TOWAMENCIN – Instead of the “normal way” of parents and guardians finding their way through the many pods of North Penn High School, a far different experience occurred on the 24th of September. Parents grabbed their phones and computers and entered Google Meets, with great concerns about the new learning environment and certain expectations that were properly met.
“[I miss] the personal interaction with all the teachers. Walking by and saying “Hi!” to all the teachers… chatting with friends,” Mr. and Mrs. Pyle said.
Many things just were not the same. Shaking hands and saying hello was not possible; communicating overall seemed less welcoming. Key Club and JROTC, groups that typically have a prominent role during Back to School Night, could not showcase themselves off.
Yet the night, while so different than most, embodied much of the same experience as one would have in-person. Parents joined the virtual meets with joyful faces, communicated with teachers, and were able to ask questions not only about class but their own virtual adventures. Simply put, the connection could be felt through the screen.
“It was very easy and well done,” Mrs. Kondisetty exclaimed. “The experience was very efficient, saved time… It also let us eat ice cream while ‘visiting’ each teacher.”
Kondisetty went on to say she would consider doing Back to School night online again, even when North Penn reopens. “We have busy lives, so it was really convenient,” she added.
“We didn’t try to find classes… we weren’t wandering around the school,” Mr. Pyle added, benefiting from the time saved as well. Many parents seemed to agree with him.
“Many (parents) loved the fact that they did not have to struggle to find parking, navigate crowded hallways, and worry about being late to classes if they got lost in this big building. Some have even asked if we could continue this model in the future even when it is safe for everyone to be in the building,” North Penn High School principal Pete Nicholson mentioned. “This is something we will have to talk about in the future.”
This overall impact of virtually attending Back To School Night (BTSN) was seen as very positive and efficient across the board for those who were able to “navigate” through the online “campus.” But all of this is due to the amazing people at the high school. The valiant effort put forth by NPHS’s faculty was certainly shown.
“Virtual BTSN definitely involved more coordination than typical. Teachers had to create a Google Meet session for the night and make sure, to the best of their ability, that they could let parents into the sessions during each teaching period. Before BTSN even happened, Mrs. Darde spent countless hours merging all of the Meet codes with each student’s individual schedules, and sent over 4700 emails to parents with the information they needed to access their student’s teachers,” Nicholson said.
Both parents and staff agree that the staff handled the situation well.
A primary concern, however, voiced by multiple parents and guardians, was the mental health of students. Many feared the students would struggle with school itself and additional mental health problems.
“If the last six months have taught us anything, it has taught us that the schools have responsibilities not only to the education of our students but also to our students’ social and emotional learning,” Sophomore Assistant Principal Matt Edwards told parents.
This year teachers will be adding lessons to help students cope with both aspects he mentioned and build better relationships, even through online learning.
“Each one of your students is important to us; each one of your children has a unique story that deserves to be shared and developed,” Mr. Edwards added, and that cannot be forgotten, especially today. The difficulty of our current school year may be discouraging at this time, but we can get through it better than ever.