Sherwood Focuses on Reopening Challenges

by Reade Fenner ‘22

Beginning on April 8, seniors who opted for in-person instruction will walk the halls of Sherwood again. By April 26, approximately 800 students, or about 40 percent of Sherwood’s student body, will be in-person, with students from all four grade levels in the first half of the alphabet attending one week and the other half going the next week in an ongoing rotation. About 1,000 students plan to remain all-virtual for the remainder of the school year, and this number is likely to grow as students continue to reconsider whether to do in-person this spring. The split in where students are learning is just one of the many challenges that Sherwood administrators and staff must work to combat. 

For classroom instruction, MCPS proposed two plans: the simultaneous and support models. The simultaneous model allows students to be in the room with their teacher live, as the online students tune in from home over Zoom. “For the majority of our classes, we plan on using the Simultaneous Model,” said Principal Tim Britton. “However, because various staff members will be teaching from home based on ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] approval, there will be some classes that will be in a Support Model. In a support model, there will still be a teacher or staff member in the room with students; however, the students will be learning from the virtual teacher.” These classes in the support model will be held in the Auxiliary Gym or Cafeteria.  

To reduce the number of people in the building, Sherwood plans to employ a weekly rotation with two groups of students labeled blue and silver after Sherwood’s signature colors. One week, half of students who opted to return to school will receive in-person instruction, while the other half learns virtually from home, and the next week the groups swap. All students will keep their current daily schedule and teachers for classes. For those receiving an in-person education, each classroom will contain 26 spaced out desks and up to 13 students at a time, 15 people maximum including a teacher and assistant, with students rotating desks by period. Most classrooms will also be equipped with an air purifier, and students will be asked to bring their own supplies, including a laptop or Chromebook, masks, earbuds, and a backpack.

Some teachers, including social studies teacher Michelle Games, worry about the challenging nature of educating virtually and in-person simultaneously. “I am concerned about the quality of the sound and the cameras in the classroom,” said Games, uncertain how audible her lectures will be for online students through a mask.  “I think it’s going to be a lot more difficult to do the hybrid model of teaching than to do the Zoom [all-virtual] teaching. I think one or the other works; I don’t think trying to do both together will work well.” 

In order to reduce the risk of a sudden Covid-19 outbreak, MCPS is implementing a phased return, with Sherwood to follow suit. First to return will be seniors on the weeks of April 6 and 12, with freshmen, sophomores, and juniors following on the weeks of April 19 and 26. Students may switch from in-person classes to online at any point, but the deadline for placement on the waiting list to convert from online to in-person classes was March 1.

MCPS will require students and staff to submit a weekly Google form about possible Covid-19 symptoms or exposure. If students are exposed, they will either need to quarantine for ten days or present a negative test 24 hours prior to returning to school. Originally, this questionnaire also asked students and staff about whether or not they had left the mid-Atlantic region recently, and placed restrictions on their school attendance accordingly. However, MCPS altered this due to complications involving spring break. Though the county will not require students and staff to stay home over the holiday, MCPS’ March 8 Community Update stated that those “who choose to travel outside of Maryland and its adjacent jurisdictions (Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Washington, D.C.) should take a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of returning and self-quarantine while awaiting results.”

Buses will drop high schoolers off at 7:45, over an hour before classes begin at 9. Upon arrival these students will be assigned to an area such as the cafeteria, auxiliary gym, and possibly classrooms. Students traveling by car must arrive no earlier than 8:30, and every student, regardless of their transportation method, must enter through the main office entrance. For dismissal, Sherwood plans to use a staggered schedule, with walkers and car riders leaving first and bus riders following in three-minute intervals. 

During the 90 minute lunch period, students will be divided into two groups. According to Assistant Secondary Administrator Jonathan Dunn, one group will eat a socially-distanced lunch in the cafeteria while the other sits in monitored classrooms, or groups of desks in the hallways, depending on Sherwood’s in-person population at the time. Then, after 45 minutes, the groups switch for the remainder of the period. In an effort to lessen the inevitable flood of students in certain areas, every hallway students have access to will be one-way only, with stickers on the floor and walls to clarify which direction students must travel in.  For students experiencing symptoms throughout the day, there will be an office designated for Covid-19 specifically located in room B208, with a nurse and health technician working to assist students. 

On March 23, Britton announced in a letter to parents that an individual who last entered the Sherwood building the day prior tested positive for Covid-19. Britton assured Sherwood families that those in contact with the person have been notified and asked to quarantine for two weeks.

Despite this setback, MCEA Board of Directors member Glenn Miller, who is a Sherwood science teacher, feels that the school will prioritize staff and student safety. “I think largely staff feel that people in school, Administration, Building Services, etc., are doing what they can to make sure that staff have the best working conditions in our school that they can do,” said Miller. “I think we have tremendous advocates in all parts of the building who will behave properly to prevent the spread of COVID-19. To that end, the more educated and conscientious staff and students are the better off we will all be.”