At 9:00 am, students enter campus through one of the two main gates, where their digital Daily Passes are scanned, and their temperatures are checked. Afterwards, they take a seat at one of the outdoor tables on the quad, and wait for the bell to ring, signaling that it’s time for Homeroom.
Due to Covid-19, water fountains are not in use. Instead, bottled water is available in classrooms and outside during lunch. Hand sanitizer can be found in most classrooms, staircases, and outdoor areas that experience heavy foot traffic.
In their Homeroom class, students sit at desks, six feet apart, and join Zoom calls with their other classes on school-provided chromebooks and headphones. Meanwhile, most Homeroom teachers are instructing their own classes on Zoom.
Students evacuate their classrooms for a fire drill, their first in over fourteen months. With the school at a maximum of twenty-five percent capacity, emergency drills are a notably calmer experience than they were in prior years.
Printed passes are required to leave Homeroom during class, and social distancing is heavily enforced by school staff at lunch. Homeroom classes are each assigned a seating area, and students are encouraged to remain six feet apart at all times.
“Teaching online in a classroom is still like teaching from home, online, but it's a lot more work,” says Mrs. Muñoz, a history teacher who also has an in-person Homeroom class of seven. “There’s a huge decrease in participation. When you teach live, as a teacher, you feed off of the energy of your students. And when you’re virtual, online, sometimes you spend the entire day looking at little black boxes with white names, and really feeling like you spoke to yourself all day long. [...] I would a-million-times prefer live instruction.”
About once every two weeks, Covid-19 tests are administered to students on campus. Most students leave online class partway through the second period of the day -- writing a hasty apology in the chat -- and make their way to the tennis courts, where a cluster of white tents have been erected. Students then take turns verifying their name and age, and swabbing their own noses, before handing the swab back to one of the nurses.
Shown here, a nurse holds out an unused test swab.
“Hybrid school is … interesting,” says Lillian Goldsmith, a student who chose to return to campus. “Even though it obviously is different, and there’s a lot more social interaction, it still feels very similar [to virtual school], in that we’re on computers, and it’s still over Zoom. [...] It’s not like completely being in person. But, with that being said, it’s good, because we get to stay safe and see friends at the same time.”