Low numbers of returning Olympic Heights students help to make for a smooth transition to “brick and mortar”

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Coming back to the Olympic Heights campus is a choice very few students have made. While the campus started the initial brick-and-mortar week off with 650 students, it dropped to less than 500 students within just a few days and was down to approximately 350 students on Friday, Oct. 16.

Many OH seniors have chosen to stay home due mainly to the lack of senior activities. The new setting of day-to-day life feels rather foreign and unusual, although it is what is needed for a safe return to school. 

“I feel much better about going to school than being online,” explained OH senior Marlie Adams. “It’s easier for me to learn in person and be able to interact with my teachers and other people to clarify information that I don’t understand. When I was doing school online, all I did was procrastinate and sit on my phone; in person school forces me to not do that.” 

One very striking change for those students choosing to return to campus is the cafeteria setup for lunchtime. With each student having distanced individual tables for lunch, it is a setting that feels new to all. Each student sits at a table and can socialize with friends from a distance of several feet. The buffet-style far left section of the cafeteria is closed down as well, preventing students from standing too close to each other in line.

Additionally, classrooms have made slight but impactful changes for the health and safety of students and staff. Every other row of desks is marked off with tape on the desk, signifying that those desks are not allowed to be used. As it goes all throughout the campus, masks must be worn at all times by students and staff

One aspect of these changes that has presented a challenge to students is attempting to learn when a teacher is not present at school. At first, if a teacher was out, his or her students were sent to the gym. Being sent to the gym was especially problematic since the gym provides no seating except for the bleachers, which made it difficult to write and participate in a class’s Google Meet. Additionally, there was the issue caused by the echo of the large room, making any sounds easily heard throughout the building.

Eventually, the OH administration moved the holding/overflow rooms to the media center and the auditorium, eliminating the use of the gym. However, even in the media center or the auditorium, it is difficult for some students to engage in the curriculum when other students are also speaking and typing on laptops. 

Other changes returning students were met with include a strictly enforced rule of walking on the right side of the hallways, a one-way entry point for the front of the school, and hand sanitizer in nearly every classroom. Desks are being sanitized after each class meeting.

The school has also instructed students to do wellness checks and to stay home if they are ill or feel as though they are becoming ill. The safety of students and staff seems to have been prioritized throughout this whole process.

It appears as if a mandatory return-to-school date won’t happen until after the first semester at the earliest as parents and students have been asked by the school district to lock in their decision as to whether their children will return to campus or stay in virtual learning mode for the entirety of the second quarter.

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