Second semester material distribution causes frustration, long lines and wait times


Photo courtesy of Taylor Haber

At one point, the line of students, starting from the small gym, reached all the way down the front side of the fence bordering the football field.

By Claire Lane and Lily Freeman

Students experienced unexpectedly lengthy wait times while picking up their second semester materials at Whitman this afternoon. At one point, the line of students, starting from the small gym, reached all the way down the front side of the fence bordering the football field.

The large number of students picking up English class supplies at the same time caused the delays, according to staff members managing the process. Every core English class except AP Language and Composition required students to collect materials.

Students waited up to 70 minutes outdoors to receive both textbooks and novels for their classes, including senior Cayla Joftus. 

“We realized we would have to wait in line but didn’t realize how long it would be until we started walking to the end,” Joftus said. “We considered just leaving and buying the books online several times.”

Throughout the afternoon, Assistant Principal Gregory Miller orchestrated efforts to address the issues, working with resource teachers and other administrators to identify the root cause of the backup.

“This is always a system that we’re trying to fine-tune and find the best practices for,” Miller said. “The staff did an amazing job, so we’re very fortunate.”

Upon recognizing the delays, staff members hastened the process, grabbing textbooks from inside the building and distributing them to students waiting in line. Despite expecting a lengthy wait upon arrival, juniors Helen and Carolyn Catan were in line for less than five minutes before business administrator Libby Hillard handed them their English 11 books, the two said.

Math resource teacher Jim Kuhn, who handed out Algebra 1 textbooks for the entirety of the distribution, described the event as “chaos.” There were no administrative errors that caused the lags; rather, it was a matter of adjusting to a materials pickup of this scale for the first time, Kuhn said.

“We’ve never done it this way before,” Kuhn said. “There were no systems in place to figure out how we’re going to do it.”

Despite the delays, the line petered out by 3:00 p.m., the planned end time for the distribution. Administrators and teachers, however, had been prepared to wait as long as necessary to distribute materials, several staff members said.

Today is sophomore Sadie Eisenberg’s birthday — but instead of spending her afternoon celebrating, Sadie found herself waiting in the pickup line from around 2:15 to 2:45 p.m with her sister Olivia, a senior. 

“I think the two-hour timeslot was a little too optimistic, considering almost every English class has to get stuff,” Olivia said. “They could have maybe spread it out more.”

Temperatures hovered around 40 degrees at Whitman this afternoon, making the wait all the more unpleasant for some. Many students were also concerned about the large number of people and lack of line spacing.

“I thought it was a drive-through pick up, so I was really confused when I saw I had to wait in line outside,” senior Sammy Albert said. “When I got to the small gym doors everyone was not social distancing, and it felt very unsafe. It was also very confusing, and people were just yelling or standing in the way.”

Administration, while admitting that today’s event was far from perfect, hopes to refine future material drives where this afternoon fell short, Miller said.

“We can always improve our practice,” he said. “Do I know what that is yet? No, but I think we got to a good place. We might have started off a little slow, but we got to a really good place toward the end.”