TUHSD removes cohort system, announces full in-person learning

Kent Goodman

Christopher Vargelis

On April 13, Redwood students will be able to return to 100 percent in-person learning, according to a March 23 statement from the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD). Students who wish to stay online may continue to join classes through Zoom and will be allowed to switch to in-person whenever they choose. However, once students decide to learn in-person, they will not be allowed to switch back-and-forth between online and on-campus learning, with the exception of a COVID-19 quarantine. Initially, the district’s plan was to come back from spring break in two cohorts rather than three, but an email sent out to the community announced that students would be returning with everyone on campus instead. The email followed Marin health officer Matt Willis’ announcement approving schools’ opening.

Senior Dean Rider is enthusiastic about the new schedule, specifically about seeing friends who were previously separated from him.

“The way the system is set up now, with the three cohorts, all three of my close friends are in [different cohorts]. But now that we have this transition, I’ll be able to sit with them at lunch and chat,” Rider said.

Many aspects of the new learning plan are working well for Rider. However, he is concerned about the current regulations on Redwood’s music program, which require students to play outside using specialized masks with small openings in them.

“The only thing that I can really recommend improving would be the ability to play musical instruments inside. I’m a part of the advanced piano class, and it’s been a very frustrating experience playing our instruments outside… I wish there was a way that we could play inside our band room and have the doors open or something like that,” Rider said. 

According to a March 2021 Bark survey, a majority of Redwood students favor in-person learning. Some students, however, will continue with online learning, such as senior Pearl Thompson.

“I feel like [online school] gives me more freedom to go other places… It’s less restrictive. [With in-person], I have to get up probably an hour and a half earlier than I do now… It adds so many more aspects of stress to my day,” Thompson said, “High school is an in-person experience, but I feel like I’ve done all that. I’m not having a prom this year or any of the stuff that makes senior year cool. I’m not really in it for the hallway experience.”

With the new schedule, teachers will have to adjust to a much larger in-person classroom size. Advanced Placement U.S. History, government and nonfiction teacher Lisa Kemp is happy to have more kids back on campus.

“I’ve certainly had kids who come to campus to be in a cohort of three kids. There’s kind of a sweet spot of the certain size of a classroom of kids, and it,s not three [students] …  Maybe some kids enjoy the smallness, but I think for a lot of kids it changes the momentum,” Kemp said.

Kemp sees the shift back to the classroom as an opportunity to implement curriculum that is less digitally focused.

“I hope to get to the point of not using computers in class unless we’re looking at websites,” Kemp said.

Although the new schedule is not a complete return to normal, it marks a significant step in that direction. Moving past the cohort system will help to build back a sense of community and streamline class curriculum. With vaccination rates consistently increasing and COVID-19 cases dropping, “normal” school seems closer than ever.

Walking back from a socially distanced lunch, students head to their next class. (Greta Cifarelli)