A New Hope: The Return of In-Building Students Brings Life to Building

Stairwell Smiles: Juniors Danielle Dollar and Anna Yoder and freshman Jill Yoder make their way up the mighty 11 stories once again.

In the life of North Atlanta, it was certainly a historic day. Last week, on Feb. 16, pandemic-impacted Warriors got to finally say “goodbye” to interminable Zoom Gloom. After nearly a year of being away, students were able to say “hello” to their beloved and mighty 11 stories once again. Well, that’s some of the Warriors, at least. In order to accommodate households desiring a new learning option for their children, Atlanta Public Schools opened up an in-building learning experience on Feb. 16 in high schools across the city. Despite COVID-19 concerns and a longer learning day, those students who have returned to their school say the return to (sort of) “normal learning” on Northside Parkway has been a positive experience.

Although many hoped the new in-person learning experience would look and feel “pre-pandemic,” the reality of the “new normal” is anything but. The 11 stories, stairwells, and classrooms usually flooded with Warriors are now sparse, and COVID-19 precautions present various alien (yet necessary) breaks in routine. “Being back is great but definitely strange,” said junior Josie Bird. “The school is nearly empty and as soon as we walk in the building, we sanitize our hands and get our temperature taken. Also, throughout our classes, we have to wear masks and sit in desks placed six feet apart.”

There is also the struggle for teachers to manage the demands of hybrid school. While some students are in the classroom, others remain logged onto Zoom from home, leaving teachers scrambling to ensure that both groups are addressed. “It’s distracting because I have to focus on the screen and on what’s happening in the classroom,” said IB Spanish teacher Thomas Williams. “Although I envision that despite it being a bit rocky now, this hybrid method will eventually get smoother and more manageable.”

Still, students are finding that regardless of the unconventionality of the experience, having access to in-person instruction is enormously helpful. Dubs in the building are discovering that unlike their at-home-counterparts, their motivation and focus is making a much needed return. “Virtual learning gave me more freedom, but that freedom was too easy to misuse, so in person learning has made it easier for me to focus and hold myself accountable,” said junior Kayla Gilbert.

Above all else, the beloved senior Warriors appreciate the opportunity to return to their school once more before graduating later this year. Because of COVID-19’s well-chronicled impacts, the school’s Class of 2021 has suffered the huge loss of a traditional senior year. “With so many senior traditions being taken away, such as the Senior Sunrise and dressing up on the first day of school, it’s nice to have a sense of normality once again by being back at NAHS,” said senior Lucy-Grey Shields.

With this notable return of teenage life to a hulking building that sits on a pond at 4111 Northside Parkway, the Dubs diaspora is at the beginning of its end, and despite the strangeness of once normal in-person learning, students are mustering up Warrior spirit once again to make the rest of this school year better. Although still somewhat separated, Warriors are all in this together. Go Dubs!