Everything you need to know about the return to campus
We have spent the last year in online school. While this has been a growth period for many, it’s past time for it to be over. Thankfully, through the hard work of Stevenson staff, we will be able to return in person shortly. Grades k-6 returned on Monday, March 16 and grades 7 and 8 returned shortly after. The high school will return after spring break.
The lower grades will pave the way for the upper grades to return. They will act as guinea pigs and will help to determine formal plans for high school. They endured orientation during the week of March 8th where many parents were able to meet on campus with their children’s teachers. The high school undergo a similar week of transition prior to starting formal classes.
Monterey County is currently in the red tier. State guidelines allow for all grades to return under an adjusted case rate of 7 per 100,000. We are currently at 4.7 allowing for many new changes within the community.
When we do go back to school, it will be an incredibly drastic change. The precautions that will be taken are best described by the official CDPH Framework, but can be simply put as follows:
Symptom and close contact exposure screening, with exclusion from school for staff or students with symptoms or with confirmed close contact.
Surveillance or screening testing.
Stevenson is able to take further precautions and choose not to take others based on the private school setting. Students will be required to wear a cloth face covering and bring 2 spares. Stevenson is setting up outdoor seating areas and tents. The greater part of the day will be spent outside. All students will eat outside. Boarding students will have 20-minute rotational periods to be able to get food from the cafeteria. Day students will no longer be able to get cafeteria food meaning they will need to bring food from home. There will be mobile hand washing stations around campus. All classrooms will have an H-VAC system that has been properly inspected. Stevenson has expanded their campus to include Carmel Mission School campus which will now become the middle school.
Due to Stevenson’s small class sizes, the high school will not have to implement cohorts for classes. Students will not have their class choices restricted, nor will they have the group of people they interact within each class be whittled down to a solemn 12. However, this opportunity will require more testing and more difficulty with contact tracing, “In keeping with current guidance from the state and county, while the county is in the purple tier all Stevenson employees will be tested weekly—a greater frequency than has generally been required by some peer schools, but we feel such an approach is required in order to provide reasonable assurance to our employees and our broader community. Testing is mandatory and will be required of all employees. Once the county falls into the red tier the employees will be tested every other week following the guidance from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). There will not be any asymptomatic testing when the county is in the orange or yellow tier per CDPH guidance.” Additionally, “Upper Division students will be tested every other week while the county is in the red tier. This schedule for testing follows guidance from the CDC and the CDPH. There will not be any asymptomatic testing of students when the county is in the orange or yellow tier.” The school will be able to require Trace, a tracing app, to understand a Covid-19 case and the possible effects it has on other students. They also require SchoolPass to track Covid symptoms. All students and staff will be required to have a negative Covid-19 test 72 hours prior to returning in-person. The lower school will be implementing cohorts. Students will wear colored shirts to indicate which group they belong to. The cohort will be assigned to one room and students will have a seating chart. Stevenson has considered the younger children who are unable to return at the current moment, but might want to return at a later date: “Families who choose to remain in remote instruction on March 15 will have another opportunity for their students to join a campus instruction grade level cohort on or around April 5.”
There will be large changes for borders at Stevenson. To the surprise of Dr. Griffiths, many students and families requested to have roommates if possible. He explains in a recent reopening plan that, “Stevenson’s dormitories include 199 student rooms. With a current total boarding population of about 280, and knowing that not all boarding students will be either able or ready to return this spring, we anticipate that most boarding students will be assigned to single rooms. This will help us ensure that boarding cohorts are of a sensible size (see our “further modifications” below). Students may be granted permission to live with a roommate only if both students wish to room together and both students have the permission of their respective parent/guardians. Please note that if one roommate develops COVID-19 symptoms, both will be required to quarantine off campus.” Students are worried that in-person boarding will have the same isolating effects as being at home. To alleviate those fears, Dr. Griffiths hopes to create cohorts in the wings of boarding houses. This group would eat together and be able to spend time together sans-mask. This possibly would require the whole group to quarantine if one person tested positive for Covid-19, however, the school is able to provide a single-person room for every person who requests one.
The outside tents will also act as classrooms. Classes will be structured incredibly differently, with most classes run using stations. Groups from each class will work on one area and then switch to accommodate the maximum capacity of a classroom. Additionally, to keep numbers low in larger classes, some students may have to zoom into the class from outside. The students will switch off, meaning that a student will only miss class one time per rotation. Zoom will be an interesting challenge for an in-person class. Assemblies and other classes that require large groups will happen on Zoom. Creating a hybrid class that offers the same educational value for both in-person and zoom students will be a struggle for teachers. Through the weeks of in-person classes with k-6, the teachers will get more information about the flow of a hybrid class.
There will be a camera and a microphone in the class and zoom students will be projected onto a wall in the classroom. It will certainly be an adjustment. Mr. Rymzo jokingly said in his English 1 class that he might have to wear a stage microphone while teaching. Additionally, Dr. Griffiths mentioned the possibility of a zoom-in teacher. Sadly for borders, the school is planning to implement a limit on bandwidth. This would allow for a smoother zoom connection, but, disappointingly, no Netflix or youtube during school hours.
The Stevenson staff has been putting forth a great effort to get us back to school. They are doing their best to make sure school does not feel like a prison. Dr. Griffiths comments, “we so desperately want students back on campus.” They hope to create a space that will fill the needs of students not just academically, but emotionally too. “It’s gonna be really weird.”