Schedule change: USJ staff discusses latest adjustments to in-person

Bre Mennenoh and Aila MonLouis

Bre Mennenoh: Okay, so I think I speak for all of Creek students when I say that this year sucked. The inconsistency of scheduling and lack of overall class time was detrimental to mental health in the midst of worldwide chaos. Having a set plan for the rest of the year, for me, would bring a sense of consistency and organization to my life that I’ve personally been needing.

Aila MonLouis: I agree, this school year was not what I expected as a freshman. This was not the experience I was planning for but it definitely was something I will not forget. This year has been challenging for us all, and I believe that jumping straight into full in-school learning will be extremely scary for both students and staff.

BM: I completely understand. I can’t even imagine what it was like having this type of introduction into a huge school in the middle of a pandemic (of all things). However, I believe that jumping into a full in person learning environment will be healthier for students to finally be able to adapt to a full-on, “Creek experience” of sorts. Absolutely nothing could have prepared anyone for this past year and the year ahead, but we’ve grown up learning to process and retain information over the course of a full week, in a full classroom.
With that being said, I think five days a week would be a lot easier for students. Creek admin has been “leading into” the multitudes of hybrid schedules since the beginning of the year and we continuously never seem to be close enough. It just feels never-ending and honestly really trapping. A close friend of mine, Kiaya Mauldin, who’s in the Limon school district, describes it that way too and prefers her four-day school week. “I’m more of a social person, and I really didn’t enjoy being alone, trapped in my room, when we went online,” she said. “In-person is a lot easier for me to learn and stay focussed. With online, I felt pretty disorganized and I was just so lonely.” Mental health is so important these days, especially among high school students, and I feel like it’s vital for the school to cater to those needs before it’s too late.

AM: Not to mention, a full week of school and having to turn in homework every day is going to be challenging. Many students in cohort A are not doing as well as the students in cohort B simply because we have remote synchronous learning on Mondays and the next day, cohort A needs the homework they were just handed to be done in a little less than 24 hours, while group B students have 48 hours to complete their work. This may just be me but looking at the number of students in Creek, the number of total students and incoming workload feels overwhelming, especially for the teachers and the limited time for planning they may get. If we really are going fully in-person sometime in spring, I think we need a period of time as to where we are steadily getting into, or back into the significant mass of students and feel a sense of familiarity.
If this was the administration’s way of slowly leading us back into a five-day in-person learning environment, I think it is failing us. With the eight different schedule changes in the past seven to eight months, this school year has been extremely difficult and I know I would not do well with five days a week so soon. It’s frustrating to have to adapt to all these learning models and then hear about a possible new one. I agree we will have to get back into the normal school schedule prior to the pandemic, but the two days in school is not preparing us for it. We are learning only about 60 percent of the curriculum this year, what about the other 40 percent?

BM: Yeah, I think that the way that the district has been handling the whole adjustment thing has been so unnecessarily complicated. But at the same time, I feel like we’ve already wasted so much time in the process trying to figure out how to go about the whole, “phasing into” stages. There needs to either be a set plan, and soon, or we should just jump right in because it’s personally so exhausting, like you said, trying to constantly adapt to all the different learning models. I know it’s worked well for a lot of the other districts in Colorado so it’d be nice to just give it a try?
Take the Littleton public school district, for example: their students were given the choice between in person school for 2-3 days a week and or opting out of school. “I think having the choice in the first place is really cool,” Joshua Federico, a Junior at Heritage High told me. “I personally decided to have the in-person experience. It’s easier for me to learn that way, and as much as I don’t like school, it’s nice to have some type of normalcy still. I can’t wait for going fully in person.”

AM: I do agree we should give it a try but like you said, what’s the set plan? I would like to give it a try but the idea of it is just so scary. I know I am not the only one feeling like this either. Vivianne Hartford, a junior at Littleton Public Schools, told me this: “I chose online because I felt it was overall safer and also because it seemed like less mental strain than going to school in real life. The online program goes at more my own pace, which is why I prefer it.”
To add to that thought, the school should observe the shift in cases, similar to what the district did in November of 2020. Creek should also list out possible scenarios and prepare for what is to come. If we do go fully in-person, looking into the trend in grades and mental health can tell us a lot about if these hybrid models have prepared us for full in person learning. Through this, they can plan their next steps. Sooner or later, we will have to get back into the normal experience but right now, it is very unclear to us.
BM: I like the idea of more structure, that’s something that everyone needs right now for sure. What I’ve noticed as well was the fact that there seems to be differing opinions depending on the courses students are taking. I know for a lot of upperclassmen students, this is a year that they’ve purposefully been loading on AP and IB classes to help their GPA and relying on ACT and SAT scores for college.
Like I said, the school system, in general, has trained us to work best in a traditional five-day-a-week learning environment so it seems only natural to feel especially unprepared for these important academic aspects of high school, nonetheless in the middle of a pandemic. Having actual class time and test preparation would really help ease tension for a lot of students and teachers.

AM: That leads to the topic of vaccines. Many teachers at Creek have received their vaccines, but few students have. Though cases have gone down, there is still a chance of students and faculty catching COVID with everyone crowding the campus. There have also been new strains of COVID-19 lingering on the west and east coasts; people may travel to those areas and catch it. Junior Ethan Kress said this in a recent interview about safety concerns on campus: “I hate how we have handled in-person learning because no one really cares about or enforces the masks…I see way too many people with exposed noses, chin diapers, and some without a mask at all, instead choosing to wear a smug look on their face. It makes me irrationally angry, I have no clue why it bothers me so much,” he said. “I really hope teachers and staff decide to actually start enforcing rules. I want fewer days in school because of this.”
Students haven’t stopped hanging out with friends, and with spring sports and after-school activities like prom, people will be even more at risk. The likelihood of people quarantining is low and generally speaking after spring break seems too soon to return to school.

BM: I am also very apprehensive about people quarantining, or rather, the lack of quarantining. I have one concern with this though. Because as important as young people staying safe and quarantining is, COVID cases, especially in young people, have been on the decline. We’re seeing fewer and fewer outbreaks in schools now so I personally think it’s fair to say that going back to school, at least at this point in time, would be smart. We need to take advantage of the fall if that makes sense.

Ultimately though, whatever the district decides to go through for the rest of the school year should hopefully be in the interests of students’ safety. Getting a handle on this pandemic should be a top priority no matter what and administrators should keep that in mind. It’s been a hard adjustment for all but, hopefully, through utilizing the correct preventative measures, we can begin to return to a state of normalcy and consistency for the rest of the 2020-2021 school year.