Yellow plan starts today – Co-chair of Potomac’s COVID-19 task-force explains why


Potomac SmugMug

Senior members of Student Athletic Committee, Haley Smith and Evelina Swigart welcome students back to campus.

After a brief yet successful two week period in orange mode, Potomac’s administration announced its intention to progress to yellow mode, the next phase of the school’s scalable reopening plan, tomorrow October 15. This is an exciting development for Upper School students, whose time on-campus will be more than doubled in the transition to yellow. Grades 9-12 will have in-person instruction five out of every ten days, with freshmen and sophomores on campus in a joint cohort Mondays and Tuesdays, and the junior-senior cohort on Thursdays and Fridays. The two cohorts will alternate Wednesdays.

The recommendation by Potomac’s COVID-19 task-force to progress to yellow mode came after initial school-wide testing returned only one positive test for coronavirus. In an email to Potomac families on October 5, Head of School John Kowalik announced that Potomac will move forward into the yellow mode of its back to school plan. The announcement confirms the plans announced in an email sent on August 20, when the school announced that the school would re-evalute preparedness to move to yellow mode on September 28. 

“As you know, the yellow plan has been our ‘north star’ for the fall since we began planning for this academic year. Because of the diligence of our school community and a layered approach to risk mitigation, we are now approaching this goal,” Mr. Kowalik wrote. 

The seemingly sudden shifts from planned yellow to black to orange to yellow took many by surprise. The COVID-19 back-to-school-committee, however, had long envisioned the orange plan to be a stepping stone to achieving their ultimate goal for the fall. 

“The orange mode was always meant to be an interim stage, or training wheels so-to-speak, so everyone can learn the new processes, busing routes, etcetera. We had a few weeks to make sure that everything was working well and the data continued to be positive before getting to our summer-long goal, the yellow plan,” said the co-chair of the ‘return-to-school-committee,’ Martin Sumner said. 

Despite the swift transition to yellow mode, Mr. Sumner clarified that students should not expect to be in green mode in a matter of weeks. He confirmed that the yellow plan is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. 

“I would expect to be in yellow mode for a while. The main difference between yellow and green mode is the number of Upper Schoolers on campus every day…Yellow has always been the goal for the fall. The question is now that we are in yellow mode, how do we stay in yellow mode?” he said. 

Students and teachers alike have adopted new Potomac norms, from following the Potomac Pledge, to abiding by the counterintuitive directional hallway arrows, to utilizing newly installed sanitizing stations, to performing the daily SchoolPass Application wellness check, COVID-19 mitigation practices have become integrated into the school day. 

As this story unfolds, The Current will continue to provide updates on the status of hybrid learning at Potomac in yellow mode.