are working from home. The restaurant and food scene overall has changed drastically. Grocery stores are running out of flour and canned goods as families stock up. Some stores even recommend that shoppers stay in their cars and get curbside pickup. Restaurants can no longer serve food and therefore have shifted their focus on delivery and takeout. Although there are still many who get takeout weekly, restaurants have taken a big hit and some may not be able to recover.
People have taken to their home kitchens trying to make bread for the first time with some pretty funny results. I have seen pictures of loaves that did not rise or ones with huge air pockets. Overall it is great though to see tons of new people trying new things. If making a tough dinner recipe fails, there are lots of restaurants doing takeout, so no worries.
On the matter of takeout, I know that some people are nervous about the possibilty of getting the coronavirus through the food or packaging. There is no evidence that the virus can be spread in food. But the virus can live on bags and surfaces for up to nine days. So it is just important that you use lots of caution when picking up takeout or getting delivery. For takeout, just be very conscious of what you touch and wear a mask if you come in contact with people. Be sure to use hand sanitizer before you get in the car, and discard the food packaging outside to ensure it doesn’t come in. And then of course wash your hands vigorously for 20 second once inside. And after dinner make sure to wipe down the high touch surfaces with disinfecting wipes. In general, I have been very conscious about social distancing and taking steps to protect myself and my family and I feel fine getting takeout or delivery.
If you want to get into cooking or baking over this break try something easy at first like chocolate chip cookies. The go-to recipe for those is the classic tollhouse one on the back of the chip bag. You could try a sweet loaf like banana or pumpkin bread, Kingarthurflour.com always has very reliable and delicious recipes. If that all sounds too easy you could try making homemade pasta. Although it seems intimidating it’s easy and fast to make. Top your pasta with some local veggies and damn that’s a good meal. Other ideas, if you have lots of berries you could try homemade jam. You could try to recreate your favorite meal from a restaurant, like a chicken sandwich or homemade mac and cheese. And if you really want to hop on this trend you could try making bread (again Kingarthurflour.com has the best recipes). Just try to have lots of fun making something new and if it fails that just makes for a good story. If you make something crazy or have a big fail I would love to see it, and you could send a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Restaurants with takeout:
*Times subject to change, call to ensure availability
The ‘6 House Pub: Takeout Friday & Saturday dinner. Email email@example.com. 413-458-1896
Berkshire Palate: Takeout, Curbside, Delivery. Dinner Wednesday-Sunday. 413-458-6304
Blue Mango: Takeout, Curbside, Delivery. Lunch & Dinner Daily. 413-458-0004
Freight Yard Pub: Daily Family Meal specials, plus full the full regular menu available for takeout. 413-663-654
Hot Tomatoes Pizza: Business as usual! 413-458-2722
Neighbors Catering & Hospitality: Takeout (from The Orchards Hotel) or delivery. Dinner Tues, Wed, Fri. 413-770-1992
Pappa Charlies Deli: Takeout Daily. 9am-3pm. 413-458-5969
Pera Bistro: Takeout or delivery daily. 413-448-8676
Spice Root: Takeout (curbside) and delivery. Lunch & Dinner Daily. 413-458-5200
Tunnel City Coffee: Takeout. Daily 6am-6pm. 413-458-5010
Wild Oats Cafe: Pre-packaged prepared food available. 413-458-8060
The Old Forge: Takeout. 11:30am – 9:30pm 413-442-6797
Public Eat+Drink: takeout from 4pm to 8pm Wednesday – Sunday. 413-664-4444
COVID-19 has cancelled many if not all upcoming events this year, including almost all high school and professional sports. With the spread of the virus to the United States, every professional sports league in America has been put on hold.
As Spring is right around the corner, we would usually be kicking off the start of the NBA and NHL post-season and welcoming the MLB and NASCAR regular season, but instead, we are left to hope next year’s seasons will not be affected.
Many Greylock sports teams are also coming to recognize the harsh reality that they too will likely miss out on their spring sports season. As with everything else, the return of professional sports is completely speculation at this point, as there is no real time table for us to follow. I
In some cases, athletes were directly affected by the virus. Basketball players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz were both infected by the virus early on in its sweep of the US. On March 17th, Kevin Durant also announced that he tested positive for the virus.
Though much of the sports news seems bleak, some fans and professional players can find solace in events that have been adjusted for the current situation For example, the NFL Draft will still be taking place from April 23-25; however, the league is doing so remotely to stop the spread of the virus. Other athletes from professional leagues have also taken to the virtual sports world to continue their competition and to entertain the fans. The NBA recently put on a 2K virtual tournament, in which 16 players competed as themselves and their teams for a $100,000 prize to a charity in support of Coronavirus relief. Devin Booker, point guard for the Phoenix Suns, put up a strong performance throughout the tournament, eventually winning the competition.
