On Sept. 1, Worcester Preparatory School (WPS) welcomed back faculty and students in person, reuniting for the first time on campus since the unprecedented shutdown of schools last March, due to COVID-19. Thanks to an extraordinary team effort, representatives said, on Sept. 30, WPS marked the completion of one-month back to in-person learning, including the return of fall sports.

“We are now entering our second month of school, and we have enjoyed a wonderful start to the year,” said Head of School John McDonald. “I’m so impressed with our school community’s dedication to keeping our students, faculty and staff safe and healthy. WPS will continue to follow our health and safety protocols, and review and update procedures as the year unfolds.”

After immediately transitioning to distance learning last March, he said, Worcester Prep’s mission was to create a safe return to campus for in-person, five-day-a-week instruction for the 2020-2021 school year.

“This was made possible by the meticulous planning and coordinated efforts of the WPS internal Mallard Strong Task Force, dedicated staff and families, and the Board of Trustees. The Task Force carefully formulated policies and procedures revolving around safety including protocols for scheduling, physical distancing, health screening, daily cleaning/sanitizing, protective equipment, transportation and the appropriate use of common areas.”

The task force also observed the external guidelines suggested by the Maryland Governor’s Office, Worcester County (Md.) Health Department, and CDC, along with AIMS and NAIS.

Currently, a typical school looks different than it did six months ago. Today’s WPS classroom now includes daily temperature checks, physical distancing rules, hand sanitizer stations, facemasks, clear teaching dividers between faculty and students, desks set 6 feet apart with individual plexiglass three-panel barriers, disinfecting equipment and strict new cleaning procedures.

Everyone brings their lunch to school and eats 6 feet apart in what was once the Field House. Fall sports teams returned, yet only complete in the ESIAC conference.

“Even though we have to follow new rules, I am happy to be back on campus with my friends,” said junior Camden Rayne of Willards, Md. “I was getting tired of online learning, so it’s nice to finally talk to my teachers in person again. I definitely pay better attention sitting in class!”

At the start of the year, 6 percent of the WPS student body opted for virtual learning from home, receiving synchronous and asynchronous instruction. Online students are required to wear their uniforms and sit at a desk or table at home during the school day.

WPS is an independent, college-prep day-school for pre-kindergarten through Grade 12 students. Located in Berlin, Md., the private school attracts an average of 500 students from Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. For more information, visit www.worcesterprep.org or call (410) 641-3575.