Mrs. Ricciardone’s journalism students worked cooperatively to research and write an editorial about the changes BHS has made to the school in order to meet all COVID-19 safety protocols. They also conducted a survey to see what changes students, faculty and staff would like to see remain post-COVID-19. 

Student writers include: Erin Lowenadler ‘21, Lucas Wells ‘21, Scott Davis ‘21, Destiny Beato ‘21, Nicholas Salvino ‘21, Zireal Lawlor ‘21, Ella Burns-DeMelo ‘23, Zander Lopez ‘23, Alejandro Chimbo ‘23, Christina Sangermano ‘21, Jessica Astrologo ‘21 and Tessa Barrows 21, Camily Vega ‘21

        Hybrid learning is no longer an option starting on March 15; students will either be in school all five days, or will be a complete distance learning student. There are mixed feelings about this change, but by this point, staff, faculty and students have shown they can easily adapt to wherever is thrown their way. 

     Last month, students and teachers of Bethel High School took a survey created by Mrs. Ricciardone’s journalism class to see what changes to the high school they would like to see stay the same post-COVID-19. A total of 138 students and 33 teachers filled out the form. The largest percentage of people wanted the block schedule and shorter duration of the school day ending at 1:08 to stay the same for the 2021-22 school year. 

     So many students and staff have grown to rather enjoy the block schedule that has been implemented to provide a COVID friendly environment, therefore, the administration has considered making this change permanent.

     The survey revealed that 88.8 percent of the students and teachers prefer the early release time, although only 67.1 percent like having four periods a day.

     The reactions to this schedule change vary. Some students love the thought of more free time after school and teachers are excited to get more prep time, but some people do not think it will be effective.

     Principal Chris Troetti claims that the results seem to encourage the block schedule.

     “It allows them more time to really structure certain things for classes whether it is organizing assignments or even preparing for a test. Splitting the class in half. A time for kids to collaborate when we’re together,” Troetti said.

     While teachers have time to prepare, students have the opportunity to receive extra help, get ready for athletics and collaborate with their peers.

     Some classes like mathematics, however, would be at a disadvantage because practicing a skill like calculus only twice a week in a classroom does not give the students maximum ability to efficiently show what they know.

     With the new schedule and fewer meeting times during the week, midterms became the administration’s primary focus. While there were no traditional midterms, many classes broke up days dedicated to tests, quizzes and essays while some continued on with different types of assignments.

     Many teachers and students are split on whether midterms should come back next year; 67.6% of students and staff would be happy to see them go. 

     “I would like to see midterms go back to how they were in prior years,” said Mrs. Warren, who believes that midterms are crucial for students to learn and grow through high school into college. “I personally think of midterms as good practice for longer tests such as college placement exams, the SATs/ACTs, AP exams, or tests for students going into the trades or the Armed Forces. I personally had classes in college where my grade was only made up of 3 or 4 tests and a final. Having midterms help students practice studying for bigger tests while they are in the comforts of high school.”

     The shortened schedule and early release time also led to a new lunch opportunity for students. Instead of a traditional “sit down” lunch, lunches were provided as a grab-and-go option to all students at no cost. 

     Ms. Amanda Riley, who has been curating food for the Bethel School system for 12 years, explained this year has been a challenge. Since March of last year, she has been preparing meals for the entire district. The school lunch program has received enough grants to keep it going through the 2021 school year. 

     Since the second semester has already begun, seniors at Bethel High are becoming highly focused on their last few months of school. They must keep their grades up, get their community service hours in and continue to enjoy themselves while following the COVID-19 regulations.

     Community service opportunities are hard enough for some students to find interest in normally and COVID-19 has only made it harder.

      Bethel High School has a 60-hour minimum community service hours requirement that students need in order to graduate. 

     “It was difficult to find some jobs I liked that were COVID-19 safe this year while also being something that did not take up an absurd amount of my time,” said Erin Meier ‘21. 

     To help students find more opportunities, Ms. Lerz reached out to faculty and staff and created a list of jobs and activities students could complete in order to earn some of their hours. On top of that, the School Administration and Counseling Department came to an executive decision to make the community service requirement 40 hours for all seniors who are still struggling to complete this ongoing task.

     Hopefully, the graduating seniors get their hours together and complete them soon because the class of 2021 is eagerly waiting to walk across the stage in June, which brings us to our next hot topic: graduation. 

     In a typical year, Bethel High would host graduation at Western Connecticut State University, however, due to social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions, graduation was hosted drive-in style on the BHS grounds last year and there has been talk of now having graduation right on our own football field.  

     A surprising 25.3 percent of students and teachers like this graduation style and would like to see it continue in the future.

     “We’ve been talking about bringing it back here for years and years and years. Last year was unforeseen, and challenging certainly, but to have it on this campus is going to be very special,” said Principal Troetti. 

     Of course, COVID-19 brought serious changes to the school environment and traditions. But all in all, many positive changes have come out of it and as a result may be here to stay, like wiping down desks and one way-hallways. 

     Hopefully, however, Zoom is not one of those things. 

     The aforementioned survey concluded that 78.6 percent of students said since introducing Zoom, their ability to retain information and stay focused has weakened. 

     “Personally I can’t focus when I’m on Zoom, I’m all over the place,” said Joseph Troetti 23’. 

     Along with regular Zoom meetings, teachers have attempted to combat a lack of communication between students by setting up breakout rooms and splitting up peers. Though seemingly like a good idea, students have expressed negative reviews. 64.3 percent of students surveyed scored breakout rooms a three or lower, stating that zoom meetings are awkward and not worth the trouble. 

     “A lot of kids go on mute and shut off their cameras, so you know they’re not as useful as teachers intend them to be,” said  Joseph Troetti ‘23. 

     Not only are the students having issues, but the teachers as well. 

     “Looking into someone’s eyes is part of, I feel, making a connection, and with Zoom, even if I can see them…it’s still not the same,” explained Mr. Fox.

     Teachers work double time in order to try and teach both in-person and online students. The unfamiliar territory has caused lessons to slow down, making teachers feel guilty for taking away class time and students feeling unprepared for quizzes and tests. 

     Faculty, students and staff will be happy to see Zoom become a thing of the past. 

     This school year, things are clearly “abnormal” when it comes to usual protocols and traditions.  

     High school sports and assemblies have not been able to operate as normal. Whether that means rules have been changed to avoid contact, or athletes are forced to wear masks, it is clear that high school sports have changed for the worse.

      “It sucks, we had to start the season practicing in groups of 10, we had about half as many games as we usually would have and there were no state tournaments,” said senior soccer captain Charlie Bruno. 

     Soccer isn’t the only sport that faced restrictions. High school football was changed from an 11 on 11 game with tackling and full contact, to a 7 on 7 version with the only contact being tagging the ball carrier as if it were backyard football. Football players were even promised a season of real football in February, however, the CIAC has removed that season from the calendar, leaving many athletes devastated. 

      Not only has the pandemic changed the lives of our students, but it’s altered our community. 

The pandemic has swept the world by storm and has forced many individuals into isolation. Some of these individuals live by themselves without anyone to talk to or hang out with, which has caused mass amounts of loneliness and mental health issues. 

75.7 percent of students who responded to the survey said they have lost friendships during the pandemic. 

According to The Foundation for Art and HealingHealth risks associated with loneliness and social isolation are comparable to the dangers of smoking and obesity, increasing mortality risk by up to 30 percent.”

While COVID-19 has negatively impacted the entire world, it shockingly has helped reduce carbon emissions. The US carbon emission went down by 21 percent compared to 2005 levels according to the Rhodium Group, an independent economics and policy research group. 

These emissions are only a short result of the pandemic and will have a high probability of returning to normal when society returns to its normal functions.

Many of those carbon emissions are from commuters or shoppers who are looking to get to where they need to at an incredibly fast speed. The main contributor as to why those emissions have gone down are the fact that people don’t want to go into stores with the new regulations and rules. 

While getting to stores and different locations has been helping the Earth, the amount of carbon isn’t the only thing that has changed.

Shopping has been massively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as many stores and restaurants have to follow specific regulations. Abbott Technical High School student Teddy Baca ‘23 has faced many of these challenges. 

“It’s very different, before no one had masks and you could see people, but now someone would greet you and you wouldn’t know who they are because of their mask,” said Baca. “Some stores have time limitations forcing you to shop for a short time to limit the people inside and you can’t go inside of some stores in a group when only one to two people per group are allowed.”

Many of those limitations have forced people to reconsider their actions and now rely on Amazon or other delivery services instead of venturing to the store.  

While many have decided on delivery services to get food nothing can beat the experience of going to your local restaurant or cafe. Unfortunately, many of those restaurants have had to close or either be limited in seating because of the pandemic but Puerto Vallarta in the Danbury area has a different solution, offering outside seating in personal heated “igloos”. Stores, restaurants and schools are doing their best to invent creative ways to make people feel comfortable in order to carry on with their everyday lives. 

That is what the BHS administration is hoping to accomplish, too, with the implementation of the rotating maroon and white days that will begin on March 15. More bodies in the building may make it more challenging to follow all COVID-19 protocols, but many feel it is time to slowly transition back into normalcy, or whatever the new normal will become.