Carrboro High School had begun its 2021-2022 school year thisAugust as students and staff begin under full capacity. After spending the previous year in remote learning and hybrid scheduling under limited capacity, the students and staff at CHS share their thoughts on coming back to a somewhat normal school year after such a long time.
“[This is] different. This is the most unusual experience I’ve had in my 10 years of teaching,” Anthony Kajencki III, a Math teacher here at CHS, said.
It’s no surprise that returning to in-person learning takes time to get used to. When asked whether they preferred online or in-person, however, students favored the latter.
“Absolutely better than online. By an absolute mile,” Ryland Denson, a sophomore and student athlete on the CHS baseball team, said. “[Hybrid] felt like going to the online class… certain teachers would just stand at the board and talk in the exact same way they would online.”
The school has implemented many of the district-mandated protocols, such as mandated mask wearing, maintaining 3 feet distance, and recording seating charts for contact tracing.
Despite these rules in places, opinions on the mandates varied.
“I think it’s good that there’s so many in place but I think sometimes [the district administrators] are a little contradictory.” Alexandra Atkins, a freshman and student athlete for the CHS field hockey team, said.
According to students, social distancing isn’t seen in the hallways. Once again bringing up the contradicting factor of how contract tracing works.
“In the hallways you mix in with a lot of people you don’t even know.” Atkins said.
Despite the hallways proving problematic for distancing , some students were accepting of this fact.
“It’s not possible. When you have eight-hundred kids trying to get to class it’s not gonna happen.” Denson said.
Others were more open-minded about the subject.
“Overall, I think we’re doing a decent job. There’s always going to be things to improve on. Constant and never-ending improvement.” Kajencki said.
During lunch, students must not speak when eating with their masks off. This rule has been quite unpopular among students, though many have come to terms with it.
“Personally I would love to talk to my friends and all, but then again being safe is always better, so having those protocols is always good to have.” John Reyes, a sophomore, said.
Others thought differently–even going as far to point out the contrast of it all. Atkins spoke to us on the subject, sharing her honest thoughts.
“I think it’s contradictory that you’re not allowed to talk outside [for lunch] but you don’t [need to] wear a mask when you’re playing people from a completely different county at a sport. And they’re both outside so it kind of contradicts itself.”
When asked about whether or not students will return to hybrid or remote learning, opinions were mixed.
“As of right now, I don’t think so … I think our school’s vaccination rate is really good in terms of kids that have it, and I think everyone that doesn’t isn’t being conscious of the protocols.” Denson said.
Being a teacher, Kajencki shared his views from an instructor’s perspective.
“It’s not impossible but it’s not unlikely. Never say never. At least we know how to do hybrid learning but I don’t see us going that direction… I don’t think it’s conducive for proper learning.”
Kajencki went on to mention how the current circumstances have changed his usual ways of engaging with students.
“My proximity was a lot greater in the past, and I think I’ve maintained some distance… I was very big on handshakes.”
When asking students on whether or not masks will no longer be mandatory in the second semester, students weren’t so hopeful.
“It would be hard to integrate … it’s a risk that’s not necessary. It’s not going to kill you to wear a mask. It’s a small price to pay for the safety that it brings.” Denson said. “I don’t see masks going away for a while … a year plus until masks are completely off in schools.”
As for protocols that are held for sports, student athletes are required to verify their vaccination card or undergo COVID testing, if unvaccinated.
We asked Denson, who plays for the CHS baseball team, his thoughts concerning how protocols are being handled in sports.
“I think [practice] is being handled well enough to where we’re going be able to continue to practice, going to work out, especially outside. Our team specifically needs to get into the weight room and that’s something that the protocols are super strict on… in terms of indoor practicing that’s something that’s a lot more careful or need to be more careful about.”
At the time of writing, there have been only three reported COVID cases here at CHS. According to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools official COVID case tracker, Carrboro High has among the lowest COVID cases in the district.
Denson went on to acknowledge this, sharing his views on the school’s efforts.
“When you think about what [the school] are working towards, it’s a small price to pay right now to work back towards [having] audiences, shows, and games, and being able to be in school with no worries.”