The freshmen experience: remote versus in-person

By Phuong Lam, Hawkeye Staff

The 2020-2021 school year started off different from previous years. Instead of waiting at a bus stop before the sun was even up, students waited for their teachers to let them into their first Zoom class of the day from the comfort of their own homes.

In the summer of 2020, the Edmonds School District deemed it unsafe for students to return to school due to the coronavirus, and as the virus continues to spread, the return to school this year seems unimaginable. Although classes didn’t start in-person, hundreds of students, including the incoming class of freshmen, had their first day of school on Sept. 9.

It’s been over a year since MTHS welcomed the class of 2023 to their grounds. This year, MTHS welcomed the class of 2024, but this time, virtually. In September 2019, students passed through the front doors of the school, freshmen filled with confusion and the anxiety that comes along with starting a new adventure in high school. None of those students could have ever guessed that in March of 2020, school as they knew it would change forever and all sorts of issues would arise. The whole world would be shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, toilet paper would  fly off the shelves, stock markets would  crash, wildfires would spread, the 2020 presidential election would occur and  millions of people would lose their jobs. 

The following months were far from serene. What started as a 2-week break soon became an online learning experience for the remainder of the school year. Over time, the pandemic has affected different people in various ways, with everything from their mental health to their physical health. Not being able to see friends or family to prevent the spread of COVID, social distancing, wearing masks and many more changes came unexpectedly fast.

The summer before freshman year should be spent hanging out with friends, buying school supplies, attending orientation and preparing for the new chapter of life that is high school. Instead, students were under lockdown, with no in-person greeting or orientation for freshmen and regular summertime activities were limited if not impossible.

COVID has mostly worn me down in terms of not really having as much of a desire to do as many things as before like going swimming or hanging out with friends. It’s mostly just disappointing,”  Freshman Arian Motaghedi said.

There was no welcoming assembly or homecoming week for the 2024 freshmen to build spirit, unlike the class of 2023 and other past classes. 

Sophomore Laraine Sims shared how important the social aspect of high school was as a freshman.

One aspect of freshman year that I enjoyed was the social interaction. Even if I didn’t have classes with my friends, I would still see them at school and I could talk to them,” she said. “Now, I have almost no in-person social interaction and I definitely miss that.”

Every day, around 7 a.m., students flooded in from the buses, their parents’ cars and the streets. The hub was filled with kids scrambling to finish their assignments or eating their breakfast before school began and the halls were filled with chattering students getting in a last conversation as they moved from one class to the next. All of a sudden, these experiences and daily routines were shattered and ultimately forgotten as Zoom classes took over.   

Now that Sims has experienced both online and in-person education, she thinks, “online school is less effective because learning is more challenging.”

She finds that when she has to watch a video or read a passage online, she tends to get distracted and zone out more often.

“I also find that I’m just going through the motions and completing the assignments instead of actually learning the material,” Sims said. “When it’s in-person, most of the time the learning is interactive in some way which helps me actually learn and remember the information.”

For freshman Arian Motaghedi, online school just doesn’t feel right.

“I don’t enjoy it or look forward to socializing or learning as much as I did for real school,” Motaghedi said. ”I looked forward to kind of knowing that I’d moved into another chapter of my life with high school, knowing that there would  be a lot of changes happening within these four years.” 

The class of 2024 has yet to meet their classmates and teachers in-person. Unlike most school years, this year didn’t begin with a welcoming assembly, with students flooding the stands and gym dressed in their spirit colors. This year, students aren’t worried about getting lost while trying to figure out their new schedules. Instead, they are more concerned with the stability of their internet connections during Zoom classes. 

I thought that my first day would be stressful because I knew it would be much different from last spring. Since I wasn’t required to do Zoom much last year, I didn’t really know what to expect, and I thought that it would be more challenging to get used to,” Freshman Mika Raring said. “This year, it feels like I’m constantly struggling to keep up with my homework, which might just be my time management skills, but I’ve noticed it much more during quarantine.” 

Although the start of the school year has been different for the class of 2024, one thing remains the same. Freshman must adapt to big changes, and the MTHS community is there to support them virtually.