Pandemic Expectations

School Expectations Before and After COVID Pandemic

Rachel Casper, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed many things around the world, and those changes were felt everywhere, including in schools. People had to quarantine, wear masks, and keep their distance from others in an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic heavily affected New Berlin West during the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 school years.

Before the pandemic hit in March 2020, there were set rules and expectations in the building and in classrooms. 

NBW high school math teacher, Chris Viste, had the same expectations for her students before the pandemic. “I expected the homework was being completed every day. I expected that people were participating and talking to each other in class. I expected them to communicate well when they had questions and didn’t know how to do things and come in for FLEX when they needed help,” Viste said.

For Kyle Fletcher, the NBW band teacher, his rules were that “[Students] should be practicing as much as [they] need to to be able to play the music in class. So then, ideally, just make sure [they] know [their] parts.”

Mady Shaver, a senior at NBW, said “I really think that it was a lot more strict as to getting to class on time, tardies were handed out left and right. There were absolutely no extensions for classwork beforehand, at least from the teachers that I had.” Shaver also said that student lunch locations were much more limited and strict. Students weren’t allowed to go back and forth between the cafeteria and the cafe.

There was a massive change in March of 2020, due to students being sent home and then completing the year online for COVID. Shaver said, “I feel like I didn’t even finish my freshman year, the grading became super easy. I think the teachers were really struggling to get us our lessons… Assignments were very very limited and we didn’t have very much to do.”

Jaren Spridco, also an NBW senior, said that “you could just log on and do all your schoolwork in around two hours.”

Despite there being a limited amount of homework, Viste said that she “was still expecting homework to be completed, but [she] did see a decline in homework completion.”

During the 2020-2021 school year, things were very different in and out of the building. Students had the option to be in school physically or do their classes online through Zoom meetings. According to a New Berlin School Board presentation from 2020, 20% of all NBW students chose to do school online and a new A/B schedule was implemented instead of the color schedule.

Shaver was one of the students who did school online. She explained that for most of her classes, she would log on to stay for around 15 minutes before she could log off to work on the classwork. “It was very much go at your own pace,” she said. 

For students who continued to go to school physically, there were also many noticeable changes. 

Spridco recalled that “desks were spread out, there were one-way hallways, […] it was a mess. You couldn’t [meet] in the hallways anymore, you had to just go from [one] class to your next class. There were hour and a half periods instead of hour long.” He added, “Pretty much anything that we do in school now was completely messed up.”

In addition to students facing challenges, teachers also faced several challenges during the school year to comply with the new rules. 

Heather Aguilar, a NBW high school math teacher, said that some of her struggles were “any activities that used manipulatives, I couldn’t do that for a while, so then I would try to find something online that I could substitute.”

Fletcher said that he “was very aware that virtual band is kind of a waste of time because it’s hard to hear what’s going on and so it was kind of like if [students] were virtual I just had to hope that [they] were practicing. There wasn’t a lot of time for me to be able to hear you as an individual.” 

Even for the following school year, 2021-2022, the effects of COVID could still be felt by everyone. “There was still a little bit of cautiousness last year because of COVID. It was still a big thing,” Spridco said. “Some people still wore masks.”

For this school year, students and staff feel as if things are getting back to the way things were before the pandemic. Shaver said that she feels some of the policies from before are getting put back into place, which includes the phone policies, where you can go for lunch, and completing assignments on time. 

Sarah Lemon, the NBW choir teacher, created a new rule after the pandemic. Before, her students could all go into the practice rooms with each other and there weren’t any limitations. During COVID, the amount of students in a singular practice room was limited due to COVID restrictions. However, now that those restrictions have been lifted, Lemon decided she liked having the number of students in the practice rooms limited, so she kept that rule. “I actually liked how that worked out,” she said. 

Viste said, “This year already seems to be better, so I feel like this year is finally getting back to […] what I saw before.” Her goal for this year is for her students to be meeting her expectations of being prepared and being active learners in class. 

For Trudy Wahlen, the NBW associate principal, her “number one goal is student learning.” Over the summer, the administration looked at the phone policies to try and get back to how things were before the pandemic. “I think one of the goals was just to get back to where we used to be.”

Everyone is feeling positive about this school year. Wahlen said, “I feel like now we are kind of going back to the way we were before. I’m excited for things to be back.”