The 2020-21 school year did not start as planned. With Covid-19 spreading across the world, it was not possible to return to AHS for in-person school. FCPS decided that the best way to continue school would be online.
Online school has been in session since Sept. 8 and students and staff are still trying to adjust. Teachers have had to make major changes to their teaching styles and electives have taken the biggest hit.
Auto tech, musical arts, and culinary arts are electives that are hard to do online. Most of their curriculum is hands on work.
“I dislike online orchestra compared to in person. We do more online assignments, which in turn, takes away from the time we could be playing,” junior Matthew Kim said.
FCPS has been working hard to bring students back into schools. A new plan was released that would bring a portion of students into schools throughout October.
The first group back was select specialized high school career preparatory programs. This included some academy classes. More of these programs will start to return Oct. 26.
Preschool autism classrooms, early childhood class-based students, english learner newcomers, and others will also be returning before Nov. Visit fcps.edu for more information on returning to school.
At AHS, the first students back will be ESOL, culinary, and auto tech students. These groups will be returning on Oct. 26 and will be going to school on Mondays. There are around 80 ESOL students, 40 culinary students, and around 50 auto tech students. Auto tech students will be split into a morning group and an afternoon group.
On Tuesdays through Fridays, CAT B students will be returning starting Oct. 27. There are around 65 CAT B students returning.
“I am excited that small groups of students are returning into the building,” AHS principal Shawn DeRose said. “ While the teachers and staff have done an amazing job providing quality instruction in a virtual environment, there are limitations compared to in-person instruction. During this pandemic, our focus is to not only provide high quality instruction, but also create protocols to ensure students and staff can safely return into the building.”
Safety is a big concern with students coming back. Busses, classrooms, social distancing, and masks are all factors that played a big role in the decision to come back.
Transportation is a big issue. Thousands of students take the bus and without proper cleaning, it is a cesspool of germs. AHS has to submit the names of students who need the bus for transportation. The transportation department takes that information and creates the best bus routes.
Before students can enter the bus, they must get their temperature taken. Students also get their temperature taken before entering the school.
Masks must be worn at all times and there will be allotted time during the day for students to wash their hands. Social distancing will also be enforced throughout the day.
AHS has made many improvements to classrooms to create more space. The old hanging televisions have been taken out, hundreds of new chairs and desks have been purchased, broken furniture has been removed, classrooms have been painted, and teachers will not be allowed to have personal furniture in the classrooms.
A full phase in is not expected until at least the second semester. Even if students are allowed back, it wouldn’t look the same.
Superintendent Scott Brabrand released the concurrent model on Oct. 8 for when the majority of students return. In this model, students would only be in the classroom for two days a week and learn remotely the other two days. However, if students or parents do not want to return to school they can decide to stay 100% online.
A two-week pilot program of this plan will be implemented Oct. 21 at West Springfield HS and Kings Park ES. The school board and Brabrand will meet Nov. 12 to discuss the feedback from the program and an implementation timeline.
“It would be cool to be back in school, but realistically it would be a terrible idea,” senior Annie Nguyen said. “Although masks and social distancing would be enforced, I don’t think it would do anything to prevent Covid from spreading. Also, I’ve finally gotten used to doing online school and it’s really not bad at all.”
Around the country, some states have decided to open schools without going online. Alabama, Alaska, and Florida have opened schools. However, the number of Covid-19 cases spiked after two weeks of students going back.
Most states have decided to leave it up to the districts. In a state like Virginia this makes the most sense. Large districts like FCPS with 200 plus schools need to handle the situation differently than a smaller district like Rockingham county that only has around 20 schools.
Covid-19 is still present and Americans need to be aware of that. Going back to school fully will only be a possibility if everyone wears a mask and social distances.