End of virtual learning brings normalcy to Talawanda schools


Photo by Claudia Zaunz

Once they enter the building, Talawanda High School students take off their coats and put on their masks.

By Claudia Zaunz

Talawanda students are adjusting well to in-person classes and mask requirements after almost a month into the school year.

In the past are the long hours in front of computer screens, parents helping their children with Zoom and teachers trying to figure out how to teach online.

At least for now.

Unlike the last school year when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the district into on-again, off-again virtual classes, Talawanda is now conducting all classes in person. Although the school is operating normally again, there are still plastic screens around desks and people wearing masks inside the building.

Students trudge into Talawanda High School on a rainy morning this week. A month into the school year all classes are being taught face-to-face, unlike last year. Photo by Claudia Zaunz

Now that the students are back in person, they can meet with their friends for the first time since last year.

Pam Hodgson is a mother of three, with one child in Talawanda Middle School. She said that her children “are really happy and really comfortable even after being off for over a year.”

Her first grader attended online classes by choice last year, but adjusted easily after remote kindergarten. 

“I was not expecting her to make lasting friends from (remote classes), but she’s playing with them (at recess) which I thought was great for that age,” Hodgson said. 

At Talawanda High School, educators are trying to build relationships with students  to set them up for success, said School Counselor Scott Davie. 

“We’ve got some bridges to rebuild, if you will, with the students who haven’t been in school in so long,” Davie said. 

Typically, the school focuses on integrating freshmen into the student body, but in a lot of ways, the school staff has to shift focus to all students as they have not been able to interact with each other for a while, Davie said.

“The issue is having relationships with the adults in the building,” Davie said. After a year of online teaching, “students don’t have these existing relationships.”

Davie said he enjoys seeing students back at athletic events and extracurricular activities, like the Drama Club. These events and activities will help students integrate at Talawanda and find pride for their high school, he added.

“We are hosting sports and as many other activities as possible, while following COVID health and safety measures,” said the Director of Communications and Public Engagement Holli Morrish in an email. 

“I enjoy being back with everybody in person. I personally learn better this way,” said Mackenzie, a student at Talawanda High School.

Mackenzie said that she is excited to be back in the building as she is involved in the FFA chapter, a satellite program of the Butler Technology and Career Development Schools. She said that this program provides a nice break in her school schedule.

Parents with multiple children in different grades noticed that their kids adjusted differently to being back in school. Theresa Carver, who has three children in high school and one in middle school noticed that as well. 

While all of her four daughters missed their friends and teachers, and they loved being back in the building, one actually enjoyed online learning and the different time management that comes with it, Carver said.

Regarding the mask mandate, Carver said she was “thankful that Talawanda was ahead of the game” in imposing the mandate, even though she is sad (that her children) are stuck in a mask and won’t get to see smiles.

As an educator in a different school district, Carver said she is happy to see that mask wearing has so far prevented a spread that would force the school to go back online.