SPHS students back in the classroom for the first time in over year

Story by Sofia Alva
Associate News Editor

Photo by Sophie Yeung
Staff Photographer

Around 250 students in Cohort B returned to in-person school at SPHS on Thursday, Apr. 15, after more than a year of distance learning. 

Students who made the decision to attend school in-person hope that the change in pace will benefit their mental health and education. 

“It felt good to come back to school after a whole year online and see my friends and teachers again,” junior Evelyn Dowd said. “I think I’m going to be more focused in class and my mental health will get better. I decided to come back because I was honestly tired of being in my room all day and I was having a hard time focusing at home.”

Upon entering campus each day, students are required to fill out a health screening stating that they are free of coronavirus symptoms and have not travelled out of L.A. County in the last 10 days. Specially hired staff members stationed at each of the five entrances ensured students maintained a six feet distance and verified their negative health screening. 

Classroom doors are to remain open throughout class and rooms are equipped with air filters to reduce risk of coronavirus transmission. Additionally, students are spaced out six feet apart at desks with masks on at all times. After every class period, students disinfect their seating areas and apply hand sanitizer. 

“Everything felt really safe,” Dowd said. “There was a maximum of eight people in all my classes and everyone was very spaced out and distanced.”

The hybrid model began on Monday, Apr. 12, introducing all-period Mondays and a block schedule for the rest of the week, with a 40 minute lunch after fifth or sixth period. Students have the choice to either remain in distanced learning for the rest of the year in Cohort C, or attend school in person two days per week. Students in Cohort A are on campus on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while those in Cohort B learn in-person on Thursdays and Fridays. 

Most teachers opted to have their at-home students on Zoom, with in-person students participating separately by discussing amongst themselves. Because of this, some educators felt as though their teaching and attention were detrimentally divided between the two groups. 

“Of course I enjoy seeing students in person, but I really think that this return to in-person school in a ‘hybrid’ arrangement, and all the headaches associated with it, could have easily been avoided,” Spanish teacher Joshua Whitney said. “Online learning is definitely inferior to having everyone in the classroom, and it is not perfect, but it is stable and seems to have its advantages over this ‘hybrid’ model.”

Whitney also expressed frustration with the amount of time spent dealing with technology rather than teaching.

“What we [teachers] want to be spending mental energy on is one: what we are actually teaching; and two: the contours of the classroom relationships which are so essential to openness and real learning,” Whitney said. “Technology may be fundamental, but it is not as significant as intellectual richness or good relationships. We are in a kind of ‘upside down’ situation right now where things that are less significant are dominating our attention to the detriment of what is most important about teaching and learning.”

Leading up to the return to school, SPHS administrators hosted in-person orientations for students on different days based on grade level and cohort. There, students learned the logistics of navigating campus safely, and had the opportunity to win prizes in a raffle. Cohort C students did not have an orientation and will receive their free school-spirited sweatpants at a later date. 

Many of the students in Cohort C had safety and health concerns about returning to school. However, because coronavirus vaccines have recently become more accessible to teenagers, many SPHS students have received them and feel more comfortable attending in-person school.

“Getting the vaccine felt like a giant weight being lifted off my shoulders,” junior Julia Shadmon said. “It was just another reason I felt safe enough to return to school and finish my junior year.”

Students in Cohort A will have their first day back on campus on Tuesday, Apr. 20.

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