From one desk to another: Returning to the high school after a year of CVA (Editorial)


STUDIES IN SOLITUDE: Sophomore Jenna Coller’s virtual schooling setup for the 2020-21 school year. She and many other students transformed the confines of their bedrooms into a one student classroom through the lens of a laptop camera.

As the global pandemic of COVID-19 persists and many face its consequences, students from pre-k to college-level chose (and are still choosing) to attend an online school as an ulterior to traditional in-person schooling. After finishing 8th grade virtually the spring prior, I came to the conclusion that I was going to complete my freshman year through Carlisle Virtual Academy. This decision had a multitude of effects on me and those other students who made the same choice as I did. 

This school year, I came back to CHS for my sophomore year to finally have a taste of the “High School Experience” that has been advertised to me since before I can remember. The culture shock of completing my first year of high school online and then coming into the building a year later after not seeing any of my classmates for nearly 15 months was jarring. I struggled with virtual school greatly, and it made my GPA tank to a place that I was not used to.

I am not the only student to experience the sudden decline in mental health and school performance due to the pandemic. In fact, according to CVA Mentor Lauren Cassell and Director of Digital Learning Stephanie Douglas, prior to the Covid-19 outbreak (19-20), Carlisle Area School District had 54 students enrolled in CVA full time, but during the 20-21 school year, there were 842 students enrolled full time. Coming out of what seems to be the brunt of the pandemic, there are about 166 students enrolled in CVA this school year. The decline of students who enrolled in CVA during the pandemic compared to this school year reflects the struggles and hardships many students faced in the wake of Covid-19 and virtual schooling.

BY THE NUMBERS: CVA enrollment increased dramatically during the 20-21 school year. While enrollment has decreased as COVID restrictions have changed, there are still three times more students involved in the virtual program than pre-pandemic numbers. Black: 2019-2020, 54 students enrolled full-time; Green: 2020-2021, 842; Yellow: 2021-2022, 166 (Kate Muir)

The emotional toll that online school took on me was like none that I was used to. I wouldn’t leave my house for multiple days because I did not have to, and the only people I was able to talk to in person were my siblings and parents. Little to no social interactions made coming back to in-person school this year, quite the adjustment. Things like standing in the lunch line and presenting projects were so foreign to me even though not even two full years prior, I did them every day.

The first day of my sophomore year may go down in history as the most I have ever bounced my leg and sweat in my life. Walking through the doors was like rereading a book from your childhood and realizing the version you remember in your head is so far from what is actually written. I was the definition of a fish out of water for the first few weeks of this school year.

Another nail in the coffin was that I have ADHD, which was not diagnosed until this school year after I was still struggling in traditional school. It may be because of my untreated ADHD that I suffered so much in online school, or the sheer absurdity of the circumstances, but in my personal opinion, virtual school has so much potential yet is often watered down to “read this article and answer these questions” because few educators actually understand how children and adolescents learn, even in typical schooling circumstances.

On the other hand, from a numbers standpoint, my grades have greatly improved compared to last year. This is because my largest struggle online was sitting at a desk and staring at a computer all day by myself. Now I get to do it in a room with my classmates! 

It is a common misconception that virtual school is “easy” and that anyone can do it. That is simply untrue. I applaud those who excel in virtual school and even those who don’t but persevere through it anyway. The pandemic has taken so many important things from people that range from life-changing experiences such as losing a loved one or even something small like not remembering what their student ID number is. 

Though COVID-19 is still shaking the Earth every day with variants, vaccines, and loss, many are starting to feel better about where things are headed. I speak from a very privileged viewpoint as a middle-class, white, American girl so I cannot even begin to comprehend the experiences of those less fortunate than me during this pandemic.

The one thing I can speak on with great certainty is how I and many others feel growing up in a time where the entire world feels as if it rests on our shoulders. In the span of fewer than 2 years, I have gone from not leaving my house for weeks to finally standing in the student section cheering for the Herd on a Friday night. The changes and effects of virtual school may seem minuscule compared to those of the greater picture, but for someone whose picture is only a few blocks wide and a few streets long, living freshman year through a screen and muted Zoom calls was everything I dread.

Disclaimer: Articles designated as “Editorial” represent the views and opinions of the author, not the 2021-2022 Periscope staff, CHS/CASD administration, or the CHS student body.

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