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Welcome Class of 2023

As I entered the doors closest to my room near the auditorium, my attention turned to the area right above the doors to a banner that read Welcome Class of 2023.

Perspectives

When I arrived at Emmaus High School on Friday, May 22, 2020, to do my final room clean up for the year, the day should have felt entirely different. Normally, this suburban high school located just outside of Allentown, Pennsylvania would have approximately 2,800 students bustling through the hallways creating an atmosphere that seems to only exist within the walls of a high school.

It was 10:40 a.m.

Most students should have been in class or hustling to beat the bell. They would be engaging in activities of exploration and inquiry, attempting to learn new skills. Other students would have been going through the large common locker area towards buses that would take them to our neighboring technical high school. Another group of students would be heading toward the auditorium for a study hall. It is a scene that is mirrored countless times in schools just like this around the world.

Students in their 9th grade science class are surveying a mock crime scene in order to learn the skills of observation. This is the type of activity that can’t be replicated through the distance learning environment.
Students in their 9th grade science class are surveying a mock crime scene in order to learn the skills of observation. This is the type of activity that can’t be replicated through the distance learning environment.

As I entered the doors closest to my room near the auditorium, my attention turned to the area right above the doors to a banner that read Welcome Class of 2023. It had been there since August 2019 and there would be no way that when fresh-faced students were learning their way through the halls of their new school that they could have predicted that their freshmen year would have ended this way.

The Friday before Memorial Day is usually one filled with anticipation. Seniors are celebrating the culmination of four years of hard work leading to graduation. Underclassmen are finishing up final units of the year, preparing for final exams, and trying to maintain focus as the temperatures go up. The staff is trying to keep everyone on track, while thinking about the joys of the upcoming summer break.

But on May 22, 2020, it was eerily quiet.

There were only two cars in the parking lot closest to the auditorium. There were no signs of the normal movement in the hallways. It was so quiet you could hear the sounds of a train in the distance.

The quiet hallway of Emmaus High School, a sight usually unseen during a normal school day.
The quiet hallway of Emmaus High School, a sight usually unseen during a normal school day.

On a “normal” day, it would never be that quiet.

But as we know, not much in the world of education is normal these days.

Welcome Class of 2023

It was like walking into a time capsule on Friday, May 22.

From the window of the 9th grade office, to the whiteboards visible through the classroom windows, it was like Emmaus High School was frozen in time at the end of that last day, Thursday, March 12.

Reminders of “Today is Day 1, March 12, 2020” remained unerased and unchanged on displays throughout the school two months later.

The next day, according to those notes left behind on the board, was supposed to be Friday, the 13th. School for students was not scheduled. On that day, teachers began planning for what we thought was a potential 2-week shutdown. There was little thought to plan for what has happened since. We have Meet-ed, Zoom-ed, Classroom-ed, and Puzzle-ed for months. But in the building, it was still March 12.

The Guidance Department’s March calendar of career speakers was still on the wall. Bins outside of classrooms collecting soap and other items were untouched. Posters on lockers celebrating sports accomplishments and band performances were still hanging.

The February edition of school newspaper, The Stinger,  sat in the newsbox. Amazingly, the front-page picture featured a student wearing a protective mask, not to prevent against Coronavirus, but to guard against Whooping Cough, which had seen several cases during the winter months at EHS.

Welcome Back Class of 2023

During the week of June 8, Emmaus High School welcomed the Class of 2023 all over again.

But this time, students only had the chance to pick up items left behind and return all of their books. There was no chance to greet friends with high fives or hugs in the hallway. Hopefully, they still remembered how to get to their locker, without being confused as they were during those first days in August. It has been quite the first year at Emmaus High School for our freshman class.

A year they will not soon forget.

Hopefully, the students of Emmaus High School and all schools all around the world can return to the normalcy of community events like Friday night football games.
Hopefully, the students of Emmaus High School and all schools all around the world can return to the normalcy of community events like Friday night football games.

Chris will be entering his 15th year as a Special Education teacher during 2020-2021 school year, no matter where that learning will take place. He hosts the 9th Grade Experience, a weekly podcast that shares the stories of students and educators discussing the all-important transition year to high school. He is married with three children and lives in Macungie, Pennsylvania.

: sites.google.com/eastpennsd.org/9thgradeexperience/home

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