Tournaments prizes are not the only way athletes are getting involved in providing aid to combat the Coronavirus. From tennis player Roger Federer to basketball phenom Zion Williamson, many are donating to cover arena worker’s wages and providing meals and funding to families in need.
Athletes around in every sport are hoping for a speedy end to the virus, so they can get back in action and provide the world with the entertainment it loves.
Photo courtesy of Maddy Art
Face-to-Face AP Exams Canceled, Online Ones Offered on Optional Basis
Update: AP tests will be optional for Greylock students (and students will receive refunds if they choose not to take them). Here are what the exams will look like:
- AP US History and AP European History: 1 DBQ, 5 Sources
- AP English Language: 1 Rhetorical Analysis
- AP English Literature: 1 Prose Fiction Analysis
- AP Psychology: 1 Concept Application FRQ (25 min), 1 Experiment-based FRQ (15 min)
- AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics: 1 25 min FRQ, 1 15 min FRQ, both general course content
- AP Biology: 1 Experiment-based FRQ (25 min), 1 Conceptual FRQ (15 min)
- AP Physics C: E & M: 1 Conceptual FRQ (25 min), 1 Experiment-based FRQ (15 min)
- AP Spanish Language: 1 Conversation, 1 Cultural Comparison
- AP Latin: 25 min of syllabus readings, 15 min of Vergil sight-reading
- AP Computer Science Principles: Completion of Create and Explore Performance Task
On Friday, March 20, the College Board announced their response to COVID-19, and how the lack of school will affect students’ preparedness for AP testing.
The virus is dangerously contagious and has therefore caused nearly every school district to shut down due to the close contact that each student faces in their classes.
Due to the fact that students are no longer being taught face to face by a teacher, the question of whether or not AP testing will still be administered come May has been rapidly circulating.
On Friday, the College Board announced that due to the Coronavirus outbreak, it would not be safe to administer face to face AP Testing, nor would it be fair to students struggling to learn without remote learning.
Nick Anderson, a writer for the Washington Post tweeted, “Breaking: College Board plans to offer 45-minute AP exams that can be taken online at home. To be fair to all students … the exam will only include topics and skills most AP teachers and students have already covered in class by early March” (@wpnick).
According to the College Board, “we surveyed 18,000 AP students and 91% indicated they want to complete this important step, urging us not to cancel this opportunity they have been working toward.”
Rather than entirely cancelling the exam, the College Board has decided to administer a 45 minute online exam for students, and it will only cover material that students should have covered by early March as a way to be fair to all students.
Jeffery Welch, a multi-subject AP teacher (European History and US History) is “intrigued” by the new format.
“Three and a half hours always seemed a little inhumane to me,” Welch said. “Forty-five minutes almost seems like too little and doesn’t quite feel like enough to test your knowledge of European history.”
Part of the format change includes a complete elimination of the multiple-choice section of the exam, due to concerns regarding student integrity and test security.
“With the new forty-five minute test,” said sophomore Luca Hirsch, “I don’t think it will adequately prepare me for future AP tests and it opens the door to testing on topics we may not have learned with our teacher.”
“I think we should either have the tests the normal way or be able to opt out of our AP tests this year,” Hirsch said, “because I didn’t pay a lot of money for a substitute test that seems like an excuse for the college board to still collect their money.”
On Monday, principal Mary Macdonald sent out an email to all Mount Greylock students saying that this year, the AP test would be optional for students.
“I’m pretty bummed about it because we’ve all worked so hard this year and we’re getting such a small test compared to last year,” junior Will Starenko said. “I also don’t think we should have to pay a dime. But it’s better that they have a forty-five minute test than no test at all.”
Another junior AP Student, Charlotte Sanford, expressed her concern towards the possibility of cheating.
“It prevents a lot of the people who wouldn’t cheat from potentially not having the same opportunity as someone who does cheat,” Sanford said. “If you are putting work and effort in, you want to make sure that you get that out!”
Although there is concern about test security and cheating, the College Board has ensured that they “use a range of digital security tools and techniques, including plagiarism detection software, to protect the integrity of the exams.”
Despite the precautions that they are taking, there is always the possibility for students to overcome this and it is unclear how the College Board would be able to monitor students, especially because they will be working at home. They have not disclosed specifically which softwares they will be using to prevent plagiarism.
