At NPHS, one year from normal

NPHS Principal Mr. Pete Nicholson reflects back on March 12, 2020 when everyday routines as we knew them came to a screeching halt.

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Knight Crier

Students admire the sunrise from 3rd floor Kpod at NPHS on March 11, 2020 – the last day of normalcy in 2020.

“Good afternoon North Penn High School, this is Mr. Nicholson, please pardon this interruption. I know you all have concerns regarding the health and well-being of our school community due to the recent Covid-19 outbreak. While I do not have an announcement regarding the status of school for tomorrow, at this time I would recommend that everyone take any resources you need with you when you leave for the day today. Please make sure you take any chromebooks, laptops, chargers, textbooks, or work with you when you leave this afternoon. Again, while I do not have a specific update, out of an abundance of caution I would recommend that everyone takes what is needed at then end of the day today. Thank You.”

This is the announcement that North Penn High School Principal Mr. Pete Nicholson gave during 8th period on March 12th, 2020. Little did anyone know what exactly the following year would entail.

March 12th is a day that will live on with Nicholson for the rest of his life. He was anticipating the fact that school would be closed for a couple of weeks, but did not imagine the world coming to what it is today. Nicholson thought that everyone would be back in the building far sooner than they were.

That is a day I think I will remember forever at this point.”

— Mr. Pete Nicholson, NPHS Principal

“That is a day I think I will remember forever at this point. My first reaction when I was given the heads up and asked to make the announcement, I think in my mind, I knew that something would eventually come, obviously we had seen Covid-19 was spreading, and that it was becoming somewhat prevalent in Montgomery County,” Nicholson said. “In my mind I thought I was making an announcement saying that we would be back in a couple weeks or a month. Long before we got students in the building in November to some extent, and obviously we are still dealing with this a year later.”

Although he knew that something was possible, there was still a shock factor when Nicholson found out the school was going to be going virtual for 2 weeks, let alone the rest of the school year. He could never have believed that he would be thinking about Covid-19 one year later.

“It was a bit of a shock to here that we were going to be closed for 2 weeks at that point, but in my mind, never did I think that a year later I would be reflecting on it, and we are still not fully back in-person, and we would be wearing masks all the time. That never crossed my mind,” Nicholson stated.

In fact, Nicholson didn’t believe that we would even have to wear masks when we were back in the school buildings. He knew that some people had masks on them but it wasn’t until mandates and restrictions came out that Nicholson even owned one.

“I don’t know that I thought the mask thing would be a thing. I think when we first closed down on March 12th, there wasn’t a whole lot known about Covid-19, and we weren’t wearing masks in school. There were a couple folks that were, but I didn’t have any masks at my disposal, so I didn’t really think at all about that until a week or 2 later when we started hearing that people should be wearing masks and new guidelines and new mandates rolled out,” Nicholson explained.

Nicholson feels like this year has felt both really long and extremely fast all at the same time. In some ways he feels that the year has gone by at the snap of a finger, and in some ways the year has felt like it has been dragging on forever.

“In some ways there’s no way it feels like it’s been a year, and in some ways it feels like it’s been so much longer. Dealing with all of the changes and all of the pieces of last year, I am sitting at my desk where I made the announcements to all of the students. In many ways, it feels like it was yesterday, but in many ways it also feels like the longest year of my life, and I’m sure that is echoed by students, staff, and everybody involved in everything over the last year,” Nicholson stated.

One of the biggest concerns for Nicholson heading into the shutdown was exactly how they planned to educate students and make sure they were all picking up the subjects that were being taught. He knew that the face-to-face interaction can tell you exactly how someone is feeling about something, and this was taken away.

“My biggest concern was how we were going to educate kids for the duration of the closure. How we were gonna make sure all of us were doing ok, whether it be teachers, staff, administrators, or students. There is a lot to be said for face-to-face interaction. When we went 100% virtual, we were asynchronous, there was really no connection there, so it was hard to know what people were going through,” Nicholson said.

My biggest concern was how we were going to educate kids for the duration of the closure. How we were gonna make sure all of us were doing ok, whether it be teachers, staff, administrators, or students.”

— Mr. Pete Nicholson, Principal NPHS

Nicholson also had to prepare to handle the fear of the unknown. Everyone had to figure out what the rest of the school year was going to look like ,and then ultimately what the rest of the summer was going to look like.

“Just not knowing what the rest of the school year would look like, then morphing into not knowing what the summer would look like, and this school year would look like, I would definitely say the fear of the unknown was the number 1,” Nicholson explained.

When school shut down to go all virtual, no one had any idea what we were stepping into. Nicholson provided the advice to teachers to just do the best you can with these circumstances. No one had ever been in these situations so just to the best you can with the hand you have been dealt.

“My advice from the get go was fairly consistent. We are going to do the best possible job with the hand we’ve been dealt, and we are going to continue to do what we do and try and support our students.” Nicholson said. “We, on March 13th, went into an absolutely unknown space. So I don’t know that any of us knew what to expect.”

Nicholson always tried to keep his mood positive and energetic, but then everyone realized that this wasn’t going to go perfectly as everyone may have hoped. Nicholson reminded teachers that no one chose to be here, so they were going to just have to adapt and improve every day.

“I was trying to be upbeat and encourage teachers to do what they can, and it has morphed into none of this is perfect. We are not going to be perfect, no one is perfect, especially in this situation, but we are just going to try to do out best every day, and improve every day, and be ok with things not going the way we want them to because none of us chose this, and none of us want to be in this situation so we just have to make the best of it,” Nicholson explained.

The last year of our lives has been crazy, unique, and stressful all at the same time, but despite this, Nicholson thinks that the teachers did a good job handling the circumstance and hopes they keep it up.