Nik Chupkin | The Roundtable
Stuart Hall High School has begun the 2020-2021 school year remotely, implementing a new schedule to reduce person-to-person contact if the county permits in-person learning on campus.
The new schedule consists of four blocks of 4.5 weeks in length, during which students attend the same two classes each day and have the same peers in both classes. If in-person classes resume, groups will also have lunch together in order to provide better contact tracing if a member of the cohort contracts COVID-19.
“The block is designed to offer the least amount of contact, both student-to-student and teacher-to-student,” Head of School Tony Farrell said.
Some students say the new schedule is unnecessary due to the continuation of online learning.
“I’m pretty sure we’re going to be online for the whole semester,” senior Nicholas Schiller said. “The plan that we could come back in 4.5 or 9 weeks seems overly optimistic. I think the system our school instituted in March worked really well.”
Farrell said the administration would like students to return to campus as soon as possible, provided all regulations preventing in-person learning are lifted.
“We’re operating from a fundamental principle that we think our type of education is best delivered in person,” he said. “Where we’ve really tried to work from is that we believe in having kids at schools, so let’s make it safe.”
The school has exceeded all safety regulations implemented by the County of San Francisco in order to prepare for the start of the school year, including furnishing both campuses with MERV filters (which trap small particles) and airflow regulators.
Students say they are appreciative of the effort the school is putting into making online school more manageable.
“The situation is really difficult to manage, and trying to find the best solution to education in the age of COVID-19 can be quite challenging,” senior David Louie-Grover said. “Generally, I feel a little odd coming into school with a completely new schedule, but I know we’re in a much crazier place now and have to adapt.”
The Back to School page of Convent & Stuart Hall’s website lists guidelines and strategies in order to help students and parents gain a clearer understanding of the school’s actions to combat the spread of COVID-19.
Every person entering school premises must be screened for COVID-19 symptoms every day and cannot exhibit any of the listed symptoms detailed by the San Francisco Health Order.
Additionally, everyone on campus must follow the distancing plans created by the school and an architectural firm.
Farrell says President Ann Marie Krejcarek’s leadership during has proven instrumental in facilitating updates to the school in order to prioritize safety.
“She engaged with an infectious disease consultant and brought in a team of designers and architects,” Farrell said. “Now we have windows that open, a good forced air system, and we’ve built a schedule so that we could see class sizes that could safely be in rooms at 6 feet of distance.”
Teachers say the administration is making sure they are informed and understand the new procedures.
“The school has provided opportunities to learn about the safety measures they have put in place in order to protect the students and faculty,” math teacher Lindsay MacGarva said. “We met as a faculty on Zoom with Dr. [Fareed] Asfour to answer questions we might have had.”
Asfour is the infectious disease consultant hired by the school to educate and inform faculty about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once San Francisco is off the state’s watch list for 14 consecutive days, schools may obtain a permit to reopen, provided they follow the guidelines outlined in the San Francisco Department of Health Preliminary Guidance Document. “One hundred five family diploma conferrals and a summer camp of 250+ campers and adults suggest that the safety measures work,” Farrell said. “We have met and/or exceeded all elements of the health care order in order to have school.”
This story was edited on August 27, 2020 at Tony Farrell’s request to clarify on what he said was ambiguity on his use of the word “safe.”