Seniors Return Five Days a Week

Nabihah Ahsan and Julia Spadaro

On March 1, some seniors will be returning to Brentwood High School for in-person instruction five days a week. This is a massive change from the hybrid plan adopted at the beginning of the school year.

According to Brentwood High School Principal John Callan, the school district made this decision based on parent feedback and concerns over students’ mental health.

“We wanted to open up the opportunity because we’ve been hearing many parents calling and wanting their kids in five days a week since they feel like this particular model is really harmful for their kid’s wellbeing. So, we looked into it and felt that we could still maintain safety and social distancing if seniors came in five days a week,” he said.

Although some students are doing very well on remote learning, Callan clarifies that “others are suffering terribly due to social isolation.” It is the hope of the district that in-person instruction can increase students’ self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

Callan said there would be no need for further adjustments to the Covid regulations with the increase of students.

Nothing will change. We will still have six feet social distancing in the classrooms and will still have to wear masks, along with the one-way hallways so that we can still be safe with all the students,” he said.

In January, Superintendent Richard Loeschner sent a letter to the community explaining that a survey would be conducted to determine the number of seniors interested in attending school five days a week.

“We came up with a number of around 250 and 300 seniors and got an agreement with central administration that if we capped it at the first 300, then we can still maintain social distancing,” Callan said.

From the positive responses, the district decided to move forward with the five-days-a-week instruction plan. Those students who were already hybrid had the opportunity to transition to five days of learning, to remain hybrid, or to become fully remote students. Remote students also had the opportunity to make the switch to full-time instruction.

During the month of February, high school faculty worked tirelessly to prepare for the transition. Some schedules needed to be changed or adjusted so that all students could be accommodated while continuing to follow the Covid protocols established at the start of the school year. Guidance counselors worked on class rosters and ensured that students had proper access to transportation.

Callan explained that there is little fear that more students in the building will lead to more positive cases now.

“The social distancing and the mask wearing has really helped us. We just tested over 2,000 to 3,000 staff and students, and only four cases were found with just one case here in the high school. Most schools had no positives,” he said.

Nabihah Ahsan and Julia Spadaro, both seniors, interviewed Principal Callan in his office while following strict Covid protocols. (Nabihah Ahsan)

The school district was most concerned with bringing back seniors because they will be graduating this year.

It turned out that 243 seniors answered yes to coming back full-time...we know this could benefit some of the kids who are not doing well and so we were able to find that perfect middle ground. Plus, we wanted to give seniors the opportunity to be in more since it is their last year,” he said.

Although we are more than half-way through the school year, Callan said the decision could not have been made any earlier. He explains how new knowledge about the virus and how it operates made the return possible.

“In the beginning of the year, we weren’t at the place that we are now in terms of our knowledge and our education about the virus. With help of experts and scientists, we have been able to keep up with and implement safety precautions,” he said.

The availability of the new Moderna and Pfizer vaccines have also played a part in making this plan possible.

“At this point in the year, where the vaccine is out and many of our staff members have been vaccinated, we feel that it is safe to come back, although it doesn’t prevent you from potentially spreading it to others. That is why we still have the masks and social distancing.”