“While I applaud the College Board for working so diligently to create testing options that honor students’ hard work all year long,” said sophomore Mackenzie Sheehy, “I think it will be hard to achieve. There is no way to ensure that students have the ability to take the test securely or that they will still be inclined to take it.”
Sheehy added that “students work hard to learn new skills — writing, examining documents, drawing broader connections, providing evidence that I’m not sure students will have the proper platform to display their mastery of these things.”
When asked about how they might update their methods of teaching in regards to this unforeseen event, Welch said that “provided we can get back to it, I’d like to see if this crisis couldn’t be turned into an opportunity. If the constraints of the exam are eased, we might be able to do something new and different as a class.”
AP Statistics teacher Lucas Polidoro explained that he is planning on continuing to teach from a distance at a similar pace to what was done in school.
“I am planning on posting some modules on canvas along with some review materials for students,” he said. “In addition, the new AP classroom is a great resource for review and practice for students.”
In addition to the updated test, the College Board has also invested in a new method of learning for students to use while social distancing. They have put together a livestream schedule with free course review sessions for AP students. The schedule for these review sessions can be accessed here.
COVID Profiles, Part II: Ava Anagnos and Lily McDermott
March 31, 2020
With Mt. Greylock closed until May 4th, many students are looking for ways to remain occupied turning this temporary break. The Echo is writing profiles on students who are pursuing activities outside of the traditional school environment.
Shortly before school closed, eighth graders Ava Anagnos and Lily McDermott began learning how to play the acoustic guitar. Now they are using this free time to further pursue their interest.
When asked why she started this hobby, McDermott said, “It was really encouraged by my dad. He wanted me to try it, so I just picked it up.” She added, “I was learning a Taylor Swift song and asked if [Anagnos] wanted to join me. Then we just started playing together.”
Anagnos mentioned that her dad also played a large part in her starting to learn the guitar. She said, “Once my dad heard about it he was like ‘Oh my gosh this is great.’ And then we started.”
Learning an instrument with someone else is always difficult, but is even more so when social distancing is strongly encouraged. McDermott explained how they went about doing this. “I have a book my dad gave me to learn from, so I have the book on my end of the phone, and then I tell Ava the notes we’re learning and she writes them down in her notebook.” She added, “We learn songs that way, and play them over the phone together.”
Anagnos commented on the struggle of simply picking up a new instrument: “Just getting used to it after not ever really playing [is tough]. Regularly, the hardest part for me would be finding time to practice, but now we have a lot of time.”
McDermott said, “For me, it’s not necessarily reading notes, it’s more just trying to figure out where my fingers go. It’s really memorizing the different notes and where they are on the guitar.”
Having the extra time during this break has proven helpful in pursuing their hobby. “Even when we kind of started right before this break, we couldn’t really do it consistently because we had sports and homework,” Anagnos said. “Another way this break has been helpful is even if we just get started during this break, it will come easier when we don’t have as much free time.”
“We have a lot more time on our hands just to work on it,” McDermott said. “Ava and I have been FaceTiming anywhere from an hour to two hours a day, just playing guitar together over the phone.” She added, “This time off is a really good way to learn new things, and try something you’ve never done before that you’ve always wanted to do. It’s a great opportunity to start something, even if school starts again.”
COVID Profiles, Part III: Thomas Art
With Mt. Greylock closed until May 4th, many students are looking for ways to remain occupied turning this temporary break. The Echo is writing profiles on students who are pursuing activities outside of the traditional school environment.
Eighth grader Thomas Art is dedicating his time to a research project on the people of Ecuador.
“It’s going to be about how the elevation and geographic region determines the daily lives of the people there,” Art said. After doing extensive research, Art will write an essay, which will contain the information collected throughout the duration of the project.
This will include consideration of “The difference in daily life between people who live in the mountains, the rainforest, and the desert,” Art said.
Art decided to do this project for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that “my parents didn’t want me just sitting around the house all break, so they decided to have me do some sort of academic project.”
“I traveled to Ecuador this past summer, and I really enjoyed it,” Art said, when commenting on why he chose Ecuador. He added, “I wanted to learn a little bit more about it, so I decided this would be a perfect time to do some research.”
Navigating a subject with so much information at hand can be difficult, but Art said, “I have a book that I got from my Spanish teacher which is on the Andes and the mountains. I’m using some websites to look up other information.”
Using a mixture of websites and books, he has been able to deepen his knowledge of how geographical regions affect the daily lives of the Ecuadorian people. He said, “The people in the different regions have different jobs, and those jobs affect how they live. People in the rainforest are farmers and fishermen, so they make the food they eat.”
He said, “Oil is the main component of Ecuador’s economy, and the oil companies have taken over a large portion of the rainforest. Many people are upset with the companies, but some people are glad that they are opening up jobs.”
Doing this research has led to learning much more about the Ecuadorian people. When asked what his favorite part of the project was, Art said, “Probably reading the stories of the people who have traveled there, and how it’s been different from anything they’ve ever seen.”
“I’ve learned the differences between how we live in the United States, and more specifically Williamstown, [and how the Ecuadorian people live]” Art said.
He said, “Some of the things I’ve learned have opened my eyes on how different it is, like the United States economy is around 200 times larger than Ecuador’s.”
Commenting on how having this break has kept him busy during a time when many are bored, Art said, “It’s just something else to do.” He added, “It’s not really like school, because I have the freedom to do what I want, but also know that I have this to do.”
Teachers Adjust to Remote Learning
On Thursday, April 9, Mount Greylock officially started online or “remote” learning. The teachers assigned work and organized Zoom calls and Canvas conferences. Zoom is a video chat platform that, like Canvas and Google Classroom, has been used by many people to stay connected during the pandemic, both professionally and personally. Many teachers were used to the online platforms and used them to update students about upcoming assignments, even before COVID-19. However, some subjects were hard to transition from the classroom to online.
One of these subjects, P.E., was especially difficult. The Echo talked with P.E. coach Lynn Jordan to discuss more about the transition.
Gym students are keeping a weekly log of exercise. Kids are expected to average 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 30 minutes per day. This consists of anything from going for a walk to throwing a frisbee to doing a workout.
“We tried to make it as general as possible,” Jordan said. “Our biggest goal is keeping students active and moving.”
Along with physical activity, the department also made the decision to have the students complete health work.
She said the health questions were “low-key” and focused on students’ emotional state during this time.
The department advises that all students should complete these questions, not just the kids in health class.
“The questions make you think, and you’re checking in with yourself,” Jordan said.
When asked about the biggest struggle of this transition, Jordan said “For me, I know a lot of teachers who struggle with Zoom, Google Docs and Canvas. We had to get familiarized with it.”
To Jordan, the most important part of the work is that it’s meant to be useful, not overwhelming. The goal is to make the work fun, low-stress, and engaging.
Teachers plan to change up the material every week or so and find other fun activities to assign to keep students upbeat and engaged.
The Echo also talked to Michael Powers, photography and video editing elective teacher. The transition for him was very difficult because the majority of his equipment, his cameras and his editing platform, were at school and not accessible to students.
“It dawned on me that every household has a cell phone. In fact, most families have several,” Powers said. “I also needed a photo editing app that was easy to use yet powerful enough to do some advanced editing.”
Powers decided on Snapseed, an app with “a really simple interface” and at the same time, the capability “to do some really neat things.”
Powers has also started using Zoom with his classes.
“I am kind of excited as I learned how to pair my phone with the Zoom program and will be able to give live demonstrations once again when I become comfortable with it.”
When asked about the hardest part of this transition, Powers said it “was the lack of direction for around two weeks… teachers received emails stating that the education process was going to ‘pause.’ We were told to actually do nothing.”
After a week, Powers said that some teachers started to contact students with “Optional Enrichment” activities, which were recommended by the administration. Later, teachers were told to stop sending these optional activities because students were becoming confused.
“Yeah,” Powers said. “That was tough; not knowing what to do and what not to do for sure was difficult.”
9th grade English teacher Kellie Houle’s classes were in the middle of writing a large research paper when school closed.
Houle said the entire remote learning phase was in a “holding pattern” to start. At first, the administration told the teachers to just give enrichment opportunities and connect with students.
Similar to Powers, she said there was a lot of confusion between mandatory work and optional work. Later, once work was no longer optional, the English Department took every class one by one.
“English lends itself more easily than most subjects right now. [Students] can be reading and writing about stuff happening in the news,” Houle said.
When discussing student interaction, Houle said that “all teachers are going to have some kind of direct instruction once per week, whether it’s interactive or a video.”
Teachers can record a lesson with a slideshow, or conduct group calls. The office hours are for follow ups and questions on the content.
When asked about the challenges of remote learning, Houle said it’s hard because students are at different stages of their research papers.
“I think one of the challenges is that I need to change the way I present the material,” Houle said.
