Students and staff prepare for return to in-person learning

Taya Abraham, Of The Talon staff

After months of Zoom calls, high school students will officially be returning to in-person learning on Nov. 12 in accordance with the Rockwood Safe Together plan. 

However, due to the continued growth of the Coronavirus pandemic, a multitude of changes will be made in order to make the transition back to school safer for students, teachers, and staff members. Within the classroom, students must be seated in rows facing one direction, three feet apart, in an assigned seat, and a mask must be worn at all times.

In total, Spanish teacher Kimberly Lackey has 40 students attending her class in-person and seven students doing virtual learning. In one of those classes alone, Lackey has 27 students in-person. As a result, she said she had to move various furniture out of her classroom in order to make room for 27 desks. 

“I removed the couch [and] the coffee table; they’re going to take out the bookshelves and the cabinets, so without all of that furniture in here, we were able to put 27 desks with space around for a little bit more than three feet between each student’s head,” Lackey said. 

In order to maintain as little contact as possible, both the students and the teachers must remain seated at their desks for the class period. As a result, while each teacher’s plan differs, Lackey said she intends to share her screen on her Smartboard as well as on a Zoom call so those online can learn with those in-person at the same time. In addition, a webcam will be set up at the front of her room for those online to see their classmates’ faces. 

“I will still share my screen on the smartboard and share my screen on Zoom with the kids at home, but I have a second Chromebook set up in the front of the room. I have a webcam instead of just the little Chromebook camera, and it’s up high so you can see a lot of the students in class on that camera,” Lackey said. “So, the kids at home can see their classmates and not just me.”

In the morning, students are no longer allowed to congregate in the commons or hallways and must, instead, report directly to their second hour class anytime after eight o’clock. Each class will be 90 minutes long with a five minute passing period. It is encouraged that students go directly to their next class or to the restroom if necessary in order to avoid large groups within the halls. At this time, students may also eat a small snack since food is not allowed in classrooms. Junior Kavya Ramesh said she feels like 90 minutes is too long.

“I honestly think 90 minute classes don’t make any sense because I feel like I won’t have anything to do in my classes as some classes can’t even make it to an hour right now,” Ramesh said. 

Nevertheless, the school is ensuring that classrooms will remain sanitized, guaranteeing the health of those attending. Lackey said that a chemical that can last up to 90 days will be sprayed onto the desks, preventing any kind of bacteria or germs on the hard surface.

“They’re going to spray that every sixty days instead of every ninety days to be extra secure with it. They’ve told us that with that on the desks, it means that we do not need to wipe down desks between classes or between kids or at the end of the day, beginning of the day; there is no wiping down necessary,” Lackey said. 

With this assurance, senior Isaac Opoku said he decided to return to in-person learning, looking forward to seeing friends and participating in clubs. 

“I decided to do in-person learning because I feel like I’d be safe. I have two classes that have about 11 [to] 13 people then a study hall, so I feel like guidelines will be followed well,” Opoku said. “I’m looking forward mostly to seeing my friends and doing more with clubs now that it’s partly in-person.” 

At the end of the day, students will be dismissed from their classes by floor level with the first floor dismissed first at 1:10, the third floor at 1:15, and the second floor at 1:20. At this time, students are able to grab a free Grab N’ Go sack lunch from the cafeteria. If a student is riding the bus, however, eating is not permitted. Also, students must sit in an assigned seat and wear their masks for the entirety of the ride. Principal Dr. Emily McCown believes that the decrease in movement will be the most important change this quarter. 

“Students will find that there will be increased importance placed on signing in and out of locations, remaining in assigned seats, [and having] less movement overall in the building. It will be important that we can account for students should we need to conduct contract tracing if there is a positive case on campus,” McCown said. 

In order to further ensure the safety of oneself and one’s loved ones, it is important to continue practicing social distancing, wearing a mask, and monitoring health symptoms. One must report to the school if he or she begins developing symptoms of COVID-19  in order for those contacted to effectively isolate and monitor themselves as well. Consequently, it will be easier for all students, teachers, and staff members returning to remain safe and healthy during this transition to in-person learning.