End of the year sparks mixed feelings

Transition from online school back to campus affects all grades differently


Daphne So

Hundreds of students walk through the quad like they have for a full year since the COVID-19 pandemic quarantine.

Parwaan Virk, Staff Writer

With the last day of school coming next Thursday, many students have mixed emotions about the end of this unusual school year.

Compared to last year, the end-of-year vibes have changed. With the highly encouraged masking and social distancing protocols this year, most students haven’t had the normal high school experience.

Several seniors’ departure from Cal High feels bittersweet, said senior Mallory Rieth, because the surge of COVID-19 defined these students’ high school years.

“Before the pandemic, my high school experience felt pretty standard,” Rieth said. “When the pandemic started, it never occurred to me how big it would be.”

Rieth recalled her sophomore year in the spring of 2020 when her teachers gave up on teaching during the confusion with the end of the school year that wound up online. Her first AP test was online, unlike previous years. 

“Now that my AP tests are over this year, it hit me that I was finally leaving Cal High,” Rieth said. “It feels bittersweet, leaving my community. It feels like [I am] ending a chapter in my life.”

Juniors had different feelings because they never experienced a full year on campus. Junior Praneeta Agrawal said that when she found out there would be online classes at the beginning of the quarantine her freshman year, she felt like it was an early summer break.

“The ‘break’ kept increasing,” Agrawal said. “I started to miss school because it was more fun talking in-person, and I am an extrovert.”

English 9 teacher Devon Manning agrees that shifting online was difficult. She said when  quarantine started, she felt sad because she didn’t get to say goodbye to her students.

“It was scary, because [I] didn’t know if [my students] were feeling OK,” Manning said. “Last year wasn’t so hard though.”

Agrawal said that since classes were pass or fail due to online learning in spring of 2020, she didn’t focus much during classes. Many teachers taught with pre-recorded videos. Her sophomore year was more difficult with most of the year online, and she said she had a harder time understanding topics and taking tests. 

“Now, in-person classes are better to understand,” Agrawal said. “I’m learning a lot more this year than last year online.”

Agrawal, who is on the  varsity tennis team, said that during freshman year the tennis season was cut short because of quarantine.

“I lost stamina because I didn’t practice,” Agrawal said. “Sophomore season got cut off. Then in junior year, I had to practice more.”

All students participating in sports before and after online learning have faced challenges when trying to practice because many were not able to get out of their houses as much during the quarantine.

Sophomores and freshmen have arrived the latest out of the student body, with this year being their first physical year on campus for many. Sophomores had their first year of high school online last year unless they returned briefly in the spring of 2021. Many freshmen see this as a regular school year with a new campus and a variety of different courses.

Freshmen say they are relieved and somewhat surprised by the length and amount of workload their first year of high school has given them.

“The transition from virtual to in-person learning has seemed to have made this year fly by so fast,” freshman Sabir Seth said. “I think that’s partly to do with the length of the school year and the business of our schedules.”

Students and teachers are not the only ones experiencing these “vibes”. Principal Megan Keefer said administrators are exhausted as well.

“This year has been a lot more chaotic,” Keefer said. “And far more emotional than in many years past.” 

Keefer said the entire admin team except assistant principal Catie Hawkins had never had a full year on campus until this year. 

“We never had a normal ball, normal prom, or normal graduation, just so many things this year took us by surprise,” Keefer said. “Parents, not necessarily having gone through that cycle, their confusion, [and] high anxiety, and [it’s] just more chaotic.”

Keefer said she thinks it’s going to be years before educators really understand the impact of the pandemic and the effects of students learning online from home for more than a school year.

There have also been speed bumps while getting the school back on track toward having a regular learning experience. 

“There have been incredible amounts of tardiness and student misbehavior,” Keefer said.  “I have spent a lot more time on student behavioral stuff, even though I would like to work more on fun things.”