Strict restrictions placed for in-person learning

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Photo by Quinn Lugenbeel

A typical classroom has roughly 12 desks that are placed six feet apart to ensure students’ safety.

Just over one year ago, students and staff left the school building not knowing how long it would take to be able to return. Today, more staff and students prepare to return to the building for the first time on Apr. 8. However, school will not be nearly the same as it was a year ago and a large number of restrictions are in place to keep students and staff safe. Here is a guide for what to expect on the first day back.

At the beginning of every week, students are required to fill out a county-wide Google Form where they will fill out information about their health and their Covid-19 situation. Face masks must be worn properly at all times on campus and put on prior to entering the building. Students are split into two groups by alphabet. Last names starting with A-K will go to school one week while other students will remain online. The next week, last names starting with L-Z will be in-person with the other group is online. Students in either group have the option to remain completely virtual. 

Classes will not all be dismissed at once, as they normally are. Instead, they will be staggered in order to keep as few students in the hallways at one time. Each hallway is split down the middle and students will be required to walk in a certain direction on either side of the hallway. Stairwells are split into ‘Up Only’ and ‘Down Only’ stairwells to keep students from clogging and walking past each other on the stairs. If a student plans to go up a stairwell that is ‘Down Only’, they must find a different and ‘Up Only’ stairwell. 

Each classroom can support about 12 students and one teacher with desks spread out by six feet. Students are required to keep their masks on at all times in the classroom. In class, students will work on their personal school-issued Chromebook or on paper while the teacher teaches both them and the students on Zoom at the same time. Each classroom has also added an air filter that will help to clean and circulate the air in the room.

Sitting on the floor in a hallway or in a teacher’s classroom with friends to eat lunch is no longer allowed. Students will be assigned a specific location to eat lunch in. The locations include the cafeteria, the Commons or a classroom. Just as in class, students will sit at an individual desk during lunch that is six feet away from all other desks. Even though lunch is now an hour and 15 minutes with the new schedule this year, students cannot leave campus during that time. 

Phase two is set to begin on April 19 with freshman and juniors returning. Lastly, sophomores will return on April 26. Hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies will be set up around the hallways and in classrooms. The current schedule will remain the same and Wednesdays will remain asynchronous and virtual for all students. “MCPS is committed to providing high-quality instruction and keeping all students and staff safe. MCPS will follow applicable guidelines from the Maryland Department of Health, our local health department, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for safe reopening of in-person instruction,” according to Montgomery County Public Schools.

I’m excited to go back to restore the normalcy that we’ve lost in the past year and to be able to see my teachers and friends in-person…”

— Jillian Pohoryles

Despite all of the new rules, students are excited to return to the school building and stay safe while doing so. “I’m excited to go back to restore the normalcy that we’ve lost in the past year and to be able to see my teachers and friends in-person, but I know it’s going to be a different vibe than previous years so it’ll be pretty surreal going back and with restrictions we’ve never had before,” senior Jillian Pohoryles said.