Rising Freshmen: Fears for an Uncertain School Year

Words: Sasha Allen

Last June, prior to the 2019-20 school year, I wrote an article about the worries and expectations of rising freshmen and matched their fears with words of encouragement and advice from current freshmen. In my interviews with these students, I found they were eagerly awaiting the new school year, each indicating mixed emotions of excitement tinged by a slight edge of anxiety, not knowing what to expect from such a new experience. 

A lot has changed since then, and these otherwise major stressors from only a year ago are almost obsolete now. This school year has been unpredictable, and I can safely assume that nobody expected that we would be trying to live through a pandemic instead of dealing with some typical friend group drama or that stubborn teacher who refuses to round that 89.4% to an 89.5%. Distance learning brings an unfamiliar array of problems, ranging from connectivity issues to failed submissions. However, the unpredictability doesn’t stop at this school year, especially not for the class of 2024.  

The upcoming class has already been deprived of their last year of middle school, and the prospect of missing parts of their first year in high school is disappointing for students. Lexa Millen, a rising freshman, is concerned about missing out on high school events.

“I am worried that some of the things I was looking forward to, such as homecoming, may not happen or will be very different,” said Millen. 

Despite the uncertainty of the nature of this transition, whether school is online, in person, or a combination, the typical changes in a students life still stand true. There are new people, new teachers, and new opportunities. Millen is still optimistic, even though she is not completely sure what lies ahead.

“I am looking forward to having more freedom, more opportunities, and meeting new people,” expressed Millen. “I [just] hope that things won’t change too much so I can still have a semi-normal high school experience.”

However, not all students have been totally thrown off by online schooling. Anurag Sodhi, another rising freshman, says that, at least for this year, the change in speed has helped him prepare. “In a sense, COVID-19 has actually relieved some stress from my high school transition,” Sodhi stated. “Being at home with less school work has allowed me to focus more on moving to high school and such.”

Like many students, Sodhi has had to bring down his expectations for the school year. Original hopes of joining new clubs and participating in afterschool activities have been forgotten, at least for the foreseeable future. 

“Three months ago, I would have said I was looking forward to all the new clubs and activities at high school that weren’t at middle school,” explained Sodhi. “However, at this point, I am just looking forward to the school experience, so to speak.”

Millen was also hoping to meet new classmates through school activities, but she realizes that there is almost no possibility of having a completely conventional school year. 

“What will become normal for my class might be very different from other years,” recognized Millen.

However, some normalicies still stand. The students will still be taking high school classes with new classmates, subjects, and possibly a different workload. Sodhi is hoping to treat the transition as he would in a normal situation.

“In some senses, high school isn’t too different from middle school. Obviously, it’s one step closer to college, but transition from middle school to high school isn’t as big as the jump from elementary school to middle school,” said Sodhi. “So, like I did from 5th to 6th grade, I’m hoping to just keep an open mind and try to fit in as best as possible to the new environment.”

For now, both of the students are just looking forward to their return to the classroom. These past three months without classroom interaction have been difficult, and they, like most students, are hoping for a semblance of a normal freshman year. 

I reached out to the Howard County Public School System regarding learning structure for next year and was directed to their website with a list of possible systems. HCPSS will be basing the system for next year off of the surveys that were sent to both students and parents as well as the infection rate at the time of school reopening. The options include a fully online model, a hybrid model of both in school classes and online classes, and a fully in school model with the appropriate precautions taken. Similarly, the county is working to address possible curriculum changes, fall sports, transportation, before and after care, and food distribution. These tentative plans can be viewed at hcpss.me


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