Your Back-to-School Guide for Second Semester

By Uma Ribeiro and Sarah Meklir

Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor

Lunchtime will look pretty different now. Hammond’s cafeteria is now spaced out to ensure a safe environment for students and staff.

The New and Updated Schedule 

As of March 1st, 2021, HCPSS has implemented a new schedule for all students in order to accommodate the needs of those students who have chosen to return to in-person learning. A school day for all high school students now begins at 7:45 am and ends at 2:30 pm. Aside from group V–students who are remaining fully virtual–and group E–students who are learning in-person 5 days a week–the schedule is a hybrid of virtual and in-person learning for students in groups A and B. 

All students who have now transitioned from online learning full time to full-time in-person instruction will be in school from 7:45 to 10:15am on Wednesdays. Those who transition from full-time online learning to a hybrid learning schedule will be asynchronous on Wednesdays, as per the old schedule. 

More specifically, students in hybrid learning groups A and B will be in the school building twice a week (Monday and Tuesday for group A, Thursday and Friday for group B) and will learn virtually from home the other two. 

On Wednesdays, the day in which most students will remain asynchronous and at home, student support services and individualized help from teachers are available. Each of the four classes in students’ semester two schedules are now 85 minutes long, with period 3 divided into three lunch shifts. 

Students will have a half hour lunch shift, and will either have A, B, or C lunch depending on the subject of their period three class. While 85 minutes are provided for each class period, that time is not expected to be entirely synchronous. Part of class time should be utilized for asynchronous assignments and help and support for students who need it.  

Meal distribution and pick-up is still available for all students, whether fully or partially virtual or back in-person five days a week. To learn more about meal procedures, check out this update.

Above: wide view of Hammond High School’s cafeteria

Who is currently back in the building? 

Staff reported back to the school building about a week before students returned to school on March 1st. As of now, only Phase One of the new schedule has been implemented. In phase one, all students in Group E return to their school building for guided learning five days a week. 

Phase Two began on March 8th for young students in pre-k to second-grade. Ninth and twelfth-grade students and those enrolled in ARL classes who chose the hybrid model will return to the building on March 29th as part of Phase Three. 

All remaining students, including tenth and eleventh-graders, who chose the hybrid learning model will return to the building on April 12th as part of the final phase of transition, Phase Four. 

An example of new one-way traffic flow in Hammond’s hallways.

What does a school day look like?

The Bear Press takes you through a typical school day under the new schedule. 

Before choosing whether to remain virtual or try out the hybrid model, many students wondered what a day of in-person learning would look like for them. Would it be somewhat like it was before the pandemic? Would daily school life be completely different? Could they interact with their favorite teachers or engage with their classmates? The Bear Press set out to answer some of these questions.

When deciding to remain virtual, many students said they chose that option due to safety concerns. Others said they knew it would not be the same as before the pandemic, and therefore would not be worth the hassle of adjusting to in-person after almost a year of virtual instruction. 

There are many necessary precautions which have been taken to ensure students and staff who return to the building are as safe from contracting the Coronavirus as they can be. These necessary precautions have changed what a school day looks like for students, starting with the bus ride to the building.

Before leaving for the school day, it is expected that students be checked for any symptoms of COVID-19. Seating on busses has been limited to one student per seat based on CDC guidelines, aside from students who reside in the same household. However, there is potential to disregard these precautions if more students are in need of rides than guidelines allow. Students must arrive at school with their laptop and electronic materials for the day’s instruction, because sharing materials is now prohibited. 

All students and staff are required to wear masks at all times, except for when eating in the cafeteria. At lunch, as with in classrooms, students’ desks will be placed six feet apart to maintain social distancing.

Classroom supplies (even pencils) cannot be shared. Students are required to maintain 6 feet of distance from one another in all learning areas–including those without desks–and there are designated areas in classrooms from which teachers are expected to instruct. 

Lockers are off-limits due to the inability to social distance when they are in use. A maximum of two occupants are allowed in the school bathrooms at one time. Signage has been placed around the bathrooms and the entire school building as reminders of required social distancing rules, and some hallways will be limited to “one-way” traffic flow.

Social distancing stickers are spaced along Hammond’s hallways

COVID-19 Procedures

Specific sanitary precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of students and staff, such as consistent and daily cleaning of the building:

  • Available personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Hand sanitizer stations
  • HVAC enhancements for improved air quality
  • Implementation of an “isolation room” for those experiencing any symptoms of the virus 
  • Signage and arrangement of classrooms for easy social distancing
  • Installment of physical barriers to prevent close interaction with another. 

Even with these precautions, however, it is important to remember that there is always the possibility of contracting the virus when in-person. 

What happens if you or one of your classmates or teachers is exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 after returning to in-person instruction? That person will be isolated in one of the designated “isolation rooms” and given a surgical mask if not equipped with a sufficient mask, while a strategy for the ill person to leave the school as soon as they can will immediately begin. If tested positive, the person will be asked to isolate for a minimum of ten days and must provide proof that they are symptom-free before returning to school. 

Above: safety sign currently posted in Hammond hallways

When to stay home:

If you have been in close contact with someone who has or may have COVID-19 or if you have any of the following symptoms, do not come into the building:

  • New onset cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, or chills within the past 24 hours
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Chills or shaking with chills
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Emergency Plan: 

In the case of a class or school Coronavirus outbreak, students will move to full-time digital instruction once again. To learn exactly what qualifies as a class or school-wide outbreak, check out the hybrid instructional model document.