Junior Craig Bolman grabs a wipe from the container to clean his desk. Sanitation items such as these were paid for using the Paycheck Protection Program's forgivable loan.

COVID-19 Cases Will Dictate the School’s Schedule

Country Day plans to resume in-person teaching during the 2021-22 school year following a year of remote and hybrid learning.   

But how the year develops depends on the number of COVID-19 cases rising or falling in Sacramento in the coming months and the availability of and age restrictions on the COVID-19 vaccines.

“We are hopeful that given the revisions to the guidelines that California has adopted we can run an almost-normal classroom,” said Lee Thomsen, head of school. 

If large spikes among the COVID-19 cases do not occur, then the school year will be almost normal, except for all students and faculty still wearing masks, Thomsen said. 

Head of Middle School Rommel Loria hopes to apply the lessons he learned over 2020-21 to the 2021-22 school year. 

“We will continue to follow the regulations that are given to us by the local public health authorities, and we will make sure that we are meeting or exceeding their expectations,” Loria said.

Brooke Wells, head of high school, hopes to return to the pre-COVID-19 schedule. The schedule had five periods every day. It would also include a longer lunch time.

Bi-weekly COVID-19 tests are mandatory for students attending in-person school, but next year symptomatic testing may replace it unless most positive cases are asymptomatic. 

Thomsen said the distance between desks in classrooms will be reduced from six feet to three feet.

Eighth grade Earth science teacher Cade Grunst expects that the desk spacing will decrease to three feet from the current six feet of distance.

“Since that will allow us to use more classroom space than we can right now, hopefully we can have all students back on campus five days a week,” Grunst said. 

The possible return to the five days a week pre-COVID-19 schedule had freshman Ike George excited.

George said that he was excited because he believed this would happen and that the number of positive cases in COVID-19 would decrease.

He was also excited for the Ancil Hoffman event, which is a big capture-the-flag game that pits the freshman and seniors against the sophomores and juniors. 

Regarding the vaccines, Thomsen anticipated that the 12 to 15 age group will be able to get vaccinated. 

All high school students in Country Day are in the age group allowed to be vaccinated, but the school will not require students to be vaccinated.

“At this point, everything is authorized for emergency use, so no one is allowed to require it. We are not requiring it because we can’t require it,” Thomsen. “We are encouraging, but not requiring student vaccinations.”

“The real challenge is pre-K through seventh grade; I don’t see a time where that would be approved,” Thomsen said.

But if cases begin to rise, causing the state to enter a higher tier in the following summer months, then the school will stay in its hybrid schedule. 

Wells said that it’s likely that the school will enter a green model, though the state tier system is being abolished.

The hybrid schedule was created to minimize the impact of a student diagnosed with COVID-19.  Only the students in close proximity to the diagnosed student would have to be quarantined.  

“If a student is diagnosed with  COVID-19 we shall only quarantine the students closest to and most impacted by the student,” Thomsen said.  

A transition from the hybrid schedule to the pre-COVID-19 schedule will make it easier for Grunst to teach his class. 

“It’s hard to teach remote and in-person students at the same time. It’s hard to monitor the Zoom chat and remote students while giving students in person your full attention. I cannot design activities that work remotely because my in-person students are left out and I cannot design activities for my remote students because my in-person students are left out,” Grunst said.

Teaching students fully remote or fully in person will make the class go smoother, Grunst said.

Freshman Rachel Pirie enjoys the current school schedule, particularly the asynchronous days.

“A pro is that we have kind of a day off, but I guess we don’t have full learning time. We don’t have the full five-day schedule and I don’t have many classes on Wednesday,” Pirie. 

“Everything’s rushed at the end,  so there’s less time to do more work.”

Last school year, the students in middle school alternated classrooms, but this school year the teachers are the ones migrating from classroom to classroom.

This system was a part of the success of no positive on-campus COVID-19 cases for the middle school.

However, it only gives teachers two to three minutes to prepare before classes and to clean up. 

“Whatever I’m going to do has to be on a cart and has to be done in advance because I don’t have the time to set it up during class,” Grunst said. 

“There is broad agreement amongst the faculty that we would like to return to the rotation of the pre-COVID-19 schedule. We would like to return to five days on campus because asynchronous days have had mixed results.”

— Ishaan Sekhon

Originally published in the May 25 edition of the Octagon.

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