Reminiscing on the past year, students have spent each day hopping from one Zoom call to the next, all the while feeling completely in the dark about what the future holds. Soon this will come to an end, though, with the full reopening of schools in person.
Ever since Governor Charlie Baker made the announcement that all elementary and middle schools must return to full in-person school in April, the Wellesley Public Schools administration has been working tirelessly to produce a plan for what these returns will look like, including a return for high schoolers.
As of two emails from Principal Dr. Jamie Chisum on March 19 and April 2, all high school students will return in person as of April 27th. On April 26th, 9th graders will come into the high school as a community while students in other grades attend school remotely. This is the first time that the first year class will congregate together in the high school as a whole.
Although this is a huge change from the hybrid schedule, some constants will remain, including the order of the color block schedule, half day Wednesdays, and weekly testing. The school will continue to prioritize social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-washing. These somewhat normal precautions will be essential in keeping the high school open fully for the remainder of the year.
As for changes to the hybrid model, Zoom classes will no longer be offered for in-person students. Class will start at 8 AM and end at 1:30 PM, with no in-school lunch. Because the school will only have one start time, morning drop off may become congested with approximately 800 cars passing through Rice Street every day. To combat this, the school called upon a combination of the Wellesley Police Department, school personnel, and volunteers to oversee drop off.
Every student feels differently about the time they have spent thus far doing hybrid school and the upcoming transition back to full in-person learning. However, some students are able to see the positive side of hybrid school, and will remember it as an abnormal, yet pleasant experience.
“I feel that I made the most of my hybrid learning experience, and as I reflect on it, I cannot think of any negative thoughts I have regarding hybrid school,” said Jack Welburn ’22.
Although hybrid school has a reputation that it makes school more difficult for students, there are some advantages to staying at home all day.
“I will remember this time fondly; at home in online school you can feel comfortable in your own home with access to food and water at all times. I will miss being able to walk to the kitchen and grab a snack between every block,” said Charlie Carpenter ’24.
Many find that although the comfort of their own home is relaxing, it is too distracting to foster a learning environment.
“The environment in the classroom is definitely less distracting, so it’s easier to get work done and stay focused,” said Simren Chawla ’22.
Students also reflect upon the fact that being isolated from collaboration with peers has been a hardship this year, and they feel a strong desire to see peers in the other cohort.
“I am excited to get back to a somewhat normal type of school day and be able to have classes with both cohorts,” said Welburn. “Being in a busy classroom environment with peers working on the same assignments is something I have missed.”
Although full in-person learning has been the end goal ever since the initial shut down of schools back in March 2020, students still have worries about returning to school. Full in-person learning presents a new set of challenges for students, which can be overwhelming after they have become accustomed to sleeping in every other day and having a lighter workload.
“Before the pandemic, I had never known anything other than the rigorous, never-ending schedule that high school has always been. However, now that I have been exposed to a more relaxed environment, I’m worried that the transition to more work and less sleep might be harmful to my grades and mental health,” said Chawla.
Mental health in regards to homework is a pressing issue for many students at the high school. However, the past year we have had presents even more complications to this issue, because both the sophomore and freshman class have never experienced a year of high school with it being altered by COVID-19.
“As much as it’s exciting to go back, I think it’s going to be more stressful, as it will be more mentally demanding. This is my first year at the high school, so I only have my middle school years to compare my workload to — I’ve never even experienced a normal high school class or curriculum,” said Brady Stevens ’24.
Overall, students have responded mostly positively to a plan for in-person school after weighing their concerns with the benefits of returning.
“Although the workload may increase and my daily routine will change, I don’t have any overarching worries at the moment. I trust the school’s decision and look forward to going back to school full time,” said Welburn.