NPHS campus comes back to life


While many students looked forward to the full return back to campus, many have lots of changes and adjustments to cope with. Many underclassmen stepped onto campus for the first time last month and are still learning the way to their classes, while returning students are struggling to get back into their pre-COVID routines.

The Prowler conducted a survey through various social media accounts about how students felt towards coming back to school. With 101 responses, results indicate that 50 percent of the students who took the survey are excited to be back and that their mental health has improved significantly. However, about 60 percent of the students have been struggling with their schedules and amount of homework given each night. Sixteen percent of students who took the survey had a rather difficult transition from hybrid to in-person and 25 percent feel that their mental health has declined since the start of school.

For sophomores like Shriya Rajesh, being on campus feels like a new freshman year. “One day I’d find my classes, and the next I couldn’t remember what room it was,” Rajesh said. Despite the struggles of mapping out an unfamiliar campus, Rajesh is happy to be in-person.

However, Rajesh has found herself struggling to manage her school workload. “We’re transitioning back to school, so hopefully it’ll thin out once we spend more time but also going back into classes that I do outside of school has been challenging,” Rajesh said. Finally, having socialization in person continues to keep her motivated and she is excited to be able to branch out, meeting new people. “I’m just excited to meet new people, I’ve made a lot of new friends so far and I guess that’s what I’m looking forward to the most,” Rajesh said.

Justin Copeland, senior, has now experienced high school pre-COVID, remote, and now in-person. Only a few weeks in, he feels that students have had an excess amount of stress this year due to teachers trying to make up for lost time last year. “I’m definitely more stressed. I feel like a lot of the teachers don’t understand that we are still in a pandemic,” Copeland said. “A lot of us do have outside activities like sports, work, and more importantly, like we all want to have a social life, we’re all still teenagers.”

Teachers such as Paula Anderson, English teacher, agree that going back in person was a necessity for both students and teachers. “It has been so exhilarating to have all the students back in class,” Anderson said. “I am really a face-to-face teacher and I like to interact and see body language and reactions.”

Anderson is happy to see that students have finally been able to have that social aspect of school once again. “Kids have written to me that it’s so nice to see their friends again, talk openly, and you know, hang out at lunchtime and nutrition with their friends,” Anderson said. “I think the social aspect has been ten times better than that zoom stuff.”

Erin Fay Stillwagon, science teacher, has also noticed a renewed motivation in her students following the return to campus. “The kids are eager to learn because they’ve been missing it for so long,” Stillwagon said. She has noticed many students progressing that were struggling online last year. “Now that distance learning is gone and you have that limiting factor pulled away and you’re here. It’s just like the kids are excelling, so I’m really happy with having you guys back,” Stillwagon said.


Specialized Classes

A major benefit to the full on-campus return is the return of hands-on learning, especially with interactive classes such as photography, music, and food & nutrition. During online learning, teachers found it difficult to teach a typically hands-on class, but now students can return to the creative arts with a new motivation.

Although many efforts were made to give students the best virtual experience possible, teachers like Chef Liz Burnett, the culinary teacher at NPHS, were relieved to have classes in-person. “The most difficult part is when you’re trying to teach somebody something that’s better in person,” Burnett said. “I can say out loud how to flip an egg all day, but actually showing you how to do it and being there with you when you do it makes a huge difference.”

The music department is also grateful for a return, as their class is now unified and synchronized. Tina Huang, orchestra teacher, emphasized how in-person learning allowed her to see a great improvement in her students. “When we came back and everyone started playing again, I think everyone was in shock [at] how different we sounded [together],” Huang said. “My approach this year has been just to start slow, because we’re just getting back to the swing of things and with everything that’s still kind of unknown with COVID.” Orchestra’s first concert of the year will be on Oct. 24 at the Conejo Community Park.


As exciting as it is for students to return to campus, many teachers are concerned with how COVID-19 restrictions might intervene with their student’s education. Teachers like Richard Bateman, digital photography teacher, are doing the most to maintain a sanitary classroom to avoid closures. “Yo

u have to wipe down cameras and clean them if somebody else is gonna use them. You just don’t want the germs spreading on the camera, especially since you put a camera right up to your face,” Bateman said. “That’s the equivalent of you know, touching a doorknob and then wiping your eyes.”

After being stuck behind a computer screen all last year, students finally feel as if they are learning efficiently. “I feel like students are extremely happy to be here, more happy than they have in years past.

Maybe being away was a good thing for them. Maybe they’re just happy to be around people again and be social,” Burnett said.


Student Activities

The current pandemic has made many student activities difficult, but ASG and administration have made an effort to make the events just as engaging as previous years with COVID protocols in mind.

On Friday Sept. 3, many Panthers were excited about the first home football game of the year and having the Panther Pit back. Maddy Mekari, senior, is one of the leaders of the Panther Pit. “When everyone was walking in in the very beginning and the pit was filling up, everyone was smiling and happy and loud. It was so amazing that we can just do this again,” Mekari said.
The energy of the crowd is equal to the enthusiasm radiating from the varsity football team. Ryan Gillum, junior, talked about his strongest moment in the first game. “We played in front of a home crowd. I played in front of all the parents and we performed very well. I mean, we only held [the other team] to seven points,” Gillum said.

During the pregame and halftime show, the dance team was there to hype up the crowd. Drew Caswell, junior, a dance team member, compared last year’s modified season to their first performance back on the field. “[Our] nerves were very high, especially because we didn’t have masks on, so we had to perform…a lot more than we did last year.”

Cameo Carolan, the dance team’s coach, was thrilled to see her team perform at a football game for the first time in over a year. “Us being out on the field was the first time everyone saw [the dance]. It was the first time we did it with the band and did it full out. Then halftime, it was just so great to see them doing what they love. It was neat to get the response from the other teachers as well, and administration- and it was a packed game…the stands were so full. It’s crazy,” Carolan said.

On Saturday, Sept. 18, the homecoming dance and almost all of it’s festivities were back in full swing. Though the homecoming football game, the second game of the season, had to be cancelled due to a COVID outbreak on the opposing team, the annual pep rally and dance were able to bring students together.

Edyn Stepler, senior and ASG president, helped to manage the planning that went towards this year’s events. “We have been trying to work around and see what we are allowed to do, and what would be in the best interest of the students,” Stepler said. “Luckily this year, we’ve been able to do a lot more than we originally thought that we could.”

This year’s homecoming rally lifted school spirits, complete with performances from the dance team, cheer, and Sparkles. Michael Lindroth, senior, is the head of the rally planning committee for ASG and was very excited for this year’s events. “Obviously, we haven’t had a lot of in person activities. I think that [it was] fun for

everyone just to be able to get together as a school and play games together, watch performances, and

things like that,” Lindroth said. Crowds were cheering as the Class of 2022 ran onto the field. Screams from the bleachers could be heard as home

coming court was announced, and the enthusiