Post-spring break on-campus update: the scoop on what Webbies can expect

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Graphic Courtesy of Kaylynn Chang (‘23).

The Return of Webbies: Students and teachers alike settle into the new norm of on-campus learning while taking the necessary precautions to keep the community safe. The freshmen step on campus for the first time while returning sophomores and upperclassmen get to set foot on a familiar scene with familiar faces once more. “It has been a really fun experience and let me, a VWS student, get a lot closer with the sophomore guys in my class. It’s also really cool because I know it’s a safe way for us to still be at school and have social interaction,” Riley Fass (‘23) said.

The return of Webbies on campus stirred up quite a buzz throughout the Webb community, giving a chance for some students to step on campus once more and experience the “normal” school life once again. 

The long-awaited return of sports has also been a prominent feature from the on-campus experience, especially because of the prolonged hiatus due to the pandemic. Although contact-heavy sports, such as basketball, are not yet available, sports such as football, tennis, and golf have been approved. Now, some athletes can practice and even compete in games all while following Webb’s and LA county’s guidelines 

As Los Angeles County settles into the new norms of the red tier and possibly orange in the near future, Webb will be able to provide more opportunities that were limited before. 

In the most recent email sent on March 23rd, 2021 about post-spring break updates, more students can expect to sign up to be on campus after spring break, and this time, the full selection of afternoon activities will be available for the students to participate in. The return of theater, paleontology museum lab, and yoga & hiking opens up more possibilities now that students and teachers alike can participate together. 

“I expect we will have about 160 students participating,” said Steve Wishek, Director of Athletics and Afternoon Activities. 

With almost half the school coming on campus throughout the week, the Webb community joins together once more, albeit with restrictions in place.  

All of our on-campus activities will be offered in keeping with current guidelines,” said Dr. Theresa Smith, Associate Head of Schools. “Activities will utilize both outdoor and indoor spaces. Any indoor spaces will be set up for six-foot physical distancing.”  

This news means more resources for those activities which centered around in-person activity, such as paleontology and functional fitness, which both experienced the challenges of converting their programs to online. 

Paleontology originally included heavy research and analysis of the artifacts and equipment in the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology, but now, teachers had to think about how to bring the experience online with almost none of the necessary resources at hand. 

Like many things this year, converting the museum volunteer program to an online experience has had ups and downs,” said Dr. Andrew Farke, Curator of Paleontology and Director of Research & Collections. We are normally very focused on physical specimens when we meet in person, so we’ve had to get super creative this year. We’ve definitely changed things from the fall to the spring, as we’ve learned more about what works and what doesn’t. 

Likewise, functional fitness had also stumbled upon the challenge of online workouts 

“We cannot correct form over Zoom [that well], and lack of the same equipment among everyone such as weights and kettlebells,” said Dr. Wendy Maxon, Functional Fitness instructor. “Having access to the weight room and being able to correct form would be great.” 

Even Webb broadcasting, which was an activity for students to take videos and photos of athletes during games to be featured, needed to find another route. 

“Broadcasting has been challenging this year,” said Nora Armbruster, Assistant Director of Athletics and Afternoon Activities and Webb Broadcasting instructor. “We usually give students assignments where they are physically at games, so this year we needed to be creative. Fall Broadcasting focused on writing team and coach bios for the website while spring Broadcasting has focused more on posting games to social media in addition to a few special projects.” 

However, there were some activities that benefited from the situation, turning the pandemic around as an opportunity to explore ideas that would not even be considered before. 

Fortunately, theater and theater makers have been adapting to change for over 2,000 years, and now is no different!” said Stephanie Plumley, Fine Arts Department Chair and theater director. “Between March 2020 and now, playwrights have been writing plays specifically for Zoom, incorporating all its limitations and advantages into the play itself, so the performances work within the medium, rather than fight against it.” 

On March 31st, 2021, theater students also hosted a play titled The Party Hop, featuring a trio of girls who faced the unique challenges of attending parties on Zoom. 

This production was a result of multiple students and teachers working together to deliver a comforting and relatable play during the midst of the pandemic.  

“We’ve sent props, costumes and mics to the actors, and the tech team have been working on music and sound effects, backgrounds and learning all the technical business required for live online performance,” Mrs. Plumley said. 

It is incredible to see that even in the midst of isolation, people were able to find a way to connect with each other despite the circumstances.  

We’ve become a lot more self-paced and freeform, while keeping the overall museum themes. We have some who are doing artistic projects, others who are exploring various ways to do museuming online,” Dr. Farke said. “Some of our Webbies have done some really impressive stuff, like artwork or exploration in writing or helping with museum photo editing.  

Yearbook, another afternoon activity relying heavily on in-person communication and preparation, has also found ways to get around the obstacles. 

“It has been a totally different experience creating the yearbook online this year. Instead of the usual pictures of teams, sporting events, dorm photos and candid shots of students at Webb, we have had to create content,” said Hillary Barhydt, Yearbook instructor. “The students on the yearbook committee have reached out to various constituents at Webb for screenshots, pictures from home, and lots of surveysthe students worked in class groups to create content for their own grade level; each non-senior group was allotted 10 spreads in the book. The creativity that the yearbook committee has shown is astounding. Everyone will enjoy the new look! We can’t wait to share it!” 

Although there were undoubtedly challenges among teachers and students alike, the Webb community managed to adapt after the “extended spring break” turned into a virtual year for us all. Challenges turned into opportunities, and after spring break, Webb will be able to gradually get back into its original groove 

On what to expect after spring break, the rest of the oncampus program will remain similar to how oncampus opportunities work before break, taking extensive measures to guarantee the safety for all members while still trying to engage us with the feeling of community once again.  

Students should still expect to only be able to eat outside or in single-spaces, as the guidelines for LA County do not affect protocol of the dining hall. 

However, there will also be additional new grade-specific opportunities throughout the weeks of April and May on Wednesdays, emulating the nightly labs that were available last year on campus. These opportunities provide additional aid and give students a chance to get help on writing 

An example would be that students taking the Advanced Studies Thesis Seminar, will have Wednesday writing time, where they can meet with their teacher and their group. For the sophomores, there are even optional labs for Integrated Physics and Chemistry to further complement the previous year’s Evolutionary Biology curriculum. On Fridays, there will be open observatory at night as well. 

The Webb community was turned upside down on March 13th, 2020, and it was unimaginable to think that a year later, we would only be gradually getting back on campus once more.  

I can’t say enough how much I appreciate the great attitudes and adventurous spirits of the students this year,” Dr. Farke said. “We’re all in this together, and I definitely feel like we’ve come a long way since the fall season!” 

As we return to Webb, we should all keep in mind the commitment our community showed, and the enthusiasm of the entire faculty and student body truly helped students to have a memorable and unique year despite the challenges.