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

What Did WIS’s Closure Mean For Campus Workers?

The tented area outside of the carriage house building, where seniors will be eating lunch. Many Tregaron buildings have been repurposed by the campus workers to facilitate the transition into the hybrid learning model. (Courtesy of Rose Boehm)

Tregaron’s dedicated campus workers team, which includes food workers and security guards, are essential members of the WIS community. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the school moving into distance learning, their jobs have experienced some major changes.

How the campus workers’ jobs worked pre-COVID-19:

Robert Butler, Head of WIS Security, explained that his main responsibility is “to ensure that all students, staff, and visitors [are] safe and everyone is following protocol.” To achieve this, he tries to connect one-on-one with as many members of the community as he can. “I think it’s very important to be nice and friendly so that if anything happens, people will be more open to come and talk to you about [it],” Butler said.

Finance Officer Blain Temesgen is one of WIS’ main liaisons with Brock & Company. She explained that WIS has a contract with Brock to provide the school’s catering. Brock’s workers were responsible for “operating the coffee shop in the mansion, preparing hot lunches for both the Tregaron and Primary campuses, and serving meals to students, faculty, and staff.”

Their jobs during the switch to distance learning:

On Mar. 12, Head of School Suzanna Jemsby announced that WIS would be temporarily moving into distance learning. In an email to the entire WIS community, Jemsby expressed that she “hope[d] to be able to resume classes on our campuses on Monday, Mar. 30,” but was unsure whether this would be possible. Ultimately, distance learning continued through the end of the 2019-2020 school year. 

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When this news was first announced, Butler and the other security team members were worried about the future of their jobs. However, the administration was quick to assure them that, although they didn’t know how long it would take to return to in-person learning, the security guards could continue working at WIS. “It’s just perfect to know that your job is still secure and you don’t have to worry about anything,” Butler said. 

As distance learning continued, the security team came up with different tasks to accomplish so that they could refresh certain skills. They often practiced emergency drills over the intercom. This was “so [the security team members] could get comfortable, just so we would be on top of things when the kids finally [did] return,” Butler said.

While the security guards were able to keep working at the school, the food workers with Brock & Company had to transition to working remotely. For the remainder of the year, WIS and Brock’s management team focused mainly on “develop[ing] a plan for when students returned to campus for in-person learning.” In addition, Head Chef Kenzig “continued to meet with the Brock [workers] via conference call during this time and [they] participated in industry trainings.” 

As the 2019-2020 school year progressed, both the Primary and Tregaron administrations started making adjustments to accommodate the remaining workers on campus. One change was closing the campuses earlier at 6:00 p.m. This was helpful because many of the campus workers take the Metro to and from work.

How their jobs will work during hybrid learning:

Now that WIS is transitioning into a cohort based hybrid learning model, the campus workers’ responsibilities have been adjusted. The security team has been focused on preparing the campus for the students’ return. One new addition is an alteration to the flow of foot traffic throughout the various buildings, which is illustrated through brand new safety signs. “You’ll only be able to go down certain stairwells, you’ll only be able to go in a certain direction in certain hallways, and everything is pretty drawn out,” Butler said.

After more than six months of working remotely, four Brock employees will return to the Upper School campus. Based on advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as D.C. health authorities, Brock has made several changes to the lunch program. These include implementing “pre-ordering of bagged lunches on the MyKidsSpending website or app, pick-up locations at the Tregaron campus, [and] delivery of meals to classrooms at the Primary School campus,” according to Temesgen. As of now, the cafe in Davies Hall will not be re-opening.

Although these are difficult times, both Temesgen and Butler agree that WIS has adapted to them well. “I think WIS did everything they should have done,” Butler said.

By Maia Nehme

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