The fall quarters of hybrid schooling and a “new normal” didn’t sit well with students of Maryville High School anymore than college students enduring the same reality. Students at MHS are eager to be back, and even with a foggy spring ahead, staff at the high school are hopeful to build upon last semester’s success.
Now back to five days of in-person school a week with social distancing and face coverings required, Principal Thom Alvarez said he doesn’t want to focus on the ‘what could be,’ but rather remain content with what is possible now.
“I’m hoping we can continue to add more things back that add to the high school experience, but of course our first and foremost priority is keeping all the kids safe,” Alvarez said.
Playing a tough hand in a pandemic world, students at MHS were successful in several avenues despite the hybrid model of learning in the fall.
MHS enjoyed one of its most successful falls ever in regards to athletics, with a volleyball state championship, the football team playing in the state championship, the cross country team finishing third in state and several other successes.
Building on that, trends showed that grades remained steady at MHS with no major dips. This holds true nationwide as well, with tangible learning gains actually reported by high schools throughout the pandemic.
Alvarez commended students, teachers and other colleagues for the work to make learning as smooth and accessible as possible in the fall.
“The kids and teachers battled really hard first semester to maintain what they are used to doing, and if anything, I think this next semester will be even more successful,” Alvarez said.
With the option of in-person school this semester, the number of people choosing to do online only schooling has significantly decreased. Most chose to be in classrooms for five days a week, returning an energy back into the hallways that were previously suppressed by the circumstances.
“I feel like a lot of people who tried (online schooling) first semester felt it was best for them to be in person,” Alvarez said, then paused before continuing, as if thinking back to the less-full hallways that haunted thousands of educators in the fall.
“Our push is always that we want kids in the seats and working with our teachers daily,” Alvarez said.
This district-wide approach, combined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updating its guidelines on quarantining, helped fuel the Maryville Board of Education’s decision to return to a five-day school week.
Students deemed close contacts can remain in school as long as they wear masks and social distance. This provision is much like a declaration that came out of the Nodaway County Commission in September 2020, which allows close-contact teachers to remain teaching in person.
Like students, those teachers must meet three criteria: wear a face covering on campus, be symptom free and follow social distancing guidelines.
An area that sees a particular challenge with certain mitigation strategies is high school activities. And while sports are continuing at the high school level with guidelines from individual conferences in the Missouri State High School Athletics Association, some activities are provided with less guidance.
Alyssa Pace, an MHS junior plays the flute for the Spoofhound Marching Band. Much like the Bearcat Marching Band, masks with small holes cut in them were worn when playing, and social distancing was implemented.
Also like the BMB, challenges arose that had to be adapted to, and in-person performances became limited.
“It’s tough. We can’t have real performances; they have to be recorded,” Pace said.
Pace was one of the majority of students who returned to five days a week in person when the option arose. The most challenging part of the fall for her was keeping up with multiple assignments in every class each day with an online platform.
Anna Miller, an MHS senior also returned to a full week of classes, participates in Spectrum, the MHS show choir. She said the transition was tough, going from a full week to three days and a hybrid model in the fall. But after a while she became used to having five days worth of learning in two days.
“I am looking forward to more face-to-face learning because that is how I learn best,” Miller said. “Hopefully now we can watch some of the upcoming sports games and that students will get to go to more school events.”
“I don’t know; that probably won’t happen, but I’m hoping,” Miller said.