Students made their way back onto the Wye River campus for student orientation Monday, Aug. 31 ready to take on the school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wye River Upper School Interim Head of School Dave Mullen greeted small cohorts of students with a temperature check and a hearty “welcome back” to all students entering the building.
During student orientation new and returning students had the opportunity to catch up after a six-month absence, though with masks and social distancing, it was a unique approach to the school year.
Breaking the ice to the new school year included socially distant kickball, answering trivia questions, playing WRUS Bingo, and talking to teachers about the upcoming school year. Students have the option of attending in-person with cohorts on a rotating basis or to be online full-time. All students will do some distance learning this year, so that the school is prepared if it becomes unsafe to attend in person.
“As we track the cases and positivity rates in the counties from which we draw, we’ll decide whether to expand to having in-person instruction up to three days a week or cut back to all remote,” said Mullen.
While class is in session, desks are spaced six feet apart and students and teachers are required to wear masks. HVAC filters have been upgraded, each classroom has a UV and HEPA air filter, and a deep cleaning is done each night.
Staff members and students will be sanitizing between classes, and hallways and stairways have been designated as one-way to minimize contact.
While soccer is on hiatus for the fall, running, yoga and fitness will still be options for the Wye River sports program, both in-person and online.
“Teachers have engaged in a great deal of professional development both over the summer and during our in-service days,” said Mullen. “We’ve upgraded our internet connectivity, and put together Makerspace and art kits for students when they are working remotely.”
WRUS senior Coale Lenox expressed excitement about the new school year.
“I know it will be easier in some ways because we are allowed to stay in the comfort of our home, and email teachers if we have any questions,” Lenox said. “I am really looking forward to seeing what it is going to be like to have my full year online; and those challenges ahead and how I am going to overcome them.”
WRUS freshman Bridon Lucas is also looking forward to the hybrid school year, but is hoping to go back to school full-time. He hopes to make new friends and to participate in school activities to get the full WRUS experience.
“I am just waiting for things to play out,” Lucas said. “I am also making sure that I can do something to help people because this stuff is not just affecting the school, it is affecting all of us.”
Lucas added this hybrid model is “amazing, and how people are working through it is a step forward in Corona in my perspective. I’m looking forward to being able to see new people and hopefully be able to make new friends.”