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“It feels more real:” BHS Students Return to In-Person Instruction

As the 2020-21 school year nears its end, some Berkeley High School (BHS) students are returning to campus for in-person learning. The new schedule, which officially began April 24, moved the distance learning school day earlier: it now spans from 8:55 AM to 12:15 PM, and gives students optional time to return to in-person school from 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM. It also requires students to attend the previously optional Wednesday classes on Zoom, if they aren’t attending in-person school. Although some students were happy with distance learning, others disagree with changing the schedule so close to the end of the year. 

Corra Houtermans, a junior in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), has returned to her classes at BHS, and said in-person learning was a “Seven or eight out of ten.” She added, “It’s nice to be in the class and meet some of the people, as opposed to just having it be completely virtual.” Houtermans said, “It feels more real.”

Although Houtermans was generally happy with the return-to-school experience, she disagreed with the implementation of Wednesday classes. “[The classes] don’t really take into account students’ schedules,” said Houtermans. “People have designed their schedules around being free on Wednesdays, so it kind of throws off a lot of planning that’s already been done.”

“I honestly don’t know what they think they’re doing,” said Erik Erdiakoff, a senior in Academic Choice (AC). “[BHS] might be trying to get funding for money for kids in school, which isn’t the best move, especially since we’ve had a case on the basketball team.” Erdiakoff also said that adding classes on Wednesdays made it feel like he was being “forced back into school.” He said, “I don’t think the Wednesday thing was a smart idea … the schedule change seemed really abrupt.” 

Students returning to BHS now join over 30 percent of students nationwide who are participating in hybrid learning, a percentage expected to continue to rise. California Governor Gavin Newsom has also stated that he expects schools to reopen by June 15, including community colleges and “institutions of higher learning.”

Otto Montgomery, a freshman in Hive 4, supports the new schedule. “I don’t really mind, it feels normal to have class every day,” said Montgomery. “I’m not a big fan of getting out earlier, though. I really liked having a break between the classes, but now I’m just sitting down for three and a half hours” 

Montgomery also said that there was a large difference between his in-person classes. “In my math class, it’s all about getting homework done and interacting with other kids, but in my other class, which is Spanish, it’s all about practicing speaking in Spanish, and so that’s more full group work,” he said.

Although the return to school has gone mostly without incident, there have been some hiccups, such as the three confirmed COVID-19 cases at BHS in April, due to a small outbreak on the BHS basketball team. The outbreak, caused by an unmasked practice, was unrelated to the return to school, as BHS sports have been happening on campus for many months. Sports were paused in the following days in order to “conduct a thorough review of athletic practices for adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols,” according to a Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) statement. 

Parents who are worried about students’ safety when returning can track cases using the BUSD COVID-19 Dashboard, which shows confirmed cases on BUSD campuses.

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