Freshman students during COVID-19 pandemic get virtual welcome into VHHS


Photo courtesy of Ethan Espina

Tyler Espina, (9), works on an assignment in his living room during the first month of the 2020 school year.

As the 2020 school year begins, the class of 2024 is starting out high school over their Zoom cameras. Their whole transition into high school has been different from any other class that has come into VHHS before. 

Kai Bek and other freshmen have been affected by the lack of in-person learning and teachers have noticed these issues as well. 

“In middle school, I was going into the school meeting my teachers in real life and seeing the classrooms, but now due to COVID-19, I obviously didn’t have that same experience,” said Kai Bek (9). 

Mr. Brettner, a freshman math teacher, explains how creating connections with students over Zoom has been increasingly difficult.

“I’m entering kids one at a time on Zoom and I’m trying to say hi to all these kids as they come in. Sometimes it’s nice and I get a couple of words in, but sometimes I just don’t get any because there’s mass flooding at the waiting room door,” Brettner said. 

He also mentioned how student-teacher connections are essential to the transition into high school. When students feel more comfortable with a teacher, they are more willing to speak up with questions or concerns about material. According to Brettner, most students barely turn on their mics during the period. 

Similarly, Ms. Sullivan – who teaches freshman PE –  has stated similar concerns stemmed from e-learning. Sullivan sends out SEL (Social and Emotional Learning Surveys) to connect with her students and offer support. Additionally, she plays general get to know you and review games for her students and encourages them to get off mute.

Freshman year is an important time for building high school relationships among students. Teachers like Ms. Sullivan are now using a new method to get students to socialize; breakout rooms. 

“[Teachers]  like to use [them] as get to know you [methods], but usually not many people answer. [They] just stay on mute,” said Tyler Espina (9). 

Another popular way to make friends with shared interests in high school is through extracurriculars. In sports like golf, masks are required, but athletes still get a chance to socialize with the team. Other clubs and activities haven’t had a chance to meet in person, so they host meetings over Zoom. 

“I would rather join clubs in person, although online does have some benefits,” Kai Bek said (9). “I’m shy [and] I don’t like talking a lot, so I can just sit on mute online and talk once in a while.” 

While he showed us the silver lining, he still does believe, “joining clubs in person is always better because you can do more activities and have a more fun club experience.” 

This transition has proven to be difficult for the freshman class. However, Brettner and Sullivan, among other teachers, are currently working on more ways to get students connected with their peers, teachers and the school. 

Victoria Urso and Chantal Korde contributed to this article.