Students return to in-person school

In a traditional school setting, seniors gather in the courtyard for lunch and wear senior crowns to symbolize their last year at Grady. Due to the 2020-2021 school year being entirely online so far, Grady seniors have missed out on classic senior activities.

Courtesy of Grady's Facebook

In a traditional school setting, seniors gather in the courtyard for lunch and wear senior crowns to symbolize their last year at Grady. Due to the 2020-2021 school year being entirely online so far, Grady seniors have missed out on classic senior activities. “We can still do something in a small group, but it would never be the same as if it was a real school year,” senior Shawn Gillespy said.

Jamie Marlowe

Senior Shawn Gillespy never imagined that her final year of high school would be spent entirely at home, on Zoom.

“I always thought years before senior year, [about] all the traditions that Grady has for the seniors, like senior sunrise, pep rallies, football games …” Gillespy said. “It’s the little things, but things that are memories. It’s my last high school year, and I never knew that my last day would end March 13th of junior year.”

Starting on Feb. 16, Grady plans to reopen for in-person classes; however, Gillespy has decided to continue taking her classes virtually. She isn’t the only senior making this decision, as only 37 12th graders will return in-person.

“This whole year, I’ve wanted to go back in the building and see my friends and teachers and everything, but we kind of decided it’s not going to be the same, whatsoever,” Gillespy said. “It won’t be like normal school. I also don’t think that APS (Atlanta Public Schools) or Grady can make it as safe as possible.”

Atlanta Public Schools had plans to open multiple times throughout this school year, but Covid cases reached the red zone, and plans were drawn back. Because of this, students haven’t been back in-person since March of 2020. According to Assistant Principal Willie Vincent, there is a total of 215 students across all four grades returning in-person. The junior class has only 34 students returning in-person, with the lowest return numbers compared to the rest of Grady’s grade levels.

There are many safety protocols in place to keep staff and students as safe as possible for an in-person return. For example, class sizes will be small, and students will remain on Zoom with headsets inside the classroom. Additionally, while social distancing, students will eat their lunches at scheduled times in classrooms in silence and must wear masks at all times when they aren’t eating.

“I feel like the teaching won’t be any different than it already is online,” Gillespy said. “It doesn’t sound like the high school experience that I would want as my last year.”

Sophomore Leo Huyghe has mixed feelings about the implications of online school.

“I think online school has affected me positively because I have the ability to use online resources to help me learn class material better, meaning my grades are better than they were during school,” said Huyghe. “I think online school has impacted me negatively because I can’t talk to my friends as much, and I can’t really get the full impact of in-person school.”

Sixty-one sophomores are to return in-person next week. Huyghe considered returning to school for in-person classes, but ultimately decided to remain in the virtual school setting.

“I was actually going to go back in-person until a couple weeks ago when they released the rules,” Huyghe said. “I thought that going back would make classes a little bit easier because I thought I could talk more directly to the teacher if I was having trouble, and I thought I could also talk to my friends more openly.”

As long as school isn’t looking traditional in the way it did pre-coronavirus, Huyghe thinks that going back to school isn’t worth it and that Feb. 16 is too soon of a date for reopening.

“I don’t want to go back to school unless the Covid numbers decrease exponentially,” Huyghe said. “While Covid is still incredibly active, we will have rules that keep us safe and school won’t be the same. I think that rules are definitely a good thing; I just think that going to school with them in place isn’t worth it.”

Freshman Franki Palmer is one of 83 freshmen who have opted to return to in-person learning, mainly due to a need for structured schooling. The freshman class has the highest return numbers compared to the rest of Grady’s grade levels; most likely because they are unfamiliar with an in-person high school setting, and wanting to familiarize themselves with Grady.

“For me, I think being in the classroom will help me learn more and actually pay attention to the class because at home I have too many distractions,” Palmer said. “If I’m at school, I’ll be more focused. I am a little scared, though, because of the virus, but I also want to get my education and get it right.”
Palmer says that in-person school is more convenient for her to attend sports practices after school. Although she didn’t know about the rules for students going back in the school building until she submitted her choice, she plans to stick to her decision.

“I feel like I’m not actually learning, and I’m just trying to pass the classes [online],” Palmer said. “We will be required to wear masks, eat lunch in the class, and social distance. I heard that we can’t hang around with other students before or after school.”

Palmer has been disappointed with her first year of high school having been almost entirely online.
“For my first year of high school, I just expected a typical freshman year,” Palmer said. “I would never have thought that it would be online, though. I don’t feel like I’m at a new school at all because we started school just how we ended it, which was online. I didn’t even go school supply shopping.”

Freshman Meyer Mackler says that his returning to school in-person was a decision made by his mother.

“I’ve been in my house for a long time, and we think it’s time to get back into the groove of things,” Mackler said.

Ultimately, students will make the choice that best suits them and their families. Whether or not students return in-person will be based on students’ individual needs. Students will have another option to return to in-person school, next quarter, starting Mar. 22.

“I’m going to try to see how it is, and if I don’t like it, I’m just going to stay home,” Palmer said.

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