But Houle is looking on the bright side.“The research paper during this time is ideal because I will have so much extra time to read and look through the papers. I look forward to reading and commenting without having to put an A or B,” she said, referring to the new pass/fail grading method for the fourth quarter.
On the downsides of virtual learning, Houle said “Kids want to interact with each other,” She wants to work on “recreating a classroom climate” with the same kids and the same vibe. “People are missing the connectivity.”
Houle said she misses having those emotional connections with students, teachers, and everyone else in the Greylock community. “The hardest part is not being able to see the students,” Houle said.
The Echo lastly talked to Chemistry teacher Faith Manary and Biology teacher Sarah Holmes.
Holmes said while teachers were instructed to post enrichment material, she took the opportunity to teach kids about the coronavirus.
“I posted articles and podcasts related to the coronavirus where students could learn more about viruses in general, the genetics of this specific virus, and how pathogens spread since it is very much related to biology.”
Holmes’ honors and college prep Biology classes have been using Pearson Realize, an online learning program, that goes along with their curriculum. Her AP Biology classes have been practicing FRQs (Free Response Questions) over Zoom to prepare for the upcoming AP exam.
Holmes also said there are many online resources that students can learn to continue their labs.
“Luckily, we live in an age where the internet has allowed people to create virtual labs that normally are used when materials or time are limited in the regular classroom,” she said.
In her Anatomy and Physiology class, she has linked “virtual dissections” and other links to websites that walk through dissections.
Manary said that she has been using Google Classroom and Google Hangouts (a platform similar to Zoom) for interactive time with students.
“I have been working on planning an at-home lab for students to do in their kitchens and report on. If it goes well, I may do more of those.”
Manary, like Powers, said the uncertainty was the hardest part. “I feel like I am only able to look one day ahead, because I never know how my students and I will be doing.”
Holmes said teaching without her students is the most challenging part. “…Remote learning wasn’t really a part of my teacher education but the hardest part is definitely not seeing my students,” Holmes said. “They were my first thought when the closure was extended one week and again through May. Life is significantly more boring without them.”
Photo courtesy of the Berkshire Eagle
COVID Hits the Berkshires: an Overview
Berkshire County has been hit fairly hard by COVID-19 compared to other similarly sized communities. Because of the fast pace of the pandemic and the two-week incubation period, all information is outdated as soon as published. That being said, at the beginning of April, Berkshire County had the sixth most fatalities of all the 13 Massachusetts counties but because of its small population, it ranked first in deaths per 1000 people. This attracted attention from the New York Times, who listed Berkshire County in the top 10 for hotspots in the country.
More recently, Williamstown in particular has had a spree of cases in Williamstown Commons, a nursing and rehabilitation center, where there were many cases and several fatalities. This made Williamstown look like a hotspot on virus maps despite the cases being restricted to almost entirely one building.
One of the reasons Berkshire County is being hit particularly hard is the age of the inhabitants. According to US Census data, “23 percent of Berkshire County’s population is 65 or older, compared to 16.5 percent for the state as a whole.” The figure is inflated by the large number of people who live in the city fleeing to second homes in Berkshire county, which not only brings more elderly citizens to the county but also brings the virus with them from Boston or New York. Great Barrington was affected by this as its hospital only has 25 beds to suit its relatively small population but with the population swelling they have become seriously insufficient.
Despite this, Marc McDermott, a pediatrician here in the Berkshires, said that Berkshire County, and Massachusetts as a whole, “were generally better prepared than most of the country.” The reason that the area is prepared, he explained, is the frequency of medical insurance in Massachusetts. He also said that we have come a long way in the last month and we are certainly “better prepared now than we were a month ago, and it’s less scary than it was a month ago.” He said that the healthcare system is being hit in very different ways depending on which section of it one is a part of. ICU workers, for example, are at maximum capacity and working around the clock, while less essential medical professionals shut down much of their practice to help preserve resources for a potential wave of COVID patients.
As for advice, McDermott said that “humans accomplish more by cooperating than competing” and that now is a time to come together and follow the instructions given so the community can help save lives and get through this pandemic as quickly and safely as possible.
Overview: Baker Closes MA Schools Until May
On March 13, Mount Greylock Regional School District closed for two weeks in order to help stop the spread of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). A few days later, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker closed all schools until April 7. On March 25, Baker announced that all Massachusetts schools will be closed until May 4.
Many students have been asking questions about the next steps for Mount Greylock, so the Echo talked to Principal MacDonald and Superintendent Grady to discuss these unknowns.
