Full-time school returns with COVID restrictions

Thomas Tait '22, Editor-in-Chief

It has been over 537 days since the students and staff of Washington Township High School (WTHS) have seen full classes, packed hallways, and a “normal” school environment. Despite the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, WTHS will return to full-time, completely in-person classes on September 1st.

This return to normal class sizes, and full-time, in-person instruction, will not be without continued COVID-19 restrictions.

Most notable of these continued safety measures is the reinstated in-school mask mandate issued by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

“There will be zero tolerance. If you’re not going to wear a mask, you’re going to be sent home,” said WTHS principal Jonathan Strout.

Strout added that a small number of students have been granted medical exemptions from masking, but all other students will be expected to properly wear masks while inside, unless drinking or eating. Strout also confirmed that outdoor masking will continue to be optional.

Social distancing and good hygiene practices will continue to be encouraged, but walking paths won’t be making a strict return at the high school level.

“We’re going to do our best to have one-way walking paths…but kids have four minutes to get from one class to the next, and those walking paths could take 10 minutes if you followed them strictly. It’s not remotely reasonable to expect kids to get to class in four, or six [an extra two minutes is allotted to go from the 9/10 side to the 11/12 side], minutes.”

Strout added that administration will emphasize single file, right-side walking to attempt to maintain social distancing, but tape and signs will not make a return unless the district finds it absolutely necessary.

The plastic shields distributed to students last school year will not be making a return.

“They’re certainly not coming back for the start of the year, and I don’t anticipate that they’re coming back.”

Some classrooms have been outfitted with plastic shields that will remain in a fixed location, but (barring any unanticipated changes) they will not be distributed to students this year.

Evolving guidance from the New Jersey Department of Health and the availability of vaccines for high school students has altered the school’s contact tracing protocol.

“In schools and in classrooms, as adopted by the Department of Health, the standard is now three feet. If you are within three-to-six feet of a positive individual, as long as you and the positive individual had your masks properly worn at all times, you will not need to quarantine,” Strout said.

Strout added, “the vaccine changes everything. When we contact trace, the first question we need to know is, ‘are you vaccinated?’…unless you’re symptomatic, you don’t have to quarantine if you have the vaccine.”

This information can found on the NJ Department of Health website under “Guidance for Schools” which can be accessed here.

Aside from the COVID-19 restrictions, the PRIDE schedule (implemented at the end of the 2020-21 year) has been altered.

A five-minute homeroom period will be added at the start of the day; homerooms will be organized by last name and grade level. Special homerooms (homeroom classes exclusively for club executive boards) will not be making a return, with the unit lunch period meant to replace that meeting time.

Additionally, the “rotating wheel” will now rotate backwards, moving (on Day 1’s) 1-4-3-Lunch-6-9-8. This change is meant to create more consistent spacing between when teachers see the same class. A copy of the new schedule is included below.

Additional information about changing protocols and restrictions can be found on the district website (wtps.org) and in Strout’s weekly videos, which are sent to student emails on Sundays.