Commons announces that students can return to campus to attend online classes

Hannah Han and Ethan Lachman

This is an ongoing story subject to updates.

President Rick Commons announced in an email Tuesday that students will have the option to return to campus for classes starting March 9 because of a decrease in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County. Though students will be able to see each other in person, classes will remain online, giving people the opportunity to learn from home if it makes them feel more comfortable.

 The school will use the six-day academic schedule to determine who comes to campus, rotating each day by grade level. As a result, students in each grade will be allowed to come to campus twice per academic cycle until spring break. 

Commons said he hopes that allowing students to attend their Zoom classes from school will rejuvenate them as they head into the second half of the year.

“While we are not yet able to shift away from online instruction, this option to be on campus during the school day will enable many students to regain some of the long-lost social and emotional benefits of in-person school—finding a sense of place, seeing teachers and other staff members and connecting with old friends and new,” Commons said in the email. 

Logistically, Commons said students will be placed in groups of no more than 14 people in accordance with LA County Department of Public Health (LADPH) guidelines. 

Though the administration has not yet figured out the details, Head Prefect Jonathan Cosgrove ’21 said students will likely be grouped with people in their classes.

“We are still not sure how cohorts are going to be sorted, but we think that they may be sorted by people in some of your classes, like potentially English, because everyone is in English, and it’s by grade level,” Cosgrove said. “The cohorts will be determined based on how many kids sign up, and then the school will figure out how it wants to best [organize students].”

Students who come to campus will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests, in addition to one before March 9. The school will also continue to require students to fill out a health questionnaire before stepping foot on campus and wear a KN95 mask once they arrive. 

At the beginning of the year and over the summer, the administration made renovations to prepare for hybrid learning, and these implementations, such as room occupancy limits and HVAC air filtration systems, will help ensure the safety of both students and faculty members, Commons said in the email.

Even with the partial return to campus, Cosgrove said he does not expect the experience to feel completely normal.

“The point of the return is not to do in-person classes,” Cosgrove said. “The point of the return is [to improve students’] social and emotional well-being. Yes, you will run into some teachers while here, [and] most likely there will be adults on campus, but it’s not like we’re going to be in in-person classes. Even if your teacher and you are on campus, you will not be in the same place because teachers don’t want to lecture with masks.”

Students have already begun to return to campus for optional sports practices, grade-wide social events and Peer Support sessions. Commons said the school will continue to offer these opportunities throughout the upcoming months.

Cosgrove said he hopes that students will take advantage of the opportunity to rekindle connections with their peers and immerse themselves in their studies with renewed vigor.

“I think it will increase excitement to learn because during a break, you’re not eating lunch alone,” Cosgrove said. “You’re eating lunch with friends, and then you’re re-energized to then go on to the next class and give it your all, maybe even more so than before, because you’re with other people who are contributing. So you get that classroom dynamic, which obviously adds so much.”