When MacDonald was asked about the original decision to close for two weeks, she answered, “We’re not a city, we’re a rural district… we closed based on recommendations of local health authorities.”
The superintendents of Berkshire County had a conference call on March 13 to discuss the issues surrounding our area. “We tried to do things collaboratively as a county,” MacDonald said.
Grady said she’s on calls with the Berkshire County superintendents every other day, and the North County superintendents everyday. “We’re monitoring things, we talk with the board of health. There are more cases in Berkshire county.”
The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or the DESE, put in a rule that only five days will be added to the original last day of school. In a FAQ document on the website, MGRS confirmed that the last day of school will be June 23.
Another resource that the district has offered are Grab-and-Go lunches. These are available to anyone who needs them, not just students with accommodations at school. They are also prepared for senior citizens.
In a recent email to freshmen, MacDonald asked students to make cards for senior citizens, because many of them don’t have a way of getting in touch with other people.
MacDonald stressed that anyone can make these, and they are a kind gesture towards people who don’t have much company.
The lunches are available at either elementary school rather than the high school, since these are more central locations within Williamstown and Lanesborough. They can also be delivered to houses. See the email from Superintendent Grady for more information.
When asked about online work, Macdonald answered that they are “looking at the next stage.” She said that the teachers are putting together quality work, but only about 35-40 percent of students are engaged in the online activities. “We don’t know what the next step will look like… nothing’s final,” MacDonald said.
She also said it’s helpful that 8-12 graders have chromebooks, but they are still trying to figure out how to help the students without chromebooks or internet access. “We need to make it equitable for all students.”
Grady stressed the same issue, but she said that her team is putting together a plan for distance learning. “We’re working on trying to get a plan together,” Grady said. “Many people are working long, tireless hours.”
“This is an unprecedented time,” MacDonald said. “Rather than just throwing things together, we have to think carefully about what’s going to happen.”
Another thing Grady noted was that she personally can’t put out a plan for online learning. She has to take instructions from her commissioner, who is holding a meeting on March 26 to discuss more options for learning.
After being asked how the decision will be made to reopen schools, Grady said, “We have to keep things out until it is entirely safe for everyone.”
A meeting will take place tomorrow, March 26, for more announcements based on a remote learning strategy.
On March 19, MacDonald sent out a letter to the seniors expressing her empathy for these students who are in their last year of highschool. She wrote that graduation would be pushed back a week, because there is a rule that this celebration cannot occur a certain amount of time before the last day of school.
“And as we shift the date of graduation, we’ll also shift the events that help to celebrate your accomplishments. Some events may look different from what you have planned now,” Macdonald wrote. “But with your creativity and class spirit, I have no doubt that when you come together to celebrate, it will be magical and memory-making.”
Another issue the senior class faced was their deposits in companies for their senior trip to Boston. Coach Jordan, senior class advisor, didn’t want to risk not being able to refund this money later, so she communicated with the venues to reschedule and get possible refunds.
For more information on any of the issues surrounding the pause of school due to COVID-19, go to the district’s Coronavirus page at https://www.wlschools.org/page.cfm?p=1137, and MGRSD FAQs is on the right.
COVID Profiles, Part IV: Maddy Ross
During this unprecedented global pandemic, many Greylock students are finding creative ways to make the most of their newfound free-time.
Senior track, basketball and soccer captain Madison Ross has created an Instagram account to share how she is staying active (workouts_with_mads). Her simple, at home workouts consist of AMRAPs (as many rounds as possible), tabata workouts (8 sets of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off), circuits, and even some yoga.
When asked about the main reasons behind starting her account, Madison said, “I love to workout, so I thought it would be great to share with people what I’ve been doing.”
Regarding her prominent role on the Greylock track team, Maddy said, “Being a track captain and not having a season yet has driven me to give some ideas to kids on the track team.”
However, she emphasizes her account is by no means limited to only track members, and wants to spread her workouts to anyone interested.
As a senior, the impacts of Coronavirus have been particularly devastating: Maddy said, “it’s been hard not being able to spend the last few months of my senior year with my friends.”
Another challenging aspect of quarantine has been finding ways to entertain herself, though she said, “this page has actually helped motivate me to not sleep the day away and get up and be productive.” She also added “I think it’s important to build routines in time like this to help keep you busy and be efficient this time at home.”
Maddy’s workouts have certainly given many students a productive outlet during this unusual time.
MIAA Postpones Start of Spring Sports Season
Note: the information and quotes in this story do not all reflect today’s decision by the state to close schools until May. We will provide updates.
