On-campus school expands to two days a week and two grades a day

WiFi strained by doubling of attendance in first week of new hybrid model; students following from home feel more removed.


BP Photo by Sam Elyazsadeh

TREATS: On Monday and Wednesday, the first two days of two grades on campus, there was a free fruit cart on the roof and an ice cream truck in the parking lot.

For the first time since last March, two grades at a time of students learned on campus this week, each for two days in a row. Ninth- and 10th-graders learned in-person on Monday and Tuesday and 11th- and 12th-graders learned in-person on Wednesday and Thursday.  

Classes were still held outside in tents, everyone wore masks and students on campus still viewed their General Studies classes on Zoom. But the optional in-person time expanded from each grade going on campus one day per week to two grades going two days per week. Friday was still an all-Zoom day.

Further, classes were lengthened to 45 minutes instead of 40, causing the school day to end at 3:30 p.m instead of 3:15 p.m. Before the pandemic, classes were 55 minutes each. 

To students who were there, it was a welcome step toward bringing normal high school life to the time of Covid. Sophomore Oz Shalom said he was glad to finally meet this year’s new freshmen.

It brings the community together.

— Oz Shalom, 10th grade

“It gave me an opportunity to meet the incoming grade,” said Oz. “Overall it was a fun time, because I knew most of the freshmen coming in, so it’s like I got to see them for the first time since like a couple of years.” 

Oz said as long as it is within Covid safety guidelines, he thinks the more people who can come on campus the better. 

“It brings the community together,” he said, “Just the feeling of having more people on campus and seeing more people. It makes you feel better about yourself and about how the school is progressing at this time.”

For those who’ve been staying home, the change made things worse. Instead of feeling left out one day per week, last week it was two.  Sophomore Amalia Abecassis has yet to attend been learning from home all year.

“Sometimes you can’t hear well, which can be hard,” said Amalia. “And also, there’s this sometimes tendency that you’re just there, and then everything else is going around, and you want to be a part of, like, the side conversations and the things going on in class, but you’re on the computer.”

General Studies Principal Mr. Daniel Weslow said the school was following both government guidelines and the mandates of the school’s Medical Task Force.  He said a decline in are Covid cases was a factor in enacting the plan at this time. 

“You’re looking at how our school is navigating in recent weeks, as well as what the county is looking like,” Mr. Weslow said. “We trust our Medical Task Force in terms of their analysis of how things are going externally as well as what we’re reporting internally.”

Whether that next transition is all students on campus for Judaic learning or opening it up for [General Studies] learning in a socially distancing way, we want to be ready for it.

— Mr. Daniel Weslow, General Studies Principal

He also said it was a step toward having students spend even more time on campus. 

“At this time we’re following our guidelines and the mandates,” Mr. Weslow said. “Our hope is that whether that next transition is all students on campus for Judaic learning or opening it up for [General Studies] learning in a socially distancing way, we want to be ready for it. So we’ve already begun those conversations.” 

In Los Angeles County, the number of new Covid-19 cases has been declining for nearly a month. According to media reports, over the last seven days, on average there have been 3,279 new Covid cases per day — a 53.6% decrease from the average two weeks ago.

However, it’s still more than three times the seven-day average of 1,035 new cases per day in LA County on Sept. 30, before the fall spike in cases that led to Los Angeles’ becoming a center of Covid cases and deaths just last month. 

At Shalhevet, students and faculty who wished to attend campus the week of Feb. 1 had to get a Covid test on Jan. 28. Of 185 tests administered, one student tested positive for the virus, according to an email sent by school officials Feb. 3. 

Next week students will be tested again on one of their two in-person learning days. Juniors and seniors will be tested on Wednesday, Feb. 17,  and freshman and sophomores on Thursday. according to an email sent by Chief Operating Officer Sarah Emerson Feb. 11.  


With twice as many students on campus as any previous day this school year, perhaps it wasn’t surprising that there were numerous reports of WIFI issues during classes last week.  Only Judaic Studies classes were held in person, so students on campus connected to their General Studies classes via Zoom, and many reported being unable to hear or see their teachers.

At some points the Wifi completely crashed — resulting in students getting kicked off of their Zoom calls. 

SPACE: To accommodate the increased number of students on campus, the sides of the Rachel, Yaakov and Leah tents were rolled up to create one large space for davening. (BP Photo by Benjamin Gamson)

That was a problem also for students learning from home, worsening ways in which they feel disconnected.  Sophomore Elliot Serure has been learning mostly at home since January.

Even when the Wifi is working, he said, and teachers are trying their best to make class engaging for people on Zoom, there’s a distance to overcome.

“You’re just disconnected from everyone else, and on top of that lately at least this week there’s a lot of technical difficulties,” said Elliot, who stayed home because of the post-holiday Covid spike. “And in certain classes I can only hear every other word so it’s just cutting out.” 

Mr. Nick Parsons, Shalhevet’s Director of Information Technology, addressed the issue on Schoology on Thursday. 

“I know the internet strength has been a pain-point for a lot of us,” Mr. Parsons wrote. “I know it has been for me.”

To help solve the problem, he encouraged students to disconnect their phones from WIFI and to physically spread out while on Zoom, and also made some changes to the on-campus infrastructure.

“I have added seven additional outdoor WiFi Access Points trying to help our network,” he wrote. “I’ve also connected all of the Owl Computers to hardwire internet connections to prevent any lag issues for the teachers and our classmates at home on Zoom.”

He also said that some of the issues were caused by forces beyond his control, including “congested wireless traffic from the neighborhood” and “being outdoors (especially on the 3rd floor).”

Meanwhile, on Tuesday morning — the second day of two grades on campus at a time —  Mr. Weslow reminded students to follow the school’s Covid guidelines, including one-way staircases, cohort groups, and using different tents for different purposes. An extra tent, called “Miriam,” was added in the parking lot.

To celebrate the new schedule, officials brought a fruit cart to the patio of the third floor and had an ice cream truck in the parking lot for students on-campus on their first days, Monday for ninth and 10th grades) and Wednesday (11th and 12th). 

Next week, there is no school on Monday due to Presidents Day. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the juniors’ and seniors’ optional days on campus and Thursday and Friday will be the freshmen and sophomores’ days.