Looking Back to December 2020

Bountou Sylla, Staff Writer

In December 2020 I wrote an article about why in-person school is important. Over the last five months, I’ve thought a lot about this topic and my article so I went back to look at it and see if my thinking has changed at all on the topic. 

According to the “MCPS Spring 2021:Recovery of Education” post on the district website; “On February 9, the Board of Education voted to approve MCPS’ 2021 Recovery Plan. Students in specific special education and career and technical education programs will return to buildings on March 1. Students in kindergarten through third grade will begin to return to buildings in phases starting March 15. Families will hear directly from their schools about their specific plans….Students returning to in-person learning will experience a variety of instructional approaches to meet their learning needs.”

At Paint Branch, the return to in-person learning consisted of a staggered approach that had the first group of students return on March 1st. That group consisted of select students from specific programs and was followed by several other groups, also from specific programs, on March 15th. After that, select 12th graders returned, and then, on April 19, all students became eligible to return.  

To handle the social distancing and group regulations, PB used a “gold” and “burgundy” week schedule. This schedule had students with the last name of A-L attend one week of in-person classes during “gold” week, while the other half of the students (last names M-Z) stayed virtual.  During the “burgundy” week, these two groups switched. Of course, this new schedule came with strict classroom and behavioral requirements such as having to wear a facemask at all times except when eating lunch, limiting class size to no more than 12 students, and one-way traffic in the hallways and stairwells.  

This was a good schedule to follow due to Covid as it gave a good number of students a chance to be in person safely, and provided building services enough time to clean the school. Going back to in-person school helped those who did it because it gave them some social interaction and some sense of normalcy, so that is good. While they had to wear their masks and keep their distance, they at least got to be around each other and see one another masked face to masked face. Just having someone to talk to can do a lot for a person’s mental health and overall well-being. 

While I liked the schedule, I did not choose to go back to the in-person class because I didn’t want to deal with all the extra precautions such as always having to wear a mask and not being able to go to the bathroom as easily as in regular school. Plus, one good thing about school is walking around freely in the hallways and being around other people, which was really limited. 

Of course, as a virtual student, the classroom situation was not perfect. I must say, I still get distracted while in class or when the teacher is teaching, but it is not as bad as it was at the beginning of the school year. I now have a routine I follow. Also, I don’t get distracted by family anymore. I now have a quiet space to work, which helps a lot.

Although I did pick up some good habits through the school year I also picked up bad habits such as running late to work and procrastinating. In the fall, the hope is that all students can return to full-time in person. But for us 9th graders that didn’t return to school, we will be like the freshmen once again because we still don’t know how to make our way around the school. At least we will be able to go back to the way things were, hopefully. No matter what the fall looks like, it will be good to be back even if the school has to constantly tell us to have a mask on, wash our hands and use hand sanitizer, and keep our distance.