By Ingrid Lackey-Howell, intern reporter
On March 19, 2021, the CDC amended its social distancing recommendations for schools. Students can now be 3 feet apart, instead of 6. Although this seems like it would help schools reopen, there are concerns from Harwood Union teachers and students about the realities of returning all students to the building four days a week.
Going to school four days a week would mean that students from both cohorts would be in the same building for the first time this year. The administration and student government sent a survey on April 6 asking students about the possible changes. Questions ranged from what students were looking forward to if they were to go four days a week, to what kind of additional support they might need. This was the first time that students heard anything from the administration about going to school four days a week.
“I do think that it would be a pretty sudden change to what we’ve been dealing with all year. But there are some positives, like rounding out senior year and high school by seeing everyone we’ve grown up with,” said Sarah Bartolomei, a Harwood senior. She explained that it’s been harder for her to be productive at home this year. She appreciates learning in person with a teacher present.
Bartolomei also said that most of her close friends go to school on Thursday and Friday. She described the separation as “really emotionally difficult” and isolating.
“I would say most seniors are not in favor of going back to school just because most people want to be done with high school, graduate and go on to different things. But I do think there are a fair number of people who are really missing their peers and all of their friends,” she added.
Although she’s in favor of the possible change in schedule, Bartolomei thinks having more in-person classes would not make a big difference academically because the school year is almost over. Many students have also gotten jobs or have made other commitments because of their ample time outside of school.
How would this affect freshmen? During their first year at Harwood, kids from CBMS and HUMS are merged into one class. This year, they’ve only gotten a chance to meet half their class.
“I think the students in 9th grade would be at the biggest disadvantage of anyone in the school because it’s hard to imagine students being thrown together, with a classroom that’s doubled in size, and populated by students they’ve never met, literally ever,” said Jonah Ibson, a teacher at Harwood.
Ibson’s main class is called Global Studies, a full-year class, required for all freshmen. Ibson said that the class has gone “as well as it could’ve” with the two-day schedule. “We’ve taught the class for years, and it was relatively easy to hit on what was most essential. Sad to let things go due to time, but it’s kinda fun exercise at the same time,” he explained.
If the four-day schedule was enacted, Ibson said “Re-establishing norms and helping people feel comfortable together, sacrificing some content,” would be necessary, because of the lack of time freshmen have spent as a whole class. There is also the possibility that both cohorts won’t be able to fit in the Global Studies classroom, even with 3-foot social distancing. “I think teachers are just concerned that the disruption to the routine would cause more stress than it would alleviate. The teacher's workload is the same, we’re here four days a week teaching. We would be happy to be with all of our students, but we’re, I think, generally concerned that the move would be more disruptive than the payoff would warrant,” said Ibson.