Early morning on Aug. 4, freshman Maria Payne felt the first day of school nerves surfacing. After a year and a half of virtual school, Payne stepped out of isolation and into a real high school. Following several twists and turns to find her classes, she finally made it to first period.
“It was so scary. I was crying in the car,” Payne said “I definitely had trouble finding my classes.”
Freshmen aren’t the only ones feeling unsure. Despite Cedar Shoals’ efforts to integrate students, the virtual school odyssey left incoming freshmen less familiar with high school, and sophomores feeling lost in an environment that should feel familiar.
“Now this year it’s like a slap in the face because we’re actually doing stuff,” sophomore Mia McDonald said.
Teachers have felt the same confusion throughout the pandemic since March of 2020, when online learning went into effect.
“It’s very sad to me that there are students in this building that I taught that I would not know who they are if they walked up to me,” 10th grade literature teacher Alicia Harvey said.
The experience has not all been negative. Sophomore Laura Santiago found positives in virtual school. She thinks it gave students a better sense of independence, possibly better preparing them for high school.
“Virtual learning gave people more time to actually search things out instead of always asking the teacher,” Santiago said.
The isolation of online school was remedied by Cedar Shoals’ open house on Aug. 2.
“It was neat to meet my students this year, but there were a lot of my former students who came because it’s like we didn’t really get to build relationships with kids last year,” Harvey said. “I think it was helpful especially for people who had never been in the building before.”
Though the event helped students gain a sense of familiarity, some students expressed frustration after the first day of school.
“It (finding classes) was not good the first few days,” McDonald said. “I feel like a freshman, I genuinely do.”