In an attempt to slow the spread of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, schools in Massachusetts have closed for the next three weeks to help practice social distancing and flatten the curve of cases. However, this spells bad news for student-athletes, who were scheduled to start their spring sports seasons during the first week of the break.
Initially, according to an email sent out to students by Mount Greylock Athletic Director Lindsay von Holtz, the spring season was pushed back two weeks with a start date of Monday, March 30th. Contests would have been able to begin on April 9th as a first possible date.
However, after Governor Charlie Baker announced that state schools would close for three weeks, the MIAA met once more to take further steps to push back the spring season. The initial start date was decided to be April 27th at the earliest. They have voted to have the completion of the regular season and tournament games by June 20th at the latest. However, since this decision Baker announced that schools would be closed until May 4. The MIAA has not announced how this development will impact the spring sports season.
According to last week’s rules, the first competition would not be allowed to occur until the seventh calendar day after the start of the 2020 spring season, meaning games or meets could not start until May 4th at the earliest. The maximum number of competitions allowed is 12 and the minimum number needed to participate in the tournament is 8 before the June 10th cut off date. Teams will not be allowed to play more than 3 contests per week. If the start date is postponed for any amount of time beyond April 27th, there will not be a postseason tournament.
In a letter to the student body, von Holtz said, “this, as well as the closure of school, was based on available information from numerous health agencies, in the best interest of our students, staff, and communities.” She also added that “It is important for athletes and families to understand that with the adjusted start date, we are currently out-of-season.” Coaches are not allowed to have any contact with returning or prospective players person-to-person, and the school is not allowing any students or coaches on campus as well to use any facilities. Von Holtz also said that “there should be no formal or informal team activities. A reminder that “Captain’s Practices” are against MIAA rules and not sanctioned or condoned by Mount Greylock.”
Despite the season postponement, students and coaches alike are finding ways to stay positive. Girls lacrosse coach Jeff Stripp reached out to his players, saying, “first and foremost, I encourage you to stay safe, stay strong and stay connected.” Coaches are emphasizing the importance of staying positive, while also stressing the importance of keeping a good routine, a healthy diet, and ample exercise to remain on track physically for whenever the season starts. Above all, coaches want their athletes to lean on each other during this difficult and confusing time. “When the future is uncertain-we need to rely on each other for support,” Stripp said.
The student-athletes have mixed emotions regarding the postponement. While there is a fair share of disappointment, many athletes said they understand the precautions the MIAA is taking. Emma Sandstrom, a sophomore on Mount Greylock’s track and field team, said, “I think that even though it’s unfortunate, especially for the seniors, it was the right choice. If we were to continue playing sports, that would put a lot of people at risk given the current situation and especially with travel games, I think it would have been too risky. I’m bummed to not get a full track season, but I think all in all it was their best bet.” Many students have been keeping themselves in shape and entertained during this time with online fitness regimens, while also taking inspiration from others posting videos of themselves. Sophomore track and field athlete Kate Swann said that “I also think that it is difficult to motivate yourself to work out when you are alone and there aren’t people by your side to push you, but, again I think it is the right decision that we keep our distance. I have seen some fun ways that people have been staying connected through sports like virtual track meets where people find ways to do their events around the house, which always puts a smile on my face.”
Many athletes are also focused on the impact this postponement will have on the seniors. Senior girls lacrosse captain Brooke Phelps said, “when I first read the letter to the student-athletes, I was devastated. I, along with my teammates, have been working so hard in this offseason. I understand why they did it though. I know how scary this whole thing is. I know that many people are dying and they did what they had to do to keep everyone safe. We have to sacrifice our season for the safety of others. I love my team and I hope I get to have a last season with them.”
A lot of the underclassmen have spoken up in support of their beloved seniors. Freshman track and field athlete Jane Skavlem said, “I feel particularly bad for the seniors missing the last season of their high school career.” Freshman lacrosse player Ainsley Abel echoed Skavlem’s sentiments, saying, “the seniors should get to play their senior season.”
“Track is a big part of my life and something that I will continue to do as I attend college this coming year,” senior Maddie Ross said. “This team is what built me into not only the athlete I am today but also the person I am today.”
Other athletes mentioned that while they understood the need for safety, they didn’t see the point in having such a big push back in the start date seeing as students could be back in school far before the revised start date if all goes as planned.
“I think there is a greater chance of spreading the virus by being in school than playing limited contact sports like girls lacrosse and baseball, but I get how the MIAA is taking the precautions and trying to limit any contact with large groups of people,” junior Carolyn Jones said. “I also believe they are following the lead of the NCAA and all of the colleges that cut their seasons and semesters short to prevent further spread.”
