Reopening committee presents new “Enriched Virtual Plan” in online meetings

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Last week, Harrisites attended a second round of online information sessions concerning fall reopening plans. Since the deadline for families to sign up for a completely remote fall semester was on August 7, many attended to learn more about how the school envisions reopening.

Reopening committee member and Classical Languages teacher Christopher Amanna discussed two blended learning choices: “Model 3B” and “Enriched Virtual Plan.” A new blended learning option customized by the THHS reopening committee, the Enriched Virtual Plan proposes to have students learn remotely from Monday to Thursday and engage in enrichment and extracurricular activities on Fridays. Each grade is allotted one Friday each month to participate in these activities in person. As of now, the school is set to follow Model 3B, which was a blended learning plan pre-approved by the Department of Education. However, the administration stated that they were hoping to garner support for the Enriched Virtual Plan from students and parents during the information session before sending it for approval to the DOE. The plans are subject to change as the year progresses.

“The biggest [question] is how can we structure a teachers’ time so that they’re not expected to be in two places at once? Since we can’t hire twice the number of teachers, there are a few other ways to accomplish this, but none [are] ideal,” said Mr. Amanna. “I also wonder how we can safely fit a third of our students in a building that is already operating above capacity. Again, I’m not saying these things can’t be done, but it has been very frustrating that we’ve had to spend so much time and mental energy trying to thread this needle, especially when we already have an elegant solution in the form of [the Enriched Virtual Plan].” 

Several students expressed their preference for the Enriched Virtual Plan during the meeting. Sophomore Erica Lee stated, “I really like the Enhanced Virtual Model because it allows for some (but limited) interaction in school, while also giving everyone the same opportunities (since it’s mostly remote anyway).” 

Previously on July 20 and July 21, Principal Condon and members of the reopening committee hosted a similar virtual meeting, only to leave many parents and students frustrated by technical difficulties including the lack of audio and visuals. Many of the community’s questions were left unanswered due to logistical problems that the committee had to resolve. 

After the DOE provided additional details on the possible reopening plan, the reopening committee was able to address more concerns voiced by students and parents and clear up a lot of the confusion regarding the reopening of school in the fall.

Prior to attending these recent online information sessions, students expressed their uncertainty on whether they preferred to learn blended or completely remote. However, the online information session made this choice easier for many students. Rising junior Zarif Rahman said, “[I] learned that switching from blended to remote can be done easily at any time. On the other hand, switching from remote to blended is complicated and can only be done at specific times during the year because the school can’t just add seats whenever they choose and follow guidelines effectively.” 

Similarly, rising junior Natalie Pugliese also had difficulties in choosing a learning option, but stated that the flexibility that the DOE provided in switching from blended to remote learning was “important in allowing [her] to make a decision as it provided a sense of security to know that should health concerns arise at the very least [she] could transition to remote learning.” 

Although the school still does not have all of the answers, several students and parents believe that the school is doing their best to keep everyone updated during these uncertain times. Natalie said, “The school is handling reopening very well as they are developing a strong plan for the upcoming school year and doing everything in their power to ensure a safe and healthy community.” 

“THHS is doing a fairly good job handling reopening,” agreed rising sophomore Rajjo Ronobir. “[I] think given how none of us have experienced anything like this before, the school is trying their best to reopen amid the unfortunate situation with the pandemic.” 

We appreciate the patience and understanding that Townsend families have shown these past few months,” said Mr. Amanna. “Ultimately, we will have answers and we look forward to sharing more concrete plans with the school community as soon as we can.”