Hybrid learning begins at a new GMHS

Sequoia Wyckoff and Sam Mostow

students walking for temperature check
As they enter the building, all students’ temperatures are taken as a COVID precaution. (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

On Tuesday, February 23, hybrid learning began at GMHS, and many students attended in-person classes for the first time since the initial shutdown due to COVID-19 on March 12. The second cohort of students followed starting on Thursday, February 25. 

Some students continue to attend their classes fully online, but will have the option to enter hybrid learning at the end of the third quarter. Many Special Populations students continue attending school on a hybrid schedule as they have been since after Winter Break. 

“Hybrid learning is an adjustment after being virtual all year but I definitely see it as an improvement,” junior Coral Rankin said. 

The transition to hybrid learning also brought many students into the new GMHS school building for the first time. Students adjusted to a new space, which includes many collaborative areas students can utilize during classes.

“The new school is really spacious and modern which I like,” Rankin said. “I didn’t have any problems finding my classes either!”

students in cafeteria
Seniors gather in the cafeteria for a class conversation. Booths and tables are labeled to show students where they can safely sit. (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

In person students are required to wear masks and keep appropriate distance from each other throughout the day. Desks and cafeteria tables are labeled to show where students can sit while maintaining six feet of distance. 

“I feel really safe,” senior Anuragi Thapliya said. “I think the administration has done a good job organizing the flow of students throughout the day.”

Some classes have more students in person on some days than can fit safely in a classroom, so some students attend class from the collaborative space.

For everyone, but especially students who opted for the full online option, hybrid learning is a drastic change due to schedule changes—classes were lengthened from 55 minutes to 84 minutes, Learning Support was shortened, and CCE was eliminated—and changes in how teachers conduct their classes to adapt to the presence of in person students.

students at desks
Students work in an in person class. All classrooms have microphones and cameras so students online can see teachers and classmates and participate in discussions. (Photo by Sequoia Wyckoff)

“I like the longer classes, but since I don’t have the breaks anymore, I’m just on my computer working from 8:00 to 3:00,” said senior Elisabeth Snyder, who opted to stay completely virtual. “It’s definitely a totally new schedule to adjust to.”

“In most of my classes, the hybrid aspect has been going really well,” she said. “I still feel like I’m included in the discussions and I’m able speak up when I need to…when we were virtual, people weren’t talking much, but now I get to hear everyone talking more.”

Snyder also noted the atmosphere at class became less tense and was able to recognize the positive effect that is having on her and other students, even though she is not in the room.

“When [math teacher] Mrs. O’Keefe makes jokes, you couldn’t hear people laughing when we were all virtual,” she said. “Now I’m listening in and people in class are laughing and I can laugh too.”

students stand in parking lot
Seniors Zoe Whittle, Sam Dykes, Sophia Urbom, and Rafaela Paquete stand with their parking spots last Sunday, a recreation of a GMHS tradition. The event was organized by Brittanie Werbel. (Photo courtesy of Umika Pathak)

To bring even more positivity to students’ hybrid experience, the PTSA and student leadership have made efforts to reimagine senior traditions in the past week. On Sunday, February 21, all seniors were invited to decorate parking spaces with chalk, a tradition that normally would have happened in early fall. This Tuesday and Thursday, seniors were invited to the school parking lot early to enjoy a senior breakfast, with sandwiches and warm beverages.

Seniors will also be given the opportunity to attend class on the days they are virtual from “senior hubs” in the building.

“We are on a really great path,” Superintendent Peter Noonan said in a community message on Friday. “Over the course of the next couple weeks we are going to be incorporating more students slowly in. Our seniors will be invited back to school…to do their online classes in the high school, hopefully in proximity to the classrooms where their teachers are currently teaching face to face.”