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

How Safe is Hybrid Learning?

WIS Juniors Studying in Davies Hall (Image Courtesy of Zachary Roberts)

WIS entered hybrid learning on October 5 after administrators spent the last few months laying out policies to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Although these policies are mostly effective in theory, the WIS administration needs to implement more measures to ensure they all work in practice too. 

It should be noted that some of the policies appear to be working quite well. Students generally wipe down their desk spaces in classrooms, and everyone wears a mask. Some hallways are uncrowded, and any virus exposure in those will be for a relatively short period of time. There are air filters in every classroom to help with ventilation. These policies are deserving of praise. They substantially reduce the risk of COVID-19, and students choosing to come to campus can benefit from in-person learning without much worry about picking up virus particles in the classroom itself. 

Some policies, however, have been less successful. For example, in the Middle and Upper School parent and student meetings, administrators announced that students must exit classes one by one at ten-second intervals. This mandate is generally followed in the Middle School. Had it actually gone into effect in the Upper School, it would have reduced the number of students in hallways at any one time. The lack of ventilation in hallways would not have been an issue, since people would have moved through them quickly. 

Instead, during hybrid learning students exit their classrooms all at once because very little staggering is enforced. Since all classes in a given period end at the same time, hallways are often crowded to the point where distancing is impossible and any virus exposure is prolonged. While students bear the responsibility to stay at least six feet apart from others, doing so is nearly impossible as long as Upper School teachers fail to coordinate a staggered exit policy with each other. These teachers can only coordinate dismissal once the administration establishes a clearer message around staggering. Once administrators and teachers are on the same page about the dismissal policy, students’ job will be to uphold it. 

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The WIS administration also determined the maximum occupancy of common spaces such as Davies Hall, but relies on trust rather than adequate proctoring to make sure these rules are followed. Occasionally, a teacher or administrator will pass by, but most of the time these spaces are left unsupervised. As a result, they are sometimes overcrowded, making virus transmission far more likely even for those who try their best to physically distance themselves. Davies Hall, especially, needs to stay below its occupancy limit since it doesn’t have an air filter and students often forget to wipe down its tables. 

The hall often ends up crowded after school as well. Although students are technically required to leave campus right after their last class (with a few exceptions), this rule is not adequately enforced either, and students who want to stay distanced can’t use Davies Hall to work. 

The administration has taken a stance of trust that students will follow the rules during hybrid learning. In some cases, it has no alternative. For instance, there is no way for administrators to police cross-cohort mixing outside of school or efficiently record each student’s temperature every morning. However, when it comes to maintaining occupancy limits in common spaces and leaving campus right after school, many students have shown they cannot monitor their own behavior. 

The stakes in this pandemic are high, and while students need to take more responsibility for their own actions, any who do not will endanger the health of the entire community. Teachers and staff, especially, are at risk because they interact with both cohorts, so they are more likely than students to suffer the consequences of failed policies. Although it is impossible to completely stop virus transmission if and when an outbreak occurs, the administration needs to tighten its existing restrictions to minimize the number of people who get COVID-19 and allow for a swift recovery as a community. 


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