Principal Martin begins planning for in-person return to school

Madison Dias

In preparation for in-person learning, principal Kimberly Martin is considering outdoor options, a phased approach, and the prioritization of students with certain programs. DCPS has planned for secondary schools to return on February 1, but as of now, there is no set date for Wilson’s return. 

Principal Martin was quick to say, “no, no, no,” when asked if Wilson is planning on going back anytime soon. She elaborated, explaining how “[high] schools are readmitting students for specialized programs or specialized student support services,” rather than returning for a full day of classes. She added that some students may be taking an “academy class.” 

In terms of preparation, according to Martin, Wilson has all of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ready in addition to floor signs and the “walk this way down the hallway” notices. “All of the purchases need[ed], [they] are already in the building.” Martin is now waiting to see “what hybrid will look like [and] what exactly the parameters [are] by which we admit students when we come back to school.”

Martin has received a “Covid-19 operations handbook guidance,” with 69 pages describing cleaning guidance, a possible hybrid model approach, managing school visitors, and extracurriculars.

Currently, she is working to see if she can incorporate outdoor learning into her return plan, recently meeting with a consultant and touring Wilson’s grounds. A report from the consultant details the prices for rental materials such as heaters and tents. Martin considered purchasing those items, “and things like that so that [the outdoor space] can be used as long throughout the winter as [possible],” said Martin. 

She also mentioned discussing student accessibility to bathrooms by possibly, “creating a schedule. The teacher’s parking lot and a space by the front of Wilson are also being considered for outdoor learning spaces. 
Martin is thinking through the possibility of having 500 to 1,000 students in the building at one time, reiterating how she is unsure if it will happen but if it were to occur, considering how to keep students socially distant and safe. According to Martin, “The only way to do that is if we have no more than say 15 students in a classroom,” meaning Wilson would have to double their number of classroom capacity given most classrooms fit 30 students.
When asked about the high school reopening process, Martin said, “I think it’s going to occur in stages. I think it will be based on student’s needs, programs.” 

Martin believes that a return to school plan will prioritize students based on some criteria. “Maybe [the criteria will be based on] student needs, like I really really really want to bring back our DHOH students, deaf and hard of hearing.” Martin included how she would like to prioritize students with the visually impaired unit, explaining how an online setting is “far less than ideal.”
DCPS has not sent out any information in response to what the return to secondary schools plan looks like. Teachers received a survey called the “School Readiness Survey” in which they had to pick one option out of four of which they would like to be considered for if in-person learning were to return. 

Martin believes that the readiness survey will be used to assist DCPS with making plans and decisions based on which schools are ready staff-wise for in-person attendance, “Like if all the Wilson teachers said yeah we’re ready to return to work that might encourage us to think about coming back sooner.”
Parents and guardians, according to Martin, will most likely be able to decide if their student returns to in-person learning, however, she is unsure since there is no plan set in stone.
Senior Olivia Collotta is conflicted about returning, “I’d trust the scientists on this far more than I’d trust any politician. If they can’t prove that they’ve minimized the dangers enough, I won’t risk my older relatives [in high risk groups] catching [COVID-19]. I mean just for my own mental health, I really really want to go back to school, so it’s hard to know that like, you could go back, and still have to turn it down for other people’s safety.” 

Collatta adds, “I’m just not sure how worth it it would be to go back, even just part time or with limited students, before the vaccine is out.” In consideration of possibly returning to school with COVID around, junior Waleeja Chaudhry said, “The virus is still active and deadly, we need to stop normalizing how dangerous it is.”
In response to DCPS reopening, Wilson students stand on two different sides, with some students wishing to return as soon as possible, and others in total disagreement. 

Senior Sabina Lordan explains why she’d prefer to return, “I am more motivated to do work knowing that I will have to face my teachers in person. [with online learning,] I can easily make excuses (technology difficulties) to not do my homework.” Similarly, junior Matthew Tirajoh said he would prefer to return, “learning just isn’t the same online. I feel like it’s harder to grasp the content.” 

As for the students in disagreement, junior Henry Cohen said “I don’t trust the staff to facilitate a safe environment.” Additionally, junior Ryan Howard said, “We couldn’t even keep it [Wilson] clean before Corona.”