LONDONDERRY — Londonderry High School freshman Matt Sharrock roamed the halls of Londonderry High School during ninth-grade orientation night, seeing safety protocols in place and planning for his first year in high school.
Londonderry High School invited the freshman class to come to visit the high school, see classrooms and how they are set up and to meet administrators and teachers as they prepare to start the new year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For students like Matt and his family, it was also a time to make sure the comfort level was in place prior to opening day Sept. 8.
For two nights, the high school opened its doors, offering incoming freshmen a chance to pick up schedules and just get the lay of the land as they get ready for school to start.
The high school lobby was cordoned off with yellow tape, and specific decals were on the floor to lead students in one-way directional patterns as part of the school’s hybrid learning plan that will alternate groups of high-schoolers on different days during the week, in-person learning and remote learning at home.
“We are excited that it will all go well,” high school principal Jason Parent said as he welcomed freshmen to the school during orientation.
Parent said there is a good sense in the school district that things are in place to ensure safety for both students and staff.
School board members voted to last month to approve an amended and revised plan for an in-person return model for grades kindergarten through eight and an alternating day hybrid model for high school students.
Families can also choose an all-remote learning option.
A big piece of the reopening puzzle is making sure safety guidelines are followed, focusing on national and state health and safety information and recommendations, while also tailoring Londonderry’s plan to be specific to the district, following a “six layers of safety” approach to creating the safe barriers for students and staff. The plan also includes a clear response if or when anyone in the school system is infected with the virus.
The plan stresses safe distancing in classrooms, mandatory wearing of masks for students and staff, keeping students to specific cohorts or groupings during the day, less changing of classes and movement throughout various buildings, and how to handle extra curricular activities, sports, music, physical education, dining services and transportation.
For kindergarten, elementary and middle school students, the in-person plan would keep students in small groups, with minimal movement during the typical day. Students will also have time for mask breaks.
High school students will take on the hybrid approach, with students alternating days they attend in person, and studying remotely on the others. That would keep the number of students in the building more manageable with half of the total, about 725 students, studying in person at a time.
Assistant high school principal Katie Sullivan credited school staff, town officials and custodial staff for much hard work to get the plan in place and to keep Londonderry’s COVID-19 cases in check.
She added there is a sense of positive energy she feels in families, students and staff all eager to get back to the classroom.
“The kids are so excited to come back,” Sullivan said, adding since schools abruptly went to remote learning back on March 13, it’s been a goal to return to school as safely as possible.
High school junior Sarah Tsetsilas said she is ready to return, but is a bit nervous.
“But I definitely feel safe,” she said.
Senior Maddy Walden said she is ready.
“It will be good to be back to a routine,” she said.
“And seeing friends again,” said her classmate Jack Sprague.
Sullivan also credited the high school staff for taking the reins and planning their individual classroom setup to accommodate the number of students in a room.
The high school also showed off a blue and white striped outdoor tent that will serve as outdoor classroom space while the weather remains warm.
“And the kids are the ones that are going to make this work,” Sullivan said.