The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

WIS Begins a Fully In-Person School Year

A classroom in the AAA Building. Now that all students will be back on campus, classrooms will be more full than last year. (Martina Tognato-Guaqueta/International Dateline)

After both distance and hybrid learning since March 13, 2021, WIS is returning to a fully in-person school year.

Head of School Suzanna Jemsby sent out an email to the WIS community on August 5, confirming that both campuses will be fully reopening in the low-risk model, meaning that all students will be on campus daily. She later said that she believes there will be a “mostly normal calendar year.”

One significant difference from last year is that, on the Tregaron campus, mask wearing isn’t always be mandatory outdoors. They are only required to be worn indoors. Because of a change in guidance from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no set physical distance individuals must keep. 

However, Grades 9/10 Assistant Principal Allison Ewing says everyone should still be mindful of personal space.

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“None of those organizations are recommending distancing, they’re just recommending masks, which is what is allowing us to come back,” she said. 

However, as the Delta variant continues to spread, COVID cases are higher than they were in June. On September 3, the 7-day average for cases in D.C. was 200, while on June 9, it was only 17. If COVID cases spike or WIS experiences an outbreak, WIS is prepared to return to hybrid or distance learning, according to Jemsby.

Jemsby believes that the high vaccination rates in the WIS community put the school in a good position for reopening. “With the high, high, high vaccination rates that we have, I believe we will be in good shape,” she said.

Like many in the community, Ewing has some concerns about the higher transmission rates and younger individuals getting sick. Despite the concern, Ewing has faith in the community. 

“I’ve been really proud of what WIS has done to keep our student body and our faculty and staff safe,” Ewing said. “It’s shown that what we are doing works, so I think that that’s something to be confident about.”

COVID cases in Washington D.C. as of September 7, 2021. Though cases are rising, the school still plans to fully reopen. (New York Times)

Zoom is no longer be an option for students who do not want to return to campus. The school will, however, provide distance learning if a “healthy student is forced to be home because of a COVID quarantine,” excluding travel reasons, according to Jemsby at the Head’s Updates on August 17. 

In May, WIS sent out a flash poll to about 170 parents on a Zoom call to check on vaccination rates, which turned out to be 97%. As of August 17, there were less than 5 eligible students who were not vaccinated. Because of this, the school decided to not implement a vaccine mandate at first. A vaccine mandate was, however, put into place on September 3. Jemsby noted in the email that only 3 percent of eligible students were still unvaccinated.

In order to protect the community, the COVID testing program, implemented last school year, will still be operating, but in a slightly different way. All unvaccinated students had to have a negative test 72 hours before the first day to attend school, according to the Head’s Updates. The school then began testing only unvaccinated community members every Monday, as of September 7. 

The school is, however, prepared to go back to testing everybody on campus twice a week, if it becomes necessary.

WIS is returning to its prior bell schedule, with one hour long lunches and 10 minute advisories, with the exception of A and D days, when both will be 45 minutes. Lunches are now more flexible, but students are encouraged to eat outdoors, and must social distance when eating inside. 

The tent in front of the Carriage House with tables for students to eat at. The tent will remain standing for some classes and for students to eat lunch outdoors. (Martina Tognato-Guaqueta/International Dateline)

As of now, there is still uncertainty in what the school year will look like, and when “normal” school may return. Ewing does have ideas for student activities, such as school dances, but is not sure yet which direction they will go in because of the ever-changing situation. 

Ewing is looking forward to having assemblies. She can’t wait to get requests from students asking if they can participate in an assembly, and she’s excited to experience a real in-person assembly. 

“Because all of the students are on campus, I think we’ll try and do something as much in-person as possible,” she said. “Last year was my first year, so I have never seen the Black Box Theater for a full assembly, I’m actually really excited.”

Upper School English Teacher Karin Tooze feels very comfortable returning to campus, especially after learning that 92% of the faculty is already fully vaccinated (the number has now risen to nearly 95% as of September 3, according to Jemsby).

“I am ready to be back in person,” Tooze said eagerly, before the school year began. “I’m ready to see all of [the students]. I’m ready to interact in a normal, everyday, human way. And I feel comfortable doing that.”

Over the summer, she prepared her classes with the assumption that everyone would be back on campus. Now she is ready to have an almost-normal classroom. However, Tooze is prepared to switch back to distance learning with a moment’s notice, if need be.

“Last year I got really great at doing Google Slides, and all different kinds of interactions over Jamboard and [Zoom] breakout rooms, so I can go back to that if I have too,” she said. 

Tooze is anticipating having an almost normal classroom, aside from masks and some distancing. And after over a year sitting in front of screens, she would like to return to the old fashioned pen and paper.  

“I feel like we’ve overdone it on screens, so maybe we could just go back to writing everything: writing on the whiteboards with fun colors and writing with notebooks,” she said with a laugh. “I think everybody needs a break.”

By Naomi Breuer

Additional reporting by Rose Boehm

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About the Contributor
Naomi Breuer
Naomi Breuer, Editor-in-Chief
I am Editor-in-Chief of Dateline this year. As a junior last year, I was a Publications Editor and Middle School News Advisor. As a sophomore, I was WIS News Editor, and Arts Editor as a freshman. Other than Dateline, I enjoy baking, playing guitar, biking and participating in Model UN.

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