CLARK, NJ- The first day of school is the start of a whole new beginning each and every year. This year, the first day looked very different for the students of Arthur L. Johnson High School. From the incoming Freshman to the outgoing Seniors, they walked into the building with social distancing and masks on Tuesday, September 8.
This year, ALJ hosts in-person, remote and hybrid experiences. ALJ has morning and afternoon schedules to separate the number of students in the school and one way hallways to minimize congestion. In all, about 200 students opted for the full remote option, leaving roughly 250 students attending in each of the morning and afternoon program.
Tina Herron, a sophomore, sees both positives and negatives in her decision to go full remote. “I am enjoying remote learning. I would say it has changed a great deal since March,” said Herron, “We meet with our teachers every day, and we are a part of the class and participate so it's like being in the classroom. On the other hand, it is a little hard not being able to be in the classroom and seeing my classmates, but it is going well.” Regarding teachers wearing masks Herron said, “Sometimes it is hard to hear the teachers because of them moving around and having to wear masks but it still works.”
To improve contact with remote learners and provide options, teachers received a stand-alone camera which allows for split screens while teaching the class. Several teachers mentioned that the microphone on the camera is excellent.
In-person students had some thoughts to share about the half-day sessions. Senior Matthew Hartzler, a morning student, said “It is very different. I think what the school is doing is good to keep everyone safe and the environment clean, the A.M. schedule is also something to adjust to as we are not used to ending school at 10:30.” He went on to say, “I also feel like the fact that we haven’t been in school for six months makes it a little tougher to adjust to these changes.”
Senior Tori Venezio, a PM student, said, “I think that the afternoon session is nice because I could sleep a bit later than I usually could, and I get a start on my homework earlier. Even if I have any assessments it’s great because I have extra time to refresh myself on the information the morning of.” So which one is better? It seems both AM and PM have benefits.
Sports will also have big differences this year. Senior Joe Greenbush said, “I am very excited for this upcoming football season, I am grateful that we are getting the opportunity to have a season this year even though we are only playing six games.” Greenbush continued, “Practice is a little weird due to COVID-19. For example, we have to go to practice with a mask and get our temperatures taken before we are allowed on the field, we also have to be socially distant the entire time.” As a senior, he is happy he has a chance to play one last time.
Some questions still remain for the remainder of the school year. Will the school continue to be split in a.m. and p.m. sessions? Will one-way hallways work? Will the entire school year be this way? Will there be pep rallies or football games this upcoming year? All of this being said, most students and teachers believe that school is going better than originally expected.
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