By Ian Dunkley
HINESBURG, VT – A student walks off a big yellow bus and onto the Champlain Valley Union High School (CVU) campus for the first time. Like many before them, they have butterflies in their stomach, but can’t wait to start their new life in high school. The first day of school was August 26th, with students and teachers alike getting right back into the swing of things. To see how the community was feeling about the return, I spoke with several people about events that they would like to see return in the 2021-22 school year.
Original photo by Ian Dunkley
Donovan, a senior in Nichols core, told me, “Rally or the winter carnival.” Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, some students haven’t had the opportunity to attend large group events like these, and experience how fun they can be.
Jasmine is also a senior from Nichols. “I’m more like the person that wanted to see [...] the after school things like prom,” she said.
The next thought that Donovan and Jasmine shared was related to this year’s academic system compared to last year. Donovan described the courses as “a little harder” and attributed the increase in difficulty to the five in-person days per week we now have. Jasmine thought the opposite. ”I think they are easier because like, at least we’re not doing online learning, which was hard at least. [...] It’s easier because we got to see each other.”
One new change implemented this year is a program called Community, Clubs, Connect, better known as C3. To better understand the purpose of C3, I asked co-creator Zach Smith why he developed the program, “In part with Emily [Rinkema] here, a bunch of other faculty and staff, it was actually something that over the last few years was developed by a bunch of committees made up of a lot of different teachers and leaders at CVU. So it was about a two-year process to design it. And this is just our first year implementing it. [...] Our purpose, one, has been students have been remote or in some form of remote learning for the past two years, and a lot of students are missing out on those social connections and C3 is a great way to bring our focus in now not just like our staff, but our community. We really want to encourage those connections as much as possible this year, [...] our number one thing here is to engage students. And with clubs, in the past clubs have only met after or before school, so it was inequitable. So a big part of having C3 in the middle of the day, is all students can attend it, it’s time to either connect with the teacher find a new community or club that interests them, whereas in the past, it was only equitable to students who had a form of transportation or who didn’t have a job after school or siblings to take care of.”
Original photo by Ian Dunkley
The final person I spoke with was Jamie Hayes, CVU’s very own campus supervisor. I asked Jamie how she usually connects with the new, and returning students, especially after last year. She told me, “Honestly, it’s really hard, it’s a very difficult thing to do. We try to talk or I personally try to talk to people in the hallways, whether it’s like, hey how you doing today, or sometimes I’m like yo your shirt is awesome [...] It’s really hard getting to know ninth-graders and transfer students just because we don’t see them as often. I just try to talk to people every day and get people comfortable with seeing me and talking with me, and hopefully, eventually form a connection where they might come up and say hi.”
Finally, I asked Jamie how this year compares to last year. “I think it just feels more chaotic. [...] Yeah, it was too quiet last year. It’s just really really nice to see everyone together again and you see everyone you know, happy to see each other too.”