To say the least, the 2020-2021 high school year has been like no other. In March, we expected this “new virus” shutdown to last for two weeks, acting as a grace period for deep custodial cleaning. We were soon forced to accept the reality that this virus would be staying for a while.
However, omitting all the negatives with lagging Zoom quality, cancelled events, and the rules we have to comply with, it has been great that those comfortable have had the opportunity to return to temporary in-person instruction. It has had some caveats: an 8-period rotating schedule that created much more homework than any of us wanted and a positive test result. But otherwise, RHS has smoothly adapted to protocols, with widespread hand sanitizer stations, disinfectant products, and mask wearing. If all goes well, the district is slated to enter Phase II on October 19th.
What does that mean? On July 23rd, when the Board of Ed meeting took place announcing the new school year plan, they highlighted avoiding lunch during Phase I. If all goes to plan, there is a good chance that lunch will be added, and that Phase II will either run as a hybrid full day, or a daily-in person half day. The cohorts would stay the same (A-K), and (L-Z), maintaining under 50% capacity, but this new phase would ensure more in-person learning. This new phase should look very similar to what we have experienced now, masks, distancing, and class sizes will be the same. What will change however, is how lunch will be potentially incorporated into the schedule. Likely, lunch will be eaten during the last morning period or first afternoon period, in classrooms to ensure people are spaced apart. Eating without masks (obviously) will create some interesting topics for discussion, because COVID has been proven to be airborne indoors, increasing the need for face-coverings. Plexiglass has been utilized quite frequently, and that may come into play during these lunch periods as well.
As the district has dealt with some other controversies at the moment, they have generally hidden their immediate plans for this new phase of reopening. Considering many nearby districts have operated all virtually, Ridgewood still deals with the uncertainty of even going back to in-person school. And if the Board wants to err on the side of caution, there is a chance that schools will remain in Phase I after October 19th and allow students to either switch out of hybrid to virtual, or virtual to hybrid. On a side note, there has been a large number of high school students switching to online, due to parents’ concerns, or the students feeling more comfortable at their home computer.
The key word regarding this odd school year is flexibility, with students quickly adapting to these changes. For instance, as of Tuesday, high school students will deal with another new experience with a completely different rotating schedule. Entering Phase II, if carried out safely, would be great for maintaining a more “normal” environment, but students and educators will have to wait to see what the Board decides. With this given year, “one day at a time” is a motto to certainly go by.
Photo: RHS Weekly View