Head of High School Brooke Wells checks senior Shiva Wolf's health statistics on the app Pickup Patrol. (Photo by Arikta Trivedi)

Middle and high school returning to in-person classes on Oct. 20

All grades are returning to Country Day for in-person classes on Oct. 20.

To follow county health guidelines, middle and high school students have been split into two cohorts, A and B. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the A cohort will be on campus, and the B cohort will be online. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the opposite is the case. 

The A and B cohorts will alternate being on campus on Fridays. Head of School Lee Thomsen said the first version of this plan came out in mid-June but has continued to be adjusted since then.

Despite returning at the same time, the middle school plan will operate somewhat differently compared with the high school.

“The middle school will be able to maintain stable cohorts in English, history, science with limited mixing in math and language,” Thomsen said. “The high school schedule is far more à la carte, separate from each other, and therefore, the safety precautions are reliant on masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.”

Freshmen and senior English teacher Jason Hinojosa is apprehensive about many of the changes but is still eager to reconnect with his students.

Hinojosa will teach five classes each day while keeping his original lesson plan.

“I’ll be teaching five periods per day, usually with my student groups half in person and half on Zoom. It looks like my English 12 class might be all in person one day and all on Zoom the next,” Hinojosa said. “My lesson plans are basically staying the same, though group work, for example, is going to look a little different with students who can’t move around the room or huddle together.”

A series of task forces met over the summer to discuss the program and facilities, said Brooke Wells, head of high school.

“They wanted to figure out how to make the facilities and logistics as safe as possible and how to structure the courses and classes so all the students and teachers can maintain social distancing,” he said.

In the middle school, preparations revolved around limiting the student contact, said Rommel Loria, head of middle school.

“For example, sixth graders will be in classes with the same students for five of the six periods of their day. They will only mix for languages and sometimes PE,” Loria said.

The students also will remain in their cohorts when not in class.

“During our breaks and lunch periods, the students will remain in their cohorts while being supervised by a teacher,” Loria said.

Seventh and eighth grade English teacher Kathryn LaComb has mixed emotions about returning and the new schedule.

“I am definitely excited to see my students and colleagues again,” LaComb said. “The inability to connect with students in person has been especially tough, so I’m glad that we will be together again, even if it’s only for a few days a week.”

LaComb does feel anxious about the potential difficulties of the new schedule. 

“There are many difficulties that may arise with trying to work with so many students in different locations,” LaComb said. “I think the middle school hybrid schedule is a good solution for our situation, but it’s just hard to know how everything is going to go or what new challenges we may face that we hadn’t considered. I’m very cautiously optimistic.”

— By Miles Morrow