By Juliet Schlesinger & Cade Costic

West Ranch High School’s lower campus. Photo courtesy of West Ranch.

On March 29, William S. Hart District high schools returned to campus for in-person learning. 

The remainder of the 2021 school semester, for most high schoolers, is being salvaged as new terms and regulations allow for attendance on campus. However, the preparation and rules that must be followed are unlike those surrounding elementary schools and lower grades. 

West Ranch High School, a Hart District school, will be following strict guidelines that have changed throughout the pandemic but have now been set in place by the state’s safe school plan. There must be a one-way flow of traffic throughout the campus, unlike California elementary schools that have no guidelines on this. 

“The reason for this is so that students stay socially distant. This way we don’t have students walking this way and that way,” explained Kristan Hinze, assistant principal of West Ranch High School. “Hopefully the idea is that this allows us to make sure students are going in one direction, and we then know that students are not crossing paths with other students – with the main focus on just getting students to class.”

Students were given the option to resume fully online, or come back to campus two days a week. There has been a cohort system implemented to allow the safe return of the students who chose to resume on campus. 

“We have about 47% of kids coming back to campus,” said Bryan Wilson, assistant principal at West Ranch. “Cohort A will come on Mondays and Tuesdays, Wednesday will remain online for all students, and Cohort B will be on campus on Thursdays and Fridays. This allows us to keep class sizes smaller and socially distant.”

While Cohort A is in person Mondays and Tuesdays, they will be online on Thursdays and Fridays. 

“Their teacher will be coming to them live on Zoom from their classroom, with Cohort B present. Half of the class will be on Zoom, and half will be in person,” Wilson said. “This way, kids can remain socially distant and adhere to all guidelines, while attending a full class that is semi-normal.”

The district also upgraded the school’s technology pieces in order to make this easier for all teachers who will be teaching half of a class in person, and the other half on Zoom at the same time. They all have been provided dual monitors and a webcam as well as a microphone system that goes around their neck. The microphone allows the teacher to move around in the classroom for their in-person student while still permitting a clear audible connection to their live class on Zoom as well. 

The Hart District also announced that as of Jan. 27, the deployment of HEPA filtration systems in every classroom district-wide. This is in an attempt to purify the air of dust, allergens, bacteria, and viruses. 

These terms are distant from the elementary school guidelines, as teachers for the lower grades are not doing Zoom and in-person instruction at the same time. However, the high school guidelines that have been put in place are allowing for a safe return, covering all bases that have been brought to the administrator’s attention.

After a year of remote learning, classes getting back to campus is a big step. There still is no word on an in-person graduation, or when the current guidelines will be lifted for local schools. 

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