One GHS Student’s Reflections on School Reopening during Covid

By Benjamin Shi

As the first week back at Greenwich High School concludes, both students and teachers have begun to adapt to the difficulties presented by COVID.

The hybrid system at GHS has so far been implemented smoothly despite a few sporadic tech issues. My experience has overall been very good.

GHS student center with desks to eat. Photo: Benjamin Shi

In-person experience
First, let’s talk about all the safety measures at GHS. Yellow tape has been placed on the ground to guide students around the building, attempting to prevent kids clustering together in dense areas like the glass corridor and student center.

Hallways are mostly split right down the middle by the yellow tape but there are some stairwells that are now one way up or one way down.

One-way staircases at GHS. Photo: Benjamin Shi

The walking plan in the student center goes counterclockwise, allowing students to be more socially distanced. It does, however, take more time to get from class to class. The walk from one of the houses to the science wing is now even longer because of this plan.

As the glass corridor has been converted to only go one way from the science wing to the student center, students are forced to exit through one of the sides of the student center and go outside and around to the science wing. Though tiring, it is a nice way to get some sunlight. One can only imagine, though, the scene of students walking outside when there is a thunderstorm.

The classroom experience in-person feels pretty normal, with some minor exceptions. Packets, worksheets, and other paper handouts that one would normally do for classwork and homework have largely all been moved online, a trend seen before that has been accelerated by COVID.

Distanced tables. Photo: Benjamin Shi

Desks replace tables in some classrooms, while transparent dividers are used in rooms where tables remain. Science labs have been moved to the online platforms such as Gizmos. Class discussions remain in place, but smaller group activities are limited.

As half the kids are online at a time, teachers have found that it is hard to both make things interactive and know if the students understand the lessons. This can lead to a more rigid teaching style that some students and teachers do not prefer.

Still, the in-person learning is much more engaging than the other online half as I have found that being confined in your room for six or seven hours is boring and not very engaging. I look forward to seeing how teachers adapt to include more interactive activities in the classroom.

One surprise was that wearing a face mask was not too bothersome. In fact, it was easy to get used to.

Multiple lunch lines in the student center to buy food while social distancing. Photo: Benjamin Shi

Lunch and Opens
Lunch has also changed from tables to desks to better socially distance students. Because students need to take off their masks to eat food, they must either eat in the area provided in the student center or outdoors. The area to buy lunch has been moved to a more central location to prevent kids gathering in the cafeteria. Now there are many lines to buy food.

Hallway in the GHS science sing. Photo: Benjamin Shi

Online experience
The online experience right now is already much better than the confusing mess it was in the spring. Summer planning by the administration has of course produced impressive results!

Every classroom is provided a tripod-mounted camera and microphone. The teachers then connect either their Chromebook or desktop to the camera, and share their screens via Google Meets.

As a student, sometimes it does take a few minutes to get on the Google Meet, but so long as the WiFi in your house is strong, the meeting should run smoothly – by the second day the teachers were well acquainted with their first day’s experience to fix the tech issues.

The teacher will then go through their lesson plan accordingly, taking questions from the in-person folks first, and then separately from the online folks.

The challenge then is on the student to remain focused at home, which is difficult compared to being directly in school. Overall, it is still a satisfactory experience.

The district administration including Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones and Head of School Ralph Mayo worked tirelessly all summer, and GHS students are very grateful for a chance to get back in the building. Let’s see what next week brings.

Transparent dividers. Photo: Benjamin Shi