Like the rest of Massachusetts and the U.S., Wayland has spent a substantial amount of time planning to return to school after nearly eight months of remote learning amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The school committee discussed a number of small details—desk spacing, ventilation, contact tracing, etc.— and planned to a ‘T’ to ensure that students stay safe.
Each classroom contains roughly a dozen seats (compared to the pre-coronavirus 30 seats), desks spaced six feet apart and a bucket of disinfectant wipes for student use upon dismissal of class. If students need to leave the room, they scan a QR code to report where they’re going. If they need to use the restroom, they are required to wait until after the 15 minute passing time, and more than two people are not allowed in the restroom at once.
Of course, students must also wear masks at all times, follow one-way hallways, schedule a timeslot to sit in the library (with only one student per table), social distance during lunch and fill in a form each morning to record our health status.
In the “likely” case, according to Superintendent Arthur Unobskey during an Oct. 14 school committee meeting, that Wayland sees a rise in cases, precautions will be taken. The school, if it becomes aware of a positive case in the early morning with no time to contact trace immediately, will implement remote learning for one to two days or until the close contacts are identified. In another scenario, if multiple students or staff test positive for the virus, and it becomes difficult to manage the building, Unobskey will meet with the school committee and board of health to devise a plan.
Undoubtedly, the school committee and Wayland administration have done an outstanding job planning for our return to school, and they’ve put in countless hours covering all of their bases. Unfortunately, however, some things are just out of their control.
After just one week in the hybrid model of school (two cohorts each attending just two days of school per week), Wayland experienced two positive cases of coronavirus. As of Nov. 23, WHS has experienced four total positive cases. Of course, these students should not be blamed for their contraction of the virus, but it has still affected a number of students. Those who were in ‘close contact’ with the student were mandated to quarantine for the next two weeks, meaning that they were not able to attend in-person school, work, or extracurricular activities.
Seeing as Massachusetts saw over 2,700 new cases on Nov. 22, it’s inevitable that Wayland’s trend will mirror that of the state’s. The fact is, students are not always 100% socially distant – they go out with friends, travel in the same car, participate in sports among other extracurriculars and some seniors may be visiting college campuses as deadlines approach. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if another student contracted the virus in the near future before the snowball effect takes over and the virus spreads to a number of students in the school as it already has.
As unideal of a situation as it may be, Wayland experiencing another positive case of the virus in addition to the most recent one is not unrealistic, so we must be responsible. Any student who contracts the virus should not face a slew of harsh comments and criticism, but it is our responsibility, not just as students but good citizens to wear our mask, social distance and stay home if we feel ill.