Students at WTHS adjusted to a new routine as the “remote Wednesday” schedule recently ended. Up to this point, Wednesday was a day during which students and faculty attended all nine class periods (and even a “unit lunch” break during 5th period) remotely. This was done so that a deep cleaning of the facility could occur at a time when the building would be empty.
As a major step towards a “new normal,” the disposal of the “remote Wednesday” schedule allows for students to be on campus for live instruction on Wednesdays. Previously, students were on campus for only four out of the five-day week. And while the school day for high school students had previously started at 7:25 AM, ending at 12:15 PM, under the newly implemented schedule, classes begin promptly at 7:20 AM and concluded at 11:40 AM. To ensure that equal instructional time is allotted and the necessary transportation does not interfere with other schools within the district, the common fifth-period lunch was removed and each class period runs for only 28 minutes.
This change would not be possible without the Washington Township School District’s efforts and commitment to ensuring the safety of each student and faculty member. As the “remote Wednesday” served as a cleaning day on campus, Principal Jonathan Strout has shared that “fast-acting chemicals” and “electrostatic sprayers” were purchased to equip custodians with improved efficiency to sanitize surfaces. Strout also mentioned that materials and tools needed for frequent cleanings have been utilized, therefore, the weekly deep cleanings have become unnecessary and futile. High-touch surfaces such as bathrooms, offices, and door handles are cleaned regularly through the school day whereas classrooms are sanitized once students and faculty leave campus.
While current students have not quite adjusted to 28-minute classes, the schedule change that began on the first day of March has received positive feedback from the student body.
“I appreciate that I am able to see all of my teachers and cohort B classmates [for] another day. Being a person that isn’t fond of online learning, it’s also helpful to have another day in person, even if we aren’t doing a whole lesson. It’s truly appreciated for my mental health and social well-being,” senior Sabrina Sims shares.
Likewise, sophomore Ryan Crowley expressed that while he is not “a huge fan of the constantly changing schedules,” he enjoys attending live instruction classes and “getting back to a somewhat normal schedule.”
However, for remote students, getting rid of the “remote Wednesday” does not make a drastic difference but rather poses a struggle that other students face: remembering which class period is when. Senior and fully remote student Jake Minnick has expressed aggravation when trying to remember when a class period starts and when it ends since it no longer follows the previous “remote Wednesday” schedule. However, the removal of the “remote Wednesday” has not affected him.
“I’m already fully remote and it’s just another day in the week for me,” Minnick says.
Strout also commented on the play that is expected to run after spring break: collapsing the Cohort A and Cohort B system and merging them so that students from both cohorts will attend live instruction simultaneously rather than separated. In order to accommodate the expected rise of students in-person, additional personal protective equipment has been ordered for the safety and protection of all members within the building.
“All in all, I would not be in support of students and staff members five days a week [within the building] if I thought there was an elevated safety risk. There might be more work involved, but that’s our job,” Strout expressed.
Since it is not new information amongst the student body, many are excited to go back with the unified in-person cohort to see old friends. And in the long-term, sophomore Sean Parchesky feels that combining the cohorts is a wise decision.
“This gives us the opportunity to readjust ourselves to what school will be like here on out,” he says, “and waiting until the fall for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year would be filled with chaos.”
Regardless of the uncertainty during these unprecedented times, for many, this progression to five-day school days will give the sense of normalcy students are longing for.
“The end is near,” Strout remarks, “I am optimistic that we’re far closer to normal compared to the start of the pandemic. We’re going to get through this.”