Back to School… In May


May 3, 2021, marked the beginning of hybrid learning for high school students in AAPS. The long-awaited return to school has come and gone, and now the students are simply living it. From the moment that students walked through the doors of CHS for the first time in over a year, they knew school was going to be different. 

 The school is divided into two groups: Cohort 1, composed of students with the last names starting with A-K, comes to school on Monday and Tuesday while Cohort 2 comes to school for the first time that week on Thursday. Along with these two cohorts, there is a third group: students who choose to stay solely virtual, leaving even fewer returning students. 

For Margaret Alpern, a CHS sophomore, being in class with a limited number of students feels uncomfortable. There is always some sort of awkward silence that fills the room while the teacher is trying to include the students on zoom and get them to talk. For teachers, it’s a constant juggling act to engage with the students on the screen while there are students sitting right in front of them. 

Alpern misses the little things that CHS students were previously allowed to do during school, like leaving class early or walking downtown with friends to get lunch.

“We used to be able to just hang out in the hallways and go across the street to Kerrytown to get food, but now it’s a three-hour-long day for two days a week,” Alpern said. 

On Thursdays and Fridays, when Alpern is on the other side of the screen, big group discussions are challenging for her because she often can’t hear the students speaking that are in the classroom — leaving the zoom kids stranded. It can be intimidating to unmute knowing that your voice will be projected through the overhead speakers for the entire class to hear; it’s exposing. 

Bella Stevens, a CHS sophomore, has been reminiscing on the old days at CHS. Stevens remembers being able to leave class when she finished work and spending time in the afternoon with her forum. For Stevens, forum was a mental health break during the long school day. She was able to reset and socialize; talk to people, have fun and play games. 

“We don’t get the fun Community moments we used to have,” Stevens said. “The moments where we could have the flexibility to go off topic a couple of times and talk about silly things or get 5-minute breaks where we could walk around and go to Kerrytown to get candy and drinks or go on the swings for fun.”

Like many of her peers, CHS junior, Ariana Levin also found that the return to in-person learning presented difficult adjustments and changes. Levin’s first block science class felt empty with only a few students in person, and the rest completely remote or in the other cohort.

“Two years ago, the last thing I expected was there to be three people in my classroom all wearing masks and half the class on zoom,” Levin said. “It’s crazy.”

While in-person learning has raised academic concerns, many families are more concerned with COVID-19 safety. CHS has numerous protocols in place to keep students socially distanced, but it will take some adjusting. 

“I’ll forget that I’m wearing a mask and can’t take a drink from my water bottle,” Levin said. “It’s normal and totally not normal at the same time.”

Despite the challenges of this hybrid plan, Levin’s learning experience has improved significantly. A global pandemic will never be normal, but Levin has found a new normal in returning to in-person at CHS.  

“I need to come back, I need to learn in person,” Levin said. “It’s really important for everyone to be able to come back because it’s super hard to learn and comprehend information online.”

After being completely remote for over a year now, students are slowly starting to return to in-person learning. Some students have found this transition to be awkward or simply not worth it. Some families have COVID-19 safety concerns or have found online school to be a better fit during this time. Others are excited to be back in person and have opportunities to interact with peers and teachers directly. Despite varying perspectives and experiences, everyone is working together to make this transition as seamless and safe as possible.