Sophomore Cortez Thompson begins hybrid instruction at Wilde Lake after almost a year of virtual learning at home. (Ben Townsend)
Sophomore Cortez Thompson begins hybrid instruction at Wilde Lake after almost a year of virtual learning at home.

Ben Townsend

First Wave of Students Returns to Wilde Lake

After a year of virtual learning, students across the state return to buildings

March 2, 2021

On March 1 of 2021, almost one year after schools were closed to in-person instruction, Howard County adopted a hybrid learning model and opened its doors to the first of four waves of students, but with mandatory safety precautions in place. As of March 1, the halls and classrooms of Wilde Lake High School will once again be filled with students and staff, but it will look vastly different from what it looked like before the pandemic hit. 

To meet social distance requirements recommended by the CDC, desks will be six feet apart and students will follow one-way signs in hallways. According to Wilde Lake Principal Marcy Leonard, students will be required to follow mandated mask guidelines. The school will also be providing extra masks and face shields for anyone who needs one. Students will use digital hall passes to leave classrooms, and restrooms have a limited capacity of two. 

Hallways have been marked by “One Way” signs to maintain social distance. (Ben Townsend)

Students will still be able to eat lunch together in the cafeteria in shifts. Desks six feet apart have replaced lunch tables, and outside tables have been provided as well, as the weather permits. The county will continue to provide free breakfast and lunch.

Because many students will remain virtual, during hybrid learning teachers will simultaneously teach in person and virtual students.

In addition, starting March 1, classes will extend from 45 minutes to 85 minutes. The additional class time will provide opportunities for teachers to meet with students individually and allow students to work independently on assignments. 

Ms. Wilson, a Reading Specialist at Wilde Lake, is looking forward to longer class periods. “I plan on taking more time to go over the skills I teach in my class… hoping that students will be able to have more time to think about and process what they are learning during a longer class time,” she says. 

Having taken some time to brainstorm different ways to keep her students engaged, Ms. Wilson has come up with a few ideas to start off with. “One thing that I plan on doing is having a variety of activities and instructional styles to engage students,” she says. “I also ask my students to tell me the types of topics they are interested in, so I can plan lessons on topics that will keep them absorbed in the work at hand.”

Ms. Keck, an English teacher at the Lake, is turning to the internet for ideas to make hybrid learning more involved with the students. “I plan to look at teachers/teacher groups I follow on various social media platforms [Twitter, Facebook, and even TikTok] from schools that have already been doing this to see what tips and suggestions they have for making it work,” Ms. Keck says. She believes that keeping students engaged while including activities they enjoy is the key to a successful in-person environment. 

Mr. McMillan helps a student to find his next class on his first day back. (Ben Townsend)

As the staff assembles their plans for in-person instruction, students are making their own preparations for hybrid learning. Lily Coombs, a junior at Wilde Lake, is going back to school based on her experience with virtual learning. “When I’m in my room just learning in a computer, my attention span doesn’t last very long, so I feel like I will learn better with the strict structure,” she says. Coombs will be joining those similar to her: students who learn greater in an in-person environment. 

Even though in-person hybrid learning is an option for everyone, 62% of students elected to remain virtual. I decided not to go back because I felt the environment at home would be more beneficial than at school,” says Connor Tucker, a senior at Wilde Lake who is opting to remain fully virtual. 

Evan Schneider, another Wilde Lake senior, is also not going back to school for hybrid learning. “If I were to go back, I would want it to be school as normal, just with safety precautions. Lunch, talking to friends, classes; all the things people love about going to school,” he says. 

 “We encourage any student who is struggling to reach out to their counselor or any trusted adult so we can provide support,” Ms. Leonard says, speaking for the entire Wilde Lake staff. “We take care of each other, regardless of the circumstances, and I couldn’t be prouder of the resilience of our students, staff, and families.”

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