A Day in the Life of a Blended Student

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Art/Photo by Samantha Takeda

Students returned to West High’s campus for the first time in months as COVID restrictions were loosened in Los Angeles County. Hallways decorated with posters and signs remind students to wear a mask and socially-distance. Blended student Gaby Nieraeth (10) notes how “staircases only go one direction…when walking around campus, some pathways point a certain way, so I had to find alternate paths to get to my classes.”

Lauren Ng, Staff Writer

On March 25th and 26th, West High welcomed back about 70% of its student body – one year since the last 2:57 dismissal bell. But what are the new changes to campus and classroom life, and what remains the same? A few of West’s Blended students give a step-by-step walkthrough of their first on-campus school days of the year.

The Ground Rules

   The establishment of clear guidelines and adherence to them by students, faculty, and staff are essential for in-person learning to continue. Before walking through the school gates, students complete the COVID-19 screener on their phones; receiving a green screen allows the student to enter campus. Blended student Gaby Nieraeth (10) explained, “I filled out my green screen in the car on the way over and had to show it to a security guard in order to get on campus.” Xianthelle Agustin (9) added that the symptom checker “doesn’t take long to complete… and it’s nice filling out something to have self-care checks.” Additionally, West’s drumline greeted students with a triumphant welcome as they walked into school.

   Upon arrival to class, there are sanitation procedures to abide by: We had to frequently sanitize our desks and keep our hands clean. Teachers would stand at the door and hand out wipes to the students as they walked in to clean their desks with,” Nieraeth described.

   Outside of the classroom, there are methods to regulate campus traffic: “The first thing I noticed [was] all the arrows pointing in all different directions, telling us where to go, and which stairs can be going up, which stairs can be going down,” Sidney Hinks (10) recounted.

Filling out the COVID symptom checker, students wait in line for approval to enter campus. This is one of several new safety protocols students must follow every morning. Photo by Sullivan Kolakowski

Morning Preparation

   With new rules to follow and new places to attend, some students allotted extra time for their first day. “I got to school kind of early because I wanted to make sure that I could get in and have enough time,” Hinks said. Nieraeth, who is ASB’s Sophomore Historian, arrived bright and early at 7:30 to fill West’s quads with class color-themed decor. “ASB members from all classes spent time hanging up streamers, balloons, and signs welcoming students back to school. We finished right on time, just as the gates opened for students,” she shared.

   But for freshmen like Agustin, last week marked their first time ever stepping foot onto West High soil. She recalled how she felt the morning of her first in-person day of high school: “I felt super nervous at first but I got to meet some of my classmates… they were all super friendly, which already made me feel comfortable at school.”

In the Classroom

   While some classes consist solely of Blended learners, others have a combination of in-person and at-home students. Nieraeth explained that for her hybrid classes, most teachers taught concurrently: Blended students sat in the classroom, while the Distance learners attended simultaneously on an online meeting. “My teachers would have the Zoom students presented on the big screen in front of the class so that the in- person students could see them, but the Zoom students couldn’t see all of us,” she described.  

   Although this may create somewhat of a divide between students, those in the classroom are still able to experience some of the in-person benefits. Yuna Chung (12) expressed that she “felt at ease knowing that I had the opportunity to ask questions without the attention of the entire class.” Teachers also took advantage of the interactive aspect of classroom learning. During Hinks’s third period, she worked with other classmates to complete activities: “We had group work, which meant the virtual students met in breakout rooms and the physical students broke into small groups.”

Time to Eat: Social and Safe

   Lunch presents a plethora of opportunities to interact with others, while simultaneously necessitating social-distancing and other safety measures. During her first lunch at West High, Agustin was “walking around with… two friends on campus just to explore the school a little more.” 

   On her second day at school, Hinks briefly waited for a free lunch provided by the school’s red carts. Along with two other friends, she spent her lunch at an outdoor table in Café 5. Each table is limited to three eaters each, while indoor dining is currently closed. 

   To ensure the safety of students, lunch is monitored by faculty: “After a little bit of time, a security guard began making rounds at all the tables and made everyone scoot so that they were at least three feet apart from each other,” Nieraeth recalled.

   As the school year continues, regular activities may begin to shape into a real routine. Nevertheless, several aspects of school life remain absent: “As a Senior, I am disappointed that I have missed out on many events and milestones only high school students can experience,” Chung admitted. But some of the little details prevail: eagerly watching the clock tick down to lunchtime, waiting with friends for a teacher’s door to open, lugging a heavy backpack all the way up to the third floor of Building 3. For Chung and her fellow Seniors, the start of on-campus learning precedes the end of their high school road: “I’m just grateful that I can see a few of my friends before we go on our separate ways.”