BIS begins in-person instruction as BHS welcomes students back to campus

Sixth+through+eighth+graders+have+returned+to+in-person+learning+at+Burlingame+Intermediate+School%2C+with+many+students+coming+to+campus+three+and+a+half+days+a+week.

Photo courtesy of @BIS_trojans on Instagram

Sixth through eighth graders have returned to in-person learning at Burlingame Intermediate School, with many students coming to campus three and a half days a week.

Michelle Moshkovoy, Head Photographer

With COVID-19 cases decreasing in the past months after a surge during the holiday season and with San Mateo County having moved into the orange tier on March 16, Burlingame Intermediate School (BIS) has brung its students back to campus and Burlingame High School (BHS) is welcoming back students starting on April 1.  

BIS began their hybrid plan, one in-person day per week on Wednesdays, starting Feb. 24, first welcoming sixth-graders in a morning and afternoon group — the two-and-a-half-hour sessions consisting of enrichment and community-building activities, upon San Mateo County’s move to the red tier. Seventh and eighth graders returned the following Wednesday, March 3.

On March 15, BIS extended their phase-in process, increasing in-person learning to two extra days a week for sixth-graders — with seventh-graders returning on March 22 and eighth-graders returning on March 29 with an elongated schedule. At BIS, each grade level has been split into two cohorts based on last name, with one cohort attending classes in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays and the second cohort attending on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Teachers teach students who are distance learning and on-campus at the same time on Zoom.

Before a student enters each class, their temperature is taken and once inside the classroom students are physically distanced. 

BHS is rolling out a similar plan. The San Mateo Union High School District has already started in-person instruction for students enrolled in Special Education Programs. The recent move to the orange tier has allowed for Phase 3 — the option for in-person learning for all interested students — to be set into motion. The district began Phase 2: in-person instruction for students enrolled at Peninsula Continuation High School, Middle College and various enrichment programs on the week of March 22.  

On April 1, BHS and other schools in the district will begin Phase 3. Students that opt-in will be placed in either Cohort A or B. Those in Cohort A will be on campus on Monday and Tuesday and those in Cohort B on Thursdays and Fridays. Both students on campus and those that have chosen to continue distance learning will be learning on Zoom concurrently. 

 In a specialized schedule for the first week of in-person learning, those in Cohort A’s first day on campus is April 1, and Cohort B on April 2. 

While distance learning has allowed many students more flexibility in their day, the lack of socialization has been a change that most have felt, including sophomore Ella Rafferty.  

“There’s a lot less communicating with people [in distance learning], which I miss a lot, and talking with people that I don’t normally talk with. It’s so much harder to do that now,” Rafferty said. 

Rafferty has opted to return to campus and is excited about the palpable sense of community that it may offer compared to learning at home. 

“It’s an opportunity for me to see my teachers and friends in-person, which [I] don’t really get to do that much because I’ve been [in] like a little bubble the whole entire time,” Rafferty said. 

Rafferty’s sister, who is a sixth-grader at BIS, has already returned to campus and has had a positive experience. 

“She loves it,” Rafferty said. “She loves seeing people, especially like they do a bunch of art projects.”

For BHS, protocols to return to in-person instruction include physical distancing, completing a required mobile health app before entering campus, periodical cleaning and efficient HVAC systems in all rooms.

 Many teachers, parents and students alike at Burlingame are excited about the progress that has been made for reopening. Around half of BHS’s student population chose to continue distance learning because of health concerns, preferring to be on Zoom from the comfort of their homes along with other reasons. 

In a year headlined by uncertainty, students’ educations are inching closer to a sense of normalcy, making a 2021-2022 school year consisting of in-person learning look very probable for both BIS and BHS.