COVID-19 shut down every school across America back in March. With the Fall semester swiftly approaching, Elementary, Middle, and High School’s are preparing for the coming school year. Scott’s Branch Middle/High School Principal Holness Samuels sat down for an Editors Office Interview to discuss their plan for reopening.
How has the summer been at school? I know that you’ve continued your summer school program.
We have had virtual summer school at all three schools. The staff has been based here in the middle/high school, but everything else was done virtually.
Was it ran the same way it was when the schools shut down in March?
Pretty much, with some minor improvements over time. We have been able to refine the virtual experience since March.
How long have you worked in the education field?
I just completed 30 years.
In those 30 years have you seen anything like this?
I have not. And I hope I don’t see anything like this again.
Are you planning on opening back up face-to-face in August?
We are planning for August 17th. That is the plan that the district has.
What changes are being made for the physical return?
We surveyed all of our parents about the return to school and how we should handle it. An overwhelming majority said that they wanted to return virtually. However, we will still give the option for those parents to choose face-to-face. With a physical return, we will follow all of the CDC’s guidelines. This will include social distancing, masks, temperature checks, and limited classroom capacities. We are also looking at having the students remain in one classroom, with rotating teachers. That has been a huge change from what we are accustomed to.
Yeah, that sounds like the complete opposite of what it usually is.
Has registration already started?
Around how many students are going to start virtually vs. face-to-face?
I don’t have exact figures, but we are looking at upwards of 90% attending virtually at the start of the semester.
How will that work virtually? Will certain teachers have virtual classes and others have physical classes? Or will all teachers be required to do both?
The task force and I recommended that no single teacher do both virtual and physical classes in the same day. So, what we are looking at is having the majority of our teachers only doing virtual classes, and a handful on-site and available for face-to-face instruction.
Do you think there will be a time in the next year where face-to-face will be required?
I don’t know about required. This situation is beyond our control. We plan to monitor things as they are happening so we can move forward. Every month we plan to monitor and evaluate the situation at hand so that we can best serve our students. Of course, I hope that the virus will subside. Face-to-face learning is a better atmosphere for students to learn in, and hopefully we will be able to return to that in full capacity soon, but we recognize the situation we are in.
How are sports looking right now?
The last word we got from the High School League was that football will start with game one on September 11. Our team is not in session right now because of the pandemic, but we hope to get them out there again soon. I do want to say that the guys are ready and they want to play, but we are looking at what is happening around us and making decisions as we go.
If those games do begin in September, how will you all handle the crowds? Will you socially distance or not have a crowd at all?
As it stands, I can’t really speak to that. I think the board will make a decision on that. If we do have spectators, we can assure that they will have to respect the protocols that are laid down. I’m not going to throw anything out the window, but folks will have to check temperatures, wear masks, and practice social distancing at these games.
What would your message be to the graduating class of 2021?
To our graduating class, first of all, let me say that we are proud of your accomplishments. The circumstances are difficult, and they are not ideal, but we are here for all of you. We wish you all the best and pray that things will turn around by next year so that we can have some face-to-face gatherings. We are making sure that all of you are enrolled and ready for every class you need to receive your diploma next June.
Editors Note: Back to School is a five part series of Editor’s Office Interviews with Headmasters and Principals from each school in Clarendon. This is part one of five.