Why We Should Come Back to School in January: The Interview

Sophia Robertson, Editor-in-Chief

In the first part of this article, I discussed my reasoning regarding why we should return back to school. In the meantime, I received some insights from Chief Academic Officer of Guilford County Schools Whitney Oakley, on behalf of Superintendent Contreras. She said that the return back to school has been very successful because students have adapted quickly to the guidelines, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. With Guilford County School administrators meeting with health officials weekly, the Board of Education is closely monitoring the situation to see if we will go back in January. As of mid-December, the Board planned to bring third grade through twelfth grade back to school. Third through fifth graders went back on January 5, and the plan is that middle schoolers will do the same beginning on January 21.

Principals began to come up with plans about how this would be done. Page will go back with students with last names in the beginning of the alphabet going on Mondays and Tuesdays, while students with last names towards the end of the alphabet will go to school on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday will be a day of cleaning and distance learning for all students. One of the main concerns, though, is transitions between classes. Younger students, especially the really young ones that have already gone back, typically stay in one class for most of the day. However, older students go to six or seven different classes throughout the day, making more contact inevitable. Administrators are still trying to figure out exactly how to transition between classes in a safe manner.

Ms. Oakley wanted to tell Guilford County Students that “We are proud of the work our students [and] teachers have done during this very difficult time.  It is critically important for students to stay engaged and to reach out to counselors and teachers when more support is needed.  We are working tirelessly for a safe return to school…” Overall, it seems that Ms. Oakley has an optimistic outlook for returning back to school, especially now that Guilford County seems to be focusing more on mental health and the need for in-person learning, rather than solely on the numbers. Board members have acknowledged the COVID-19 cases in North Carolina, hence our lack of in-person school, but parents, students, and staff members have begun to see that the effect on not being in school is detrimental.