The 2021-2022 school year reveals many new challenges, including what is the new normal for students at Avonworth High School? The past two years included months in a row of all virtual school as society adjusted to the threat of COVID-19.  The Avonworth School board elected to bring all students back to start the school year, adding a mandatory masking policy mid August due to substantial transmission rates in Allegheny County. Students are mostly happy to return to school but have many questions. Will freshman have a full year in their new school? Will sophomores experience a year similar to 10th graders before the pandemic? Will juniors have their first uninterrupted year in the high school? Can seniors experience the type of year they’ve hoped for since August 2018? 

Principal Dwuilt created signs welcoming students to the HS entrance for the first day.

With COVID transmissions remaining at the substantial level in August, over 500 students in grades 9-12 were welcomed back to the classrooms at Avonworth High School on Tuesday, August 24th, 2021. 

 

A view of Mr. Tuffiash’s Journalism 1 class Mod H during the first week of classes. Students pictured here contributed to the quotes, copy, and photos for this article.

 

The new school year included confusion for a number of students, especially about class schedules. “My schedule was wrong… that was surprising. For some reason, my Spanish overlapped with engineering in the same mod,” said freshman Jameson Cook.  Double-booked mods, classes in wrong times, and modules without classes at all are just a few of the issues the students have experienced over the last week.

 

 

A view of the collaboration center towards the end of the day, empty in part from the juniors and seniors who have early release after the lunch periods.

 

Similarly, the difference between lunch periods — lunches L1 and L3 — also left many confused. Students had trouble deciphering which period they were given. Some students even have alternating lunch periods depending on the day. “If it’s day one, I am L3; if it’s day two, I am L1,” said freshman Reed Reagan. This ultimately resulted in some students missing class or lunch over the first few days.

For students not just at Avonworth, but all over the world, this time of year usually brings many emotions. Worry and stress over new challenges and classes are often joined by excitement to see friends and favorite teachers again, but this year is special. After years of a global pandemic and unfamiliar schedules, the entire student body of Avonworth is finally back in school, and in person. Part of this group who is returning to school are those who chose to go virtual last year, as virtual instruction was done away with leading into this year. 

“After being virtual for a majority of my freshmen year, I’m looking forward to being back in person. I have had to readjust to the style of learning and just going through a traditional school day in general, but hopefully it feels normal again soon”, says sophomore Haley Dexter.

 

Mrs. James’s classes, one of which is pictured here, were able to work with the school Mac desktops instead of the adaptations during prior years where students often had to work with their Chromebook or another PC at home.

 

While it was nice to see those who were not able to be in person last year, the return of all four grades promptly at 8 AM was not without its own challenges. Early morning traffic on Josephs Lane and Grandview Drive has returned.

Traffic outside the building and on campus was just as bad as the seas of students that occupied the hallways. Huge lines of cars occupy the pickup/dropoff lane on the daily. In fact, the situation has become so bad that the school has resorted to using police officers and volunteers to help keep traffic moving.

In the realm of mass transportation for the school, busses have been arriving either too early, where they line up on the shoulder of Josephs Lane, or too late, which results in groups of tardy students. “My bus was 10 minutes late, and so I got my first tardy slip ever on my second day. Something should be changed.” said a sophomore who wished to remain anonymous. 

Construction work continues across from the high school at the start of the school year. District plans for this site include hundreds more parking spots and the potential for different traffic flow around the building.

Fall sports have been another noticeable change — towards normalcy — for many this year. Masks must be worn when entering and leaving activities, but unlike last year, they are not mandatory while athletes are actually competing.

And although this year is still different from years past, the athletes are looking to the positive side of things: “Overall, I’m just grateful to be playing” begins freshman Billy Onyshko, who is preparing for the upcoming soccer season. “I didn’t think that we would be here at this point, and just the chance to be out here enjoying my first high school sports experience is a gift in itself.”

REPORTING BY:  Journalism 1 (2021-2022): Ben Barnes, Eleanor Boggess, Christian Cooper, Clayton Dexter, Haley Dexter, Garrett Dziubek, Kayle Geouque, Jacob Hanny, Jayla Jones, Kelly Kashaba, Marshall McCall, Maya Nusskern, Gbemi Odebode, Noah Quinn, Jack Salsbury, Tyler Woodfill, Willow Wright and Jameson Cook.

Photos from Ben Barnes

Additional Editing from Matthew Purcell

A few regular scenes around campus: students gathered together closely outside, instead of social distancing / gym classes resumed similar to 2020-2021 – students were required to mask but activities were allowed in the gym / seniors were able to use lockers again and the seniors on the football team had their lockers decorated by cheerleaders to start the school year. Lockers were not available for student use for much of the 2020-2021 school year due to COVID restrictions.

     

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