Returning In-Person Means Reinforcement Of Policies

Joshua Geaughan, Reporter

In the wake of a year without full in-person learning, the new school year began with some confusion about school policies. To many students’ disbelief, not much has changed from two years ago, but in the long and drawn-out time frame of COVID, two years feels like a lifetime.

As we return to normality, it has been challenging to return to the way that the school was run pre-COVID. According to WSHS principal, Mr. Danby, everything from the revitalized policies to keeping the grading system from last year, is in place to make a smooth transition from remote to in-person learning. For some, that has done little to soothe the unrest with many of the previous rules that the school had, and with a year off of the rules, it provides a new perspective for the whole student body on how we interact with the rules that were set before our high school days. With this new perspective, some clarifications are needed as to why?

One question buzzing around the school is, “what’s the deal with hats?” According to the WSHS Student Handbook, “Hats or bandannas or similar headcover may not be worn in school (except for religious or disability reasons and upon notification to the principal)” The no hat policy has been around for a while, but the question of why has never really been given a concrete answer. It is very much a traditional gesture of common courtesy based on America’s ethics. Over time, Mr.Danby explained, the hats and hoods rule comes down to identity and safety. Especially after 9/11 and the many school shootings that occur around the country, being able to see who comes in and out of the building is important, and with both a hat and a mask, identifying students is even more difficult. As Mr. Danby said, with the ability to throw on a hood to cover the sides and top of your head, and a mask to cover the bottom half of your face, it makes sense why the hood rule is still in place. The faculty is being asked to consistently enforce the policy for security reasons. While it seems like the hat rule has gone back to being governed by tradition, much like taking your hat off in church or a restaurant is to be expected, wearing it in school is just one of those places where wearing a hat could be seen as disrespectful. Last year, when students returned in-person the hat policy and others were not strictly enforced, for two separate reasons.

One would be that because the CDC (Center for Diseases Control) recommended keeping windows open in classrooms to increase air circulation, when the temperature in the building dropped, wearing a hat made sense to keep students comfortable. The second reason was a growing trend among the policies covered, and that is because the school wanted to get students back into the building. They lessened their enforcement of rules and their strict relation to students, worrying that if they pushed too many buttons the students would simply choose remote learning over in-person classes. With remote learning not being an option anymore though, they decided to bring the rules back to a sense of normalcy.

Worry not though hat-loving students, Mr. Danby understands the importance of freely expressing oneself, especially when it comes to what’s on your head. After all, back in his high school days, he wore a hat through all four years of high school. He also said that they are reviewing the hat policy and how it fits into day-to-day school life. For now, until something is said otherwise, keep hats and hoods off in school.

It seems like the rule that’s often debated and that has evolved the most over the last few years is the phone policy. Much like the hat policy, the “off and away” rule that was held before 2020 took a backseat in favor of a more accepting mindset. The phone policy is also the only “off the books” policy we have this year, as the direct rules in the handbook are more of a suggestion to most teachers. The handbook states, “ [violations of acceptable use policies include,] Using mobile electronic devices of any kind without direct permission from a staff member for appropriate educational purposes.” Now, the idea is that it is up to the teacher’s digression whether or not you can use your phone in the classroom (and exactly how much it is used). The slow loosening of the phone policy started many years before COVID. In 2016, the rule was changed from “no phones without teacher permission…” to “you can use phones in the hallways and at lunch.” And that was the start of the path that phone usage has been on. As the years continued, phones began to seep into the classrooms more and more until the point where some teachers no longer care if you send a quick text to a friend in the other room, others use phones as part of instruction and some strictly prohibit the use of phones in their classrooms. That isn’t to say that there are no rules regarding cell phones, but they just depend on the teacher and the situation. So if your teacher tells you to put the airpods or phone away, please do so and avoid being disruptive and disrespectful.

The dress code has always been under criticism in the school as it is very subjective and leaves a lot of room for debate. The handbook states, “Student attire cannot be destructive to school property, must comply with requirements for health and safety, and cannot cause disorder or disruption.” The first part is simple enough, students can not wear anything that is destructive to school property and comply with the requirements for health and safety, but the subjective nature of the rule is in the following lines: “and cannot cause disorder or disruption.” What is disorder and disruption? Well, how can we know? This line doesn’t give us any concrete examples or descriptions of what it looks like. To put it simply, this rule is based completely on the perspective of the teacher or the administrator.

The last question that many students are asking is the question of homework and grading. Why has there been so much more work in and outside of school? As Mr. Danby said, it comes down to consistency. With the grading system returning from last year, along with many other policies in the school, there is a sense of “if it isn’t broke, don’t try to fix it” going on, and with sophomores and freshmen not even having a full year of being in the building, the school is trying its hardest to maintain a smooth transition between online and in-person learning. Using this logic, you can see a path with the homework as well. Sure, having actual homework (aside from spending a year doing schoolwork at home) was not something that we had last year, but giving teachers the ability to be freer with how they assign work is something that is very important to how lessons are taught.

So in general, the faster pace of classes and the workload might be overwhelming, but it is essential to keep with the curriculum and eliminate the learning gaps that occurred last year. That stands true with all the other policies in school as well. Last year was a bit different, but returning to what we had before is important for everyone in school as we all try to make school life as easy and comfortable as we can make it.