EVERETT — Starting Jan. 4, Archbishop Murphy High School will welcome half of its students back to campus each day, while the other half tunes into class from home.
Students will be divided into two groups, by last names (A-L and L-Z). That’ll be about 230 students on campus each day.
“So, we’re not talking huge numbers,” Principal Alicia Mitchell said. “It allows us to have the flexibility to get kids on campus with the challenges of social distancing and safety measures that are in place.”
When students aren’t at school, they tune in to class, virtually.
The school started experimenting with broadcasting classes earlier this year, with teachers using laptops to broadcast to kids at home.
But the audio was iffy and the class wasn’t entirely visible. So administrators opted for new cameras in each classroom.
“Even though it looks and feels different with cameras, having that opportunity for some in-person instruction makes such a difference,” Mitchell said.
The south Everett private high school was one of the first in the county to partially reopen with a hybrid schedule earlier this year.
Administrators started in September with four freshman cohorts, each attending class one day a week, and slowly phased in more students.
So far, so good, Mitchell said.
Since September, the school has had one COVID exposure on campus, when two staff members had to isolate after they were in contact with a contractor who tested positive for the virus.
But the incident occurred after hours, and no classrooms have had to quarantine, Mitchell said.
Additionally, local and state data show that in-person learning with safety protocols is safer than previously thought.
Each morning, staff await students outside the school. Students have their temperatures checked and are asked a series of screening questions.
If a student develops symptoms during the day, the school has an isolation room where they can wait to be taken home.
“We’ve implemented one-way walking paths and stairwells,” Mitchell said. “Even though that’s a new experience for our kids, what we find is they really want to be there, so they’re following the procedures and the guidelines.”
Families who don’t want to send their students back to campus can opt for a 100% virtual semester, Mitchell said.
The school is surveying families about the January return. With about 40% of families responding, more than 80% have said they’re sending their children back to class.