Students returned to a half-empty school and welcoming staff beginning on March 2. Face masks, directional arrows throughout the hallways, and many other safety precautions enabled the shift to hybrid learning. Seniors and freshmen returned the week of March 2, while juniors and sophomores returned the following week of March 9. Students with last names A-K attend school in-person on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while last names L-Z attend school in-person on Thursdays and Fridays.
COVID safety guidelines, including required face masks inside and six feet of social distance, allowed for a safe return. Students can’t gather in hallways or commons, and may not change before gym. Desks inside classes are spaced, and cubbies are off-limits. Materials such as pencils, paper, and computers must be brought from home.
“The policies are great, it’s the kind of things I wanted to see before I felt safe coming back. They’re pretty much right in line with the CDC guidelines. After a week I’m already used to them,” Biology teacher Aubrie Holman said.
Despite mitigation protocols, being in the building has allowed for personal interaction with students.
“It’s easier to approach a small group, say hello, and chat. We’re putting equal effort into staying connected with students who are online every day,” Principal Dr. Ann Bonitatibus said.
In-person interactions have also made conversations between students easier.
“When I went outside on Wednesday, and ate [in the Nobel courtyard], I was sitting with a bunch of students, social distancing of course. It was really nice to just talk, eat, and be outside in the weather,” freshman Pishoy Elias said.
Elias decided to return to in-person school to experiment with different learning methods.
“I wanted to experiment with how [much] harder or easier it would be to learn in person. [I was] just looking for a new workspace,” Elias said.
Hybrid students also have easier access to their counselors.
“If I need to go to my counselor, I can walk [there] and talk with them, instead of having to interrupt [my teachers] during class, then email my counselor, and see if she’s available,” Elias said.
Though this past year has felt abstract for Bonitatibus, returning to school made everything more tangible.
“I never really left [the building], but the students’ first day back in the building [was the] best day since March 12, 2020! Students give us energy and positivity. You make our world right again,” Bonitatibus said.
Returning to school felt like getting close to the light at the end of the tunnel for Bonitatibus.
“There is still another leg to the journey before reaching our final destination, and I’m so hopeful about being whole again,” Bonitatibus said. “Everything is going smoothly. We’re TJ – we got this.”