"School's out for...." Who know's....? Monday 23 March 2020

They were happy to see me, gathering around the office door with noisy enthusiasm. After all, it’s Monday morning.

But despite working in a school, I’m not talking about children. This was the local avian population, hanging-out for feeder refill.

Like most schools, Kilgraston closed on Friday 20th march. Only pupils of key workers with us now.

Teachers are working from home, plying their trade through confusing new online platform, ‘TEAMS’. Following normal timetables, pupils sit at screens, around the world, wrestling with instructions from the school’s ‘Remote Learning Policy’.

This hastily prepared strategy is designed, as far as is humanly possible in these extenuating circumstances, to give pupils a daily framework to which they should adhere.

Encouraging such social advice as, “You must wear suitable clothing on a video call (as should anyone else in the household who might appear on screen),” and “You should get up and get dressed ready for a day of study. Casual clothes are fine, but research suggests that you work better if you are dressed for the task,” designed to keep a steady hand on this wobbly tiller.

Boarding is wrapping-up. With the sudden escalation in events, not all girls could secure homeward flights. Some even left, saying teary farewells, only to return after as transport was cancelled.

All areas are in deep-clean mode. Eau de Disinfectant permeates boarding house corridors more used to the aroma of perfume and deodorant. Lines of hastily vacated rooms sport mountains of life’s detritus, jettisoned in the rush to make airports.

Catering is another caught in the crossfire. This time last week, over 600 meals a day were prepared and served. Now, virtually none at all.

Fresh food is being redeployed to worthy causes. That which can, frozen. The dining hall stands eerily quiet, large expanses of metal surfaces gleaming, but empty.

Everywhere there is a sense of loss, bewilderment. Simultaneously, the skeleton staff gravitate, then retreat. At the very time when you need a sympathetic ear, shouting from metres apart is the new black.

We’re all wrapping up loose ends, aware of a deadline, but when is it?

A campus so used to the chatter and laughter of young girls, lies silent bar the hum of the occasional car, collecting yet more of the school’s lifeblood.

We know that happy days will return, we must all cling to that.

Meanwhile, birds carry on feeding their young. As the pupils’ policy reminds us, “Now, more than ever, you need to be kind to others.”

Mairi Fraser

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