Anthony Welch, a sophomore baseball player, felt similar to Jones. Welch said, “of course as long as school is out sports should be as well, but the MIAA has moved the date back too far. I think the right decision would have been that as soon as schools come back into session we should have been practicing so that we could play as soon and as long as possible.”
Photo courtesy of Education Week
With the rapid expansion of coronavirus across the country, all schools are cancelled state-wide, except in Nebraska, Iowa, and Maine, where cancellations vary by district. Virginia, Oklahoma and Kansas have already announced the closure of schools for the rest of the academic year. As reported by UNESCO, over 130 countries have implemented nationwide closures, affecting 80% of the worlds’ students.
For many students, the closure of schools, sports, clubs, and uncertainty regarding graduation, prom, and other social events has dramatically shifted daily life, leaving many dispirited to say the least. Lukas Nordstrom, a German student who visited Greylock last semester, said, “at first people were fine with it, though of course not happy with everything cancelled, but now people are starting to get a little aggravated because there is nothing to do.” At Lukas’s school, teachers are posting assignments online, though there is no method to submit the finished work. He said, “the coronavirus forces German schools to digatalize and set up new technology which many schools are completely new to.”
Jett Manchester, a highschool student in San Francisco explained people in California are under a shelter in place. “People have to social distance themselves and in San Francisco someone can get fined up to $400 for not social distancing,” he said. All work and school is closed, forcing families to work from home. The magnitude of San Francisco’s situation is “due to the fact that San Francisco is a popular port for cruise ships; that’s where it all started,” said Manchester.
All over the world communities have implemented similar measures, such as social distancing, forcing the closure of schools, businesses, large gatherings, and travel. “We are all witnessing a crazy time in history that hopefully can bring us together,” said a Greylock sophomore.
COVID Profiles, Part I: the Simpsons
With Mt. Greylock closed until May 4th, many students are looking for ways to remain occupied turning this temporary break. The Echo is writing profiles on students who are pursuing activities outside of the traditional school environment.
While teachers have assigned optional work, Mt. Greylock has no “online schooling” as of right now. But freshman twins Jennah and Kiersten Simpson have taken matters into their own hands, pursuing their own daily homeschooling routine. “We just go through a regular school day, but at home,” Kiersten said.
Kiersten also commented on why they decided to do this homeschooling. “Because my mom is an educator, she said that a big part of this for her was making sure that we didn’t just lose all forms of education and lay around for the next however many weeks.”
Jennah said, “I really enjoy it because it keeps me busy, and takes my brain off of what’s going on around me, in the way being at school would.”
When asked if they were doing the assignments sent out by teachers or designing their own curriculum, Jennah said, “I would say a pretty healthy mix.”
Completing both the assignments sent out and other additional educational activities has helped the twins continue to learn, even out of school. She added, “We’ve been doing a lot of online stuff. Not so much in the English category, because my mom is actually an English teacher, so she’s home with us doing that.”
Each year Mount Greylock ninth graders are assigned a research project, which they are now working on at home.
Kiersten said, “In English we were doing our research project, so my sister and I are working on that while we’re at home.”
In terms of math, Jennah says she has “mostly been doing my own thing, but with the way Grelyock is set up for math, that actually kind of works out anyways.”
When speaking on the benefits of homeschooling, Kiersten said, “I like still being able to learn while not being in the building.” Although much of the work being done is online, having a schedule can help add some uniformity to the day, which many Greylock students may be craving.
Although homeschooling has proven as a good way to keep busy during this break from school, it’s not the perfect solution, and the Simpsons are still feeling the effects of the time off.
“None of us are loving [the break], but it’s very much a ‘we need to get by for the next few weeks, might as well do this.’” Kiersten said.
When asked if the structure of homeschooling had helped her stay on top of schoolwork, and stay in the “student” frame of mind, Kiersten said, “I think it has and it hasn’t. It hasn’t in the way that because I’m only a week or so in, it feels very abnormal to me.”
Some of the educational activities the twins pursue outside of school include planting seeds and completing activities related to the arts. Jennah said, “My mom is a very big advocate for the arts, so we have a forty-five minute art period where we can just kind of do whatever.”
The Simpson twins are making the most of their time off, using the ample free time each day brings to continue to learn. If you or anyone you know are utilizing this break to undertake stimulating hobbies and activities, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Almost every day, we’re publishing new recipes, movie or book recommendations, and workouts to do while you’re home. You can go check them out on our Arts & Living page!