Last Saturday brought a moment of reflection for faculty members at Cheshire High School. It had been exactly one year since the school had been shut down due to COVID-19 and classes were run remotely for the rest of the school year.
“It is pretty surreal,” stated English teacher Donna Carbone. “I think we all felt that we would close for two weeks and then come back to school, but we ended up working from home from that point on. It is crazy to think that it has been a year already.”
While CHS has made changes to keep people safe this year, students, faculty, and administrators are thankful to have had the school remain open since last September.
“I think we have worked to put ourselves in a different situation than last year,” said Principal Mary Gadd. “I can’t be prouder of our state and the town of Cheshire.”
For the 2020-21 academic year, CHS is using a hybrid model in which students attend in-person classes two days a week in two cohorts. Wednesday serves as a remote learning day.
Parents/guardians can also request that students participate in fully remote learning.
“I’m happy that we have been able to stay in school,” stated Gadd. “It is a gift to offer the full experience to these students.”
Carbone feels that it has been remarkable to have had the school open all year.
“I anticipated us beginning in the hybrid model and then thought that we would go to remote in the winter,” reflected Carbone. “I think staying in school has been great for the kids. I believe that it has helped in keeping people from being isolated.”
Like at all schools in the state, CHS students, faculty members, and administrators are required to wear masks in the building.
“From my point of view, I think my students have been fantastic with wearing masks,” said Carbone. “We also get mask breaks where we can take the kids outside. It is good to get that breath of fresh air during the day.”
To maintain social distancing, lunches have been moved from the cafeteria to the East Gym. There are hand sanitizers in all classrooms and offices, as well.
“I think we are doing a good job at the high school. Our classrooms are not that big, but the kids are extremely responsive,” said Carbone. “The students sanitize their space before they leave my classroom. I don’t have to ask them to do it anymore because it is part of their routine.”
During the year, some members of the school community have tested positive for COVID-19, but Gadd feels that safety guidelines have been put in place to keep everyone safe in the school.
“The health protocols have worked very well,” said Gadd. “We have a big high school, so there is room for everyone to have social distancing.”
For athletics, Cheshire has been able to have all of their teams practice and/or compete with safety protocols during the fall and winter seasons. Spring programs are scheduled to start practice on March 27.
“Our athletes and coaches are thankful to have the opportunity to get together and compete,” said Athletic Director Steve Trifone. “We have put protocols in place to keep people safe.”
For the music department, concerts have been run virtually instead of as live events.
As advisors for the National Honor Society, Carbone and Social Studies teacher Holly Skrzyniarz also helped set up a virtual induction ceremony on Oct. 21 of last year.
“We did a live stream for parents and took pictures outside,” reflected Carbone.
Gadd additionally cited the Mock Trial Club as an example of a group adapting to the pandemic. On Jan. 29, the students adjudicated a mock murder case.
While the event looked different than in the past, Gadd felt that the 26 students worked incredibly hard to prepare and practice each week.
“Their enthusiasm and excitement was contagious even in Google Meets and Zoom Meets,” stated Gadd.
Other clubs have volunteered within the community. On Dec. 17-19, Cheshire Peer Health Educators and the National Honor Society joined with Link Crew, Peer Advocates, Cheshire Food Pantry Club, Young Republicans, Young Democrats, and the Student Senate to run a food drive for the Cheshire Community Food Pantry.
CHS sports teams assisted with loading up the donated items.
Since Halloween trick-or-treating was curtailed due to the pandemic last year, the CHS Best Buddies Club planned a Spooktacular event on Oct. 24 to allow families to drive through the school parking lot and get candy. On Dec. 20, the club followed up with a Driving Through a Winter Wonderland event during which children could get food, play with crafts, and have photos taken with Santa Claus.
While being safe, Gadd hopes to hold as many activities as possible this year, including graduation.
“It is very important to give a traditional ceremony for our graduating seniors,” said Gadd.