Lena Thakor is a member of the Greenwich High School class of 2021
This week Greenwich Schools Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones and members of the Board of Education shared draft plans for the re-opening of Greenwich Public Schools.
As of now, the State of Connecticut has mandated public schools open their doors to students for five days a week for face-to-face teaching.
A hybrid model proposed by the district would split the GHS student body into two groups in order to only have only half the students in the building at one time and therefore hinder potential spread of COVID-19.
Team A would come into school on Mondays and Tuesdays, and Team B would come in on Thursdays and Fridays.
On the days students aren’t in the GHS building, their classes will most likely be streamed live. Schooling will continue on Wednesdays, but it will be remote, so as to provide time for the facility to be thoroughly disinfected throughout the day before the next team comes in.
Before school, students are encouraged to complete a “self-check” for symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, students who have a household member who has tested positive for the virus are required to quarantine for 14 days before returning to school, and teachers with a family member who has tested positive for the virus are to do the same.
Parents are encouraged to drive their children to school rather than have them take the bus, so as to limit bus riders to 12.
More doors will be designated as points of entry at GHS so as to prevent convergence at any one or two points of entry, and to hinder infection.
Further, arrows, similar to those seen in grocery stores, will be lined along the floors to help encourage social-distancing within the building. In addition, posters will be pasted along the school urging students and staff members to sanitize appropriately.
Students will be expected to wear masks throughout the school day, but there will be designated masks breaks during the day.
While “in-person” school is operating, students who choose not to return to school will be afforded the change to learn remotely.
Several members of the GHS student body shared their thoughts on the draft re-opening plans.
“I really appreciate the fact that Greenwich Public Schools is trying to get us back in school,” said Caroline Regan said. “It would be easier for them to just give up, and make everything remote, but they are really making an effort. I am grateful for that, because I find it a lot easier to be engaged and motivated when I am in a school environment.”
Alexa Brust, 17, said, “I like Greenwich Schools’ proposal. I think it gives students the best of both worlds. Coming to school is essential for social and emotional well-being, and, obviously we need physical distancing for our physical well-being.”
Rising senior Gabriella Mendoza suggested an alternative.
“In terms of the hybrid model, I don’t think the 2 days on–2 days off approach is the best idea. My family and I prefer a one week on – one week off plan because if one person is infected in one team this makes it that there is less of a risk of the virus being transmitted to the other team.”
Caroline had concerns about how teams would be broken up.
“I really hope teams don’t split up people in the same grade. What makes school really fun is getting to see the kids in your grade – the people you have been working with for years. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about going to school everyday and not getting to see half of my classmates.”
Alexa was also concerned about preserving the social elements of high school, and wondered what passing time would look like in a socially-distanced high school.
“Passing time will definitely feel really weird. Will it be regulated? Will anyone be enforcing that students stay 6 ft apart? I’m imagining security guards holding tape measures. I feel like a lot of the social aspects of high school will be eliminated–which will be really sad. Hopefully, we can create programs that won’t make us feel so isolated, like we are living in a dystopian novel.”
School Buses and Traffic
Alexa also commented on school buses.
“Traffic flow is certainly something that should be considered in relation to the requirement that buses only be filled to 50% capacity. We will likely see increased traffic flow to and from GHS,” she said. “But then again, maybe the splitting up of the school into two teams will make it so less seniors are driving to school everyday, and it is much easier to gain a spot in the senior parking lottery system. If teams split, students within the same grade up, less seniors will be driving to school on any given day, so that would decrease traffic flow.”
Further, Gabby shared concerns about how the different schools would operate simultaneously.
“There are so many different systems operating. It seems extremely complex. I feel like the individual attention being given to students is a good thing, but at the same time, how are schools going to juggle it all?” she asked. “There has to be something for the students and teachers who opt out of coming to school, there is something for students and teachers who decide to come in, and there has to be something for the students and teachers who are quarantining.”
Caroline said she was concerned about inequities in the different types of learning students would receive.
“How are quizzes and tests going to be administered fairly? Some students will take tests in a classroom where their behavior is strictly monitored, and others will take them from their homes. How can you prevent the kids that opt for the remote option from cheating?”
Alexa agreed. “Would the same test be given to each student? That doesn’t seem fair to me. If you are at home you aren’t in a highly regulated testing environment. Obviously, one student is going to be held much more accountable than the other. Maybe the student at home could be given a harder version of the test. Honestly, I have no idea how that is going to work.”
Gabby is similarly concerned about the inequities that she believed would arise through these different modes of teaching,
“The students who are coming to class might learn better than those who opted for remote learning. It doesn’t seem right that these students should get inferior schooling simply because they are prioritizing their health.”