PCHS students adjust to school during the pandemic
Park Record intern
It’s been about two months since Park City High School has returned to school.
This year, PCHS students had the option of choosing how they wanted to learn due to the coronavirus pandemic. Students could opt to come back in-person, attend class remotely or take a hybrid approach by taking some classes in person and others online. Students had to make this decision before the start of the year and can continue to reevaluate it every quarter.
With three types of learning at the high school, students have had vastly different experiences, making this school year unlike any that came before it.
The majority of students at PCHS chose to return to in-person class after the district and the school worked hard to prepare an environment that would facilitate in-person learning. Among those students is senior and Student Body President Cooper Strople, who is thankful for the experience of coming back to his classes.
Strople said his decision went beyond academics.
“I thought to be a good student leader, I would actually have to be with most of the student body,” Strople said.
He added that he is grateful for the school’s response to the pandemic, which has allowed him and other in-person students to learn in an environment similar to what they’re used to.
“I just would say thank you because I don’t think students really realize how hard it was for the (administration) and the district office … trying to figure out a safe way for all of us to come back to school,” he said.
Senior Ryan Zink is also a part of the student council. Zink and Strople said that the student council at PCHS has been working tirelessly to provide as normal of a high school experience as possible.
“We’re trying to make it so that us seniors do have that ‘Congratulations! You’ve gone through 12 years of school!’ We don’t want to just cut you off and make it terrible,” Zink said.
Zink chose to return to school in person because he struggled with online learning during the last quarter of the 2019-20 school year.
“I really struggled last spring because I could barely pay attention to a teacher in front of me, let alone a teacher in front of me on a computer screen,” Zink said.
Zink has not had a difficult time adjusting to the changes this school year. Constant mask-wearing is a phenomenon new to everyone in 2020, and the school has also added demarcated sides of hallways, social distancing signs on what used to be announcement boards, plexiglass desk barriers, and incessant hand and surface sanitizing.
Students and faculty seem to be taking social distancing and other COVID precautions seriously, Zink said. The students who chose to return in person know the importance of ensuring the school remains open so they don’t have to return to the online format introduced last spring. Sophomore Mariely Salamanca, for one, said she prefers being surrounded by an environment designed for learning.
“I was really upset and felt really isolated during quarantine,” Salamanca said, “then I just really missed having people around me even … so I decided to go to school.”
Salamanca also said that while safety is crucial for her, as she takes care of her grandmother and other children at home, it’s also important for her to continue receiving her education. For that reason, she appreciates the safety precautions, even if they are occasionally tedious.
Hybrid students, meanwhile, are experiencing both of the two learning styles PCHS is offering this year. Even if the curriculum is supposed to stay constant between in-person and remote learning, students using the hybrid model say it’s hard not to notice the differences.
Sophomore Calla Troxel chose the hybrid route due to the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic. After lots of communication with the school, Troxel coordinated a schedule that balanced classes offered at PCHS and an online school.
“It’s nice and just really relaxing but it’s also real school,” said Troxel of balancing online and in-person school. “It’s a good education. But then I get excited to go to school the next day because I had a break, but the next day I get to see everybody.”
Junior Noam Levinsky chose the hybrid route after determining which classes had safety measures he was comfortable with and which did not.
“I thought that there were mixed results going on with distancing and mask wearing at the high school,” he said. “So I made the choice to my classes that were effectively distanced and had better mask wearing practices. I went in person for those and for my classes that weren’t as safe I opted to go online.”
Many students opted to utilize the full-remote option rather than splitting time between learning online and in person.
Senior Harrison Keating chose to learn remotely for safety reasons.
“I don’t want to be in a building where some care (about adhering to safety measures) and some don’t because the ones who don’t care will make it dangerous for everyone else,” Keating said.
Senior Lance Rothchild made a similar decision, though he said learning remotely has not always been easy. He said there has sometimes been a lack of communication from teachers and that remote learning requires students to be more proactive.
“I think the support that exists for in-person (learning) doesn’t exist online,” he said, adding that the difference in formats “creates a dynamic where students who are online have less of a network and … more of an emphasis on individual work ethic.”
“The whole remote program seems a little like an afterthought,” Rothchild said. “… I am having to be accommodated instead of the classes just being built for both. And I think it’s stretching the teachers a little too thin.”
In general, PCHS students understand that nothing about this school year is like any year before it. Many are still coming to terms with their own “new normal.” But they are pleased to be learning, regardless of the changes.
“I wouldn’t have pictured this at all,” said junior Emily Bronstein, reflecting on her first weeks of at school. “But considering the circumstances, Park City is doing a really good job making it as normal as they can.”
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There was a common theme in every address delivered during the Park City High School Class of 2021 graduation ceremony Thursday: gratitude.