Reopening Phase 2 allows limited students and staff to return to campus
October 6, 2020
Monday, Oct. 5, the dormant halls of campus were awakened by the arrival of the initial group of students and staff to return officially since the facility was closed on March 13.
The individuals have been allowed to return to campus, with strict COVID-19 precautions followed, as part of Phase 2 of the reopening timeline. In contrast to Phase 1, which consisted of universal off-campus instruction, Phase 2 allows for students to return to school to complete their remote learning in a Stationary Homeroom Instructional Pod (SHIP).
“It feels great to be on campus; I’ve missed it so much,” art teacher Laura Dubois said. “I know that each day will be different, and it’s a learning experience.”
Before an individual is allowed on campus, they must undergo a temperature check and complete the COVID-19 Screen-and-Go via the Austin Independent School District (AISD) app. The screening includes questions regarding symptoms and contact tracing, and when a person does present a symptom related to COVID-19, they are not allowed on campus.
“It felt strange being back at school after months of nothing, and it is a little empty,” sophomore Garret Henderson said. “It is a bit easier learning at school than at home because it is easier to stay focused.”
When students enter campus, they report to their SHIP rooms, where they remain alongside a group no larger than 10 students and one teacher for the entire school day. Each SHIP room has four teachers that are assigned to it, rotating which period they facilitate daily.
“So far, I have only facilitated a pod once during my Zoom class,” Dubois said. “Using headphones is important, so I am not distracting the students in the pod [while I lead] conversations/discussions with my students through Zoom.”
Throughout the day, students and staff are required to wear approved facial coverings and maintain social distancing policies.
“There’s no real way to be completely safe when the “self-reporting” app can be falsified with no one to check on how true it is,” social studies teacher Alejandro Garcia said. “Obviously, masks and hand sanitizer will be everywhere, but if people lie about being sick, none of it will matter.”
Although around 100 students have returned to campus, Bowie administration has stated that there are no additional benefits available to the students because of their access to the facility. Within SHIPs, students participate in remote learning, via Zoom and BLEND, as they would in any other location.
“Working and learning from home continues to be the safest option at this time for students and staff,” Principal Mark Robinson wrote in the Bowie Reopening Plan. “Students who are able to continue remote learning [off-campus] are encouraged to do so.”
As described in Phase 2, the administration will use state and local guidelines to create a building capacity each week, or the total number of individuals allowed on campus. The building capacity is subject to change, and if additional students wish to return to campus, they must wait until a spot is available.
“I’m very glad that AISD has waited at least this long to bring its students back to in-person school, and although I’d like full virtual learning to go on longer, I know that there are societal as well as internal pressures pushing AISD to come back in-person,” senior Conner Petru said. “All I can say is that they need to think carefully every step of the way with this hybrid plan, and be willing to back off it if COVID-19 strikes our campus community.”
While some students will be on-campus Monday through Friday, Phase 2 allows individuals to participate in a hybrid learning option, going to campus 2-3 days a week when there is room in the building capacity.
“I’m not planning on doing the hybrid model because my family is at a higher risk for [COVID-19],” junior Sadie Mcdonald said. “I think that the model isn’t beneficial for my situation because I would rather stay at home than go to school, wear a mask, and risk getting my family sick in any way.”
As of now, Phase 2, consisting of on-campus learning and the hybrid learning option, will be in place until Friday, Oct. 30. Parents of Bowie students had to declare which option their child would participate in before Tuesday, Sept. 29.
“I think the hybrid model has some benefits to it, allowing the school and its students to return to some sort of normalcy,” Petru said. “[However,] a COVID-19 outbreak at Bowie would be disastrous, and although the hybrid plan is trying to minimize this danger, there’s still a chance that this plan could contribute to the virus’ spread. It all depends on the level of precautions taken by not only the teachers, but also the students and their parents.”