Insight: Thankful for the Plates

By Dr. Terry Macaluso, Head of School

The contagion of COVID pushed us to take a variety of unusual steps over the past many months, one of which was the elimination of the salad bar in the dining room.  First it was the salad bar, then the yogurt bar was closed.  We stopped having soup available at lunch—and then traded the plates for boxes with lids.

During the first several months of quarantining, we decided to prepare meals for families to purchase. Everyone loves the food at EPS; we thought families might be interested in picking up dinner to take home.  And they were!  Our kitchen crew worked hard to prepare and package meals that families enjoyed for several months.  When it looked as though we may be able to come back to campus—following our spring experiment to bring students back to campus in specific cohorts—we were very hopeful that we would start the 2020-2021 academic year as we always had.  But no…..the spikes returned; COVID was not receding.

By spring, 2021, we were ready to try an experimental return with students assigned to specific cohorts.  The idea was to get everyone on campus for at least a few classes before the year ended.  One matter of concern rose to the top of the list immediately.  How would we be able to offer breakfast and lunch?  Breakfast was discontinued, and we concentrated on how lunch could be served.   Masks have to be removed in order to eat (although—I have forgotten to remove the mask a time or two—the fork bouncing off the fabric stretched across my mouth) and people need to be seated in cohorts to limit the possibility of exposure.  Those seats had to be assigned so that the lunch cohorts would remain the same from day to day.  Otherwise, contact tracing would be impossible.

After we figured out the seating plans, we went to work on how food could be served.  The answer turned out to be a bento-like box with separate compartments, with a lid on top to minimize exposure to COVID-carrying human aerosol.   These substantial, turquoise, plastic containers worked, but they were very difficult to navigate with a knife and fork… and the plates were gone.

To everyone’s pleasure, we were able to open the new school year this fall—with everyone (almost) able to attend in person.  Vaccinations gave us more hope that we may be able to return to a tiny bit of what used to be called “normal.” At last…we were having school!!

After 13 weeks of meals being consumed from the very safe, and appropriate turquoise plastic containers, it became clear that something would have to be done. We had grown weary from chasing food into the corners of each carefully placed space in the “all in one” food container.  On Monday of this week, the plates returned.  The next day I had an email from an EPS mom who told me that her child was ecstatic that plates were back—and it looked like EBC would happen this year, too.  “I haven’t seen my daughter this happy for a long time!”

I’ve been thinking about that message all week.  It’s the season of Thanksgiving.  This is when we stop to reflect on our good fortune and to thank the people who have helped us along the way.  I can tell you right now, that at EPS we are ALL THANKFUL FOR PLATES!!  With a little bit of luck, soup won’t be far behind.

It’s the small, daily moments that enrich our lives.  Spend next week noticing those moments in your life and thank whoever is responsible for making those moments for you.

Happy Thanksgiving!