A student stares at themself wearing a mask in the mirror, practicing smiling with their eyes. They grab their backpack for the first time in over a year, then run out the door.
SCHS freshmen returned to campus for in-person distance learning on Tuesday, March 30, and all other grades came back on Tuesday, April 6. According to the April 2 Bruin Country Principal’s Update, approximately 150 freshmen and 300 sophomores, juniors and seniors chose to return to campus. For freshman Noah Barlahan, being back in person was not what he originally expected.
“I feel like in-person learning is not as bad as I thought it would be,” Barlahan said. “I am still trying to get into the groove and adapt to the new learning environment.”
Some students are remembering the atmosphere of school pre-pandemic and noticing significant changes. Once-crowded hallways are now far less busy during the 10 minute passing periods.
“When the world was normal, I used to always dread going to school some days, but now I wake up excited to learn and see my friends,” junior Sophia Rodriguez said. “(Being) in person has allowed me to get back on track with my learning and stay focused, and has allowed me to socialize with others way more than just talking to my dog.”
Senior Sierra Blackhurst agrees that new opportunities for interaction between peers on campus creates a beneficial learning environment.
“It’s nice being able to interact and catch up with other students and teachers, and just being able to hear people talk in the room with me is something that I have found really helps me in my engagement and overall mood,” Blackhurst said.
Hybrid learning is not without its downsides, however, as Tuesday-Friday classes have been shortened to 70 minute periods and lunch has been pushed back to 12:20 p.m.
“One thing that significantly changed was the eating policy. I was so used to just eating in class; however, that is not allowed anymore,” Barlahan said. “In addition, our lunch was pushed back from what I am used to, so I can find myself feeling very hungry in the class before lunch.”
Barlahan also said that the schedule is more fixed for those on campus than those at home.
“If the class is dismissed, you must stay in the class, while virtual learners can just log out of the meeting and do whatever,” Barlahan said.
With less than a quarter of SCHS’s student population opting in for hybrid learning, the campus is far emptier than during a normal year.
“I wish more people would’ve liked to come back as well as being able to have full spirit days and school activities like full football games,” Rodriguez said.
Despite the negatives, the overall experience of being back in person has been positive for many.
“It feels more comfortable to answer questions and ask for help,” Barlahan said. “I like the change in scenery. When doing distance learning, I am in the same place every day, which can feel boring and tiring.”
Along with the positives of a traditional school environment, freshman Megann Dittman said being back affects her participation in a positive manner.
“It’s very hard for me to talk in class. It just builds up so much anxiety I usually chicken out of presenting or talking in meets,” Dittman said. “Being back in person has taken a lot of stress off my back. I definitely feel way more relaxed now.”
With the reduction of stress that comes with being back at school, Blackhurst pointed out the success of the safety precautions on campus.
“I can say that I have felt very safe at school,” Blackhurst said. “The one-way hallway setup, the sanitizing and, of course, the mask policy has rid me of all my doubts about my safety and the safety of those around me.”
Despite the many pros and cons of hybrid learning, many students do feel that the current process is overall positive and hope to see more normalcy next school year.
“With the way things are going and how more and more people are being vaccinated every day, I am optimistic that next school year will feel a little closer to normal,” Blackhurst said. “Even the way things are now, it feels exponentially more like school should feel.”