WA reopening is too drastic of a change


Provided by WPS

The new 5/2 schedule.

Evelyn Miller, Columnist

As the 2020-21 academic school year comes to an end, the last thing WA students need is an added stressor in their lives. Unfortunately, the reopening of the Westford Public Schools with only two months left of the school year may serve as a source of stress for students and faculty. The new schedule raises various concerns, such as health and safety issues and the abrupt lifestyle change.

The greatest problem with reopening relates to the logistics of creating a safe environment where all students and faculty feel comfortable. With the full student body in the building, students will be seated only three feet apart and this may create some concerns about health and safety. Furthermore, students who are under the age of sixteen or don’t meet the requirements to get vaccinated early may not feel safe being in close contact with their peers. Under the hybrid model, I’ve noticed how many students don’t properly wear their masks, or even remove them in the building. This raises the question of how students can be trusted when they eat lunch outside with their masks off. There seems to be this misconception that students do not need to socially distance as much when they are outside, so WA faculty would need to continue to enforce these rules to ensure that everyone is being safe.

In addition, reopening schools downplays the seriousness of the pandemic. Allowing students to return to school on a full-time basis falsely conveys the idea that the pandemic is no longer as critical. This leads to students letting their guard down and gathering in large groups, not only in school but also in their own time. Even though adolescents have fewer health risks, they can still spread the virus, which will inevitably increase the number of coronavirus cases, not to mention that some students have family members who are at high risk.

Another disadvantage of the new schedule is the change in the student-teacher dynamic. Under the hybrid model, students were able to interact with their teachers more, as classes were half the normal size. Students in each pod barely got to interact with each other, but with the reopening, all students will be physically in class. Though this may not seem like a big deal, many students have benefitted from the smaller class sizes and this abrupt switch could interfere with students’ learning experience.

Even though there are benefits from attending class every day, the student-teacher dynamic is also an aspect that must be considered. The change would likely impact freshmen more than everyone else, as they will finally get to meet the other half of their class. While this can be a good opportunity to meet new people, students only have a month and a half to adjust. Therefore, it would be more conducive to launch the new schedule this fall, where students would have more time to ease into their new lifestyle and meet their peers.

Aside from the rushed logistics of reopening, the new 5 drop 2 schedule presents another source of confusion. Under the old schedule, which only dropped one class per day, students were able to easily recall which class they started with the next day. However, with two classes being dropped each day, it would be more confusing to remember the first class for the next day. The 5 drop 2 schedule will likely not have an effect on freshmen, but will definitely impact students in other grade levels, who are already used to the old schedule.

“We have to look at things through a different lens moving forward. We now have remote learning, and [students] have been dealing with three classes a day. Imagine going back to six classes right now [for the next school year], I think all of your heads would spin-off,” Principal James Antonelli said in an interview.

Even though having five classes per day may lighten students’ workload, it would be better to keep the original 6-day schedule since rising seniors and juniors are already familiar with it. An alternative to reducing this stress is by having teachers assign homework that can be completed over a two or three-day period, which is what students have gotten accustomed to this year. From here, they could transition to having work due the next day. Long-term assignments have been successful in some of my classes, where I was able to divide large projects into smaller chunks instead of completing the entire assignment at one time, which relieved much stress.

While the underlying ideas behind the creation of this new schedule are well-founded, it is too soon to integrate such a radical change into our community.

Click here for more information about the new schedule.