The first day of the 2021-22 school year would be just like any other first day of school. In many ways, it was: smiling teachers, Red Jackets, and cheerleaders welcomed students to Coppell High School and directed them to their classes.
The bells rang every 90 minutes, Principal Laura Springer doled out her trademark hugs and students crowded the hallways.
“I’ll be honest, just seeing the kids in the hallway is filling my cup,” CHS associate principal Melissa Arnold said. “It is bringing us energy, making us happy; we do this for the kids, and to see them present in the building just makes my heart happy.”
Except this year, it wasn’t just sophomores asking for directions to their classes. Many juniors and seniors are also relatively new to CHS, having spent up to three semesters at home as virtual learners.
“It’s really foreign since, you know, most of the sophomores and juniors and even some of the seniors have never been to the high school,” senior Red Jacket Edward Kim said. “It’s all a new experience, and I’m excited to be one of the first ones to live through the whole quarantine and then come back to school.”
Even seniors returning to the familiar halls of CHS were met with newness, for the renovations to CHS were completed after they became virtual. The star replaces the old cowboy wall statue and quotes are scattered across the walls.
Many of these quotes feature Springer’s Fish philosophy and GRIT mentality, things that are familiar to returning students. Even in distance learning, students were told to “choose their attitude”, “play”, “make others’ day” and enjoy the “present moment” to help build the kind of family atmosphere welcome at CHS.
“I’m excited to see a full house and not feel like we’re missing parts of the family,” CHS math teacher Kara McWilliams said. “[This year] everybody’s here together.”
It took a little while to get everyone together, though, since students faced familiar challenges getting to school, as an accident on Denton Tap Road blocked traffic and caused many to arrive late to their first period classes after what for many was the first commute to CHS in over a year.
“I think I came to school, like, 20 minutes late because there was [so much traffic],” sophomore Ramya Motati said.
Also new to this year for students returning from Zoom were the optional face masks that many opted to wear. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Governor Greg Abbott are going back and forth on the mask mandates in the court, but for now, masks are optional in CISD buildings. This could change in the upcoming weeks as more decisions are made in the courts.
Teachers, such as CHS choir director Aaron Coronado, were excited about everyone coming back in-person and interacting in the classroom.
“The definition of choir is ‘singing together,’ so it was great to actually be able to sing together [instead of] over Zoom,” Coronado said.
Many students enjoyed going back in-person for social reasons, some looking forward to reuniting with friends and many excited to get to know people at the beginning of the day.
“I made a lot of friends, to be honest,” senior Aparna Sobhirala said. “[With] the whole COVID[-19] thing, it was hard to communicate with people. But in the end [this year] I made more friends than usual [today].”
Sobhirala also commented on how strange it was to see such big crowds again after over a year of social distancing.
“Looking back at everyone walking around, the whole crowd, when the bell rings, is kind of nostalgic for me,” Sobhirala said. “Seeing that many people at once was just like, ‘woah, this is actually happening’.”
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