Nevada County middle schoolers, high school underclassmen unsure what to expect next year
As the academic year comes to an end, students who will stay in local schools next year are experiencing an unusual transition as communities come together for modified celebrations and plans for the fall remain uncertain.
“What I hear most from students is that it’s difficult not knowing what the transition into high school will look like, and whether their freshman year will involve distance learning or not,” said Amy Cimino, an English Language Arts teacher at Chicago Park School.
Cimino said that one of the missed experiences the school’s 25 graduating eighth graders are missing the most is the opportunity to see their friends and cheer them on at a promotion ceremony. She added that supporting students as they process their emotions during this time has been a learning experience.
“There’s so much talk about how we can connect digitally, but it’s been so important to remember the emotional needs of the students,” said Cimino. “There’s the content concern, but there’s also just making sure that the students are OK.”
Chicago Park held a modified promotion ceremony for the eighth graders on Tuesday, in which each student and their family was invited to come to the school during an assigned time slot and be recognized for their achievement. Parents and teachers collaborated in decorating the front of the school, where teachers presented awards and gave short speeches about each student during their visit.
“Middle schoolers depend so much on that relationship with their teacher, so not being in the classroom day after day can be hard on them,” said Union Hill School principal Joe Limov.
“Teachers have done a phenomenal job of communicating, but having the connection severed a bit because of distance learning has still been hard on the kids,” he added.
At Union Hill, students have felt the absence of their usual end-of-year activities, including field trips, assemblies, and a traditional eighth-grade promotion ceremony.
In an effort to bridge the distance formed by the loss of those activities, Limov and other faculty members sent a video to the school’s families in which they said a farewell and expressed how much they miss their students.
On Friday, Union Hill will also be hosting a drive-thru graduation, in which students and their families will get the opportunity to reminisce on their time at the school, greeting each teacher chronologically by grade level as they pass.
“We’re making sure it’s going to be special for the kids, but it’s definitely not going to be the same,” said Limov.
For Union Hill eighth graders, the vast majority of whom go on to attend Nevada Union High School, high school registration was arranged in early March, giving students a small certainty to look forward to for the fall, he added.
Cindy Henry Grimm, head counselor at Bear River High School, said that distance learning methods have had a varied effect on students, with some continuing with the same motivation as always and others beginning to need additional support.
“With COVID-19, I think it’s been a learning experience, and part of that is good,” said Henry Grimm. “It’s showed students that things aren’t always going to remain static and we have to prepare for that, which is an important lesson to be learning.”
Nevada Union High School principal Kelly Rhoden said that one of the biggest struggles for students of every grade level has been the feeling of lost experiences.
“Freshmen, sophomores, and juniors were feeling that loss of the last few months of school alongside the seniors, although I think in their mind they do have more coming,” said Rhoden.
According to Rhoden, some Nevada Union students who had struggled in traditional classrooms flourished academically during distance learning. For others, it has been difficult not having the structure of going to school every day and connecting with their teachers and peers in the same way.
Rhoden shared that administrators and student families are now focusing their conversations on how best to approach instructional options for the upcoming school year. Four different plans, from a continuation of full distance learning to a complete return to in-person instruction, have been formed and will be held in consideration until health guidelines are available to guide the decision.
Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.
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