A Refreshing Return to In-Person Learning

Samantha Brandts, Editor-in-Chief

Wilson High School is preparing to welcome students back to campus on March 19. Seniors will start first, followed by 9th through 11th graders joining them on March 26. 

On February 18, the Long Beach Unified School District issued an announcement that starting in the month of April, teachers and students would be phased back onto the Wilson campus to finish the 2021 school year. Students can choose whether they want to start going in person or continue distance learning. 

For students choosing to remain in the distance learning format nothing will change, except that their teachers will be teaching from school, if they are not already. Students choosing the hybrid format, according to the COVID-19 Pandemic School Opening & Safety Plan, will attend two consecutive in-person days (odd then even class periods). Students have already been divided into group A and group B. While the group A students are in class the B group students attend virtually then the groups switch after two days. For example, if a student is in group A, they will go to school on Monday and Tuesday, while the group B students are at home. Then on Wednesday and Thursday group B students will attend in person and the group A students will be at home. Then group A will come back on Friday and Monday, while group B is at home. 

Students can find out what group they are in by looking up their schedule in Studentvue. 

The plan for  middle and high schoolers returning to campus is scheduled to materialize if Los Angeles county remains in the “red tier,” or with seven cases per 100,000 people for at least five days. A survey was sent out on Monday, March 1, to ask students whether they would prefer beginning the hybrid schedule, or continue the year with distanced learning. To prepare for the return, LBUSD employees will continue to get vaccinated, and teachers will start teaching on campuses on April 12.

One of the biggest changes will be for teachers. They will have to keep track of two separate groups of students: those present in their classroom and those on the computer screen. If a teacher is teaching from their desk, they would have the Zoom streaming live from their desk computer while simultaneously teaching the students in the classroom.

If in-person school does begin, campus sanitization and safety will be the top priority. According to a video released on the LBUSD YouTube channel, all offices would be disinfected on a routine basis, high-touch surfaces will be disinfected daily, and bathrooms will be inspected and stocked routinely. Wilson administrators will regulate the number of students in the restrooms at a time. This will be a lot of work for the janitorial staff, and result in more responsibility for teachers and administrators to keep the campus clean. 

According to Wilson’s principal Kimberly Holland, “we haven’t gotten more janitors, but there’s a sanitizer that is going to be sprayed every day, and another one that is going to be sprayed every 90 days. The one that is sprayed every 60-90 days, it lasts for that long, so even if bacteria were to fall onto the surface it wouldn’t stay there. It’s pretty cool.” 

According to LBUSD, evening custodians will use electrostatic sprayers to disinfect surfaces at the end of each day. It will be up to teachers and students to disinfect surfaces between classes. 

There are mixed reactions among students about going back to in-person school. 

Senior Marlene Vasquez said, “It doesn’t matter if we go back, and it doesn’t matter if we don’t.” In a climate of such unpredictability and let-downs in her senior year of high school, she said “I would prefer to return to campus, but I’m not going to be upset if we don’t go back.” A thought echoed by many Bruins, Vasquez is “more worried about my schedule working out” than she is about the safety of the campus. 

Everyone agrees that school should return to normal as soon as possible, many people are not sure that April is the best time to return to campus. 

Senior Desirae Besabella stated, “quarantine has been rough for all of us and online school has been a struggle for most. Although it would be nice to go back for my senior year, I believe it would be the best choice to stay home for the safety of the students and administrators.” 

According to the LBUSD,  “COVID-19 Pandemic School Opening & Safety Plan,” “When students return for in-person instruction, schools will look much different due to new health and safety measures.” School staff is putting up signs to indicate room capacity, directional walkways and stairs, messaging signs and floor stickers to reinforce social distancing, as well as hand sanitizer at entry points and in every classroom.

For lunch, students will be required to eat in the quad and are prohibited from eating in teacher classrooms. Students who get lunch from the cafeteria  will be handed premade boxed foods. Everyone will be expected to sit six feet apart from each other.

“It will be a little bit less fun, but you still get to socialize with your friends,” said Principal Kimberly Holland. Administrators will walk around to monitor the safety of everyone, “there are things that we have to supervise, but we’re not going to say ‘Move away, you’re too close to this person.’” Sympathizing with the students, she said  “we’re not going to be crazy– you haven’t seen some of these people in a long time, so we understand that you’re still kids. But after you eat, we’re going to ask that you put your mask back on, just so it’s safer.”

As for passing periods Holland explained that there are no current plans to change anything from what would occur during a regular school year. When the bell rings for the passing period, everyone will be released and encouraged to go straight to their next class. Because the chances of contracting the virus is so small if students walk by someone quickly, there is not much concern about passing period being an issue for the Bruins.

This is only the start to LBUSD’s plans to reopen in-person school. According to Holland, “all the classrooms that have been renovated in the 100 building have the proper air filter now, called the MERV-13 air filter. If they don’t have the new renovation, and have air conditioning, the filters have been changed so that they are comparable to the MERV-13.” Holland continues, “if there is no air conditioning, they are going to be given a HEPA air filter that sits in the classroom and circulates the air every 20 minutes.”

Based on school enrollment determined by the LBUSD survey that was distributed on Monday, March 1, various types of masks are being sent to each school, along with hand sanitizer, disposable gloves, gowns, cleaning wipes, and thermometers. Wilson is already receiving their supply of disposable masks and other necessities. 

Students are advised against attending school if they have signs of COVID-19 or if they have come in contact with someone who has the virus. Also, if tested, they must wait until their COVID-19 test results return as a negative before they come to school. “Isolation rooms” will also be new additions to the campus, where sick students would be sent to be treated by trained staff in gowns, medical grade masks, goggles, disposable gloves, and other protective gear. 

For students with disabilities, some exceptions will be made to the requirement of facial coverings or clear masks, but safety will always be the top priority for administrators and students. In the near future, more information will be distributed to “students who are immunocompromised to discuss specific needs prior to return to school,” states the LBUSD plan. 

Like staff members currently, all who enter the Wilson campus “will be required to wear face coverings and will be health screened upon arrival. Screening will include a contactless temperature check, and several screening questions will be asked,” according to LBUSD’s safety plan. 

Holland explained that if a student or staff member refuses to wear a protective face covering, they will be treated like any student who is being disrespectful.  Masks will be available and offered to students if they don’t have them, but wearing a CDC approved protective face covering “is a state law– not even a school rule– so this is above us,” Holland explained. “We have to enforce wearing a mask, so there will be consequences.” 

 After nearly a year without students on campus, it seems that everyone is ready for a taste of regularity. With the LBUSD plan coming closer and closer to reality, excitement continues to stir throughout the Bruin community. Holland reiterates, “it’s not much fun without kids, I’ll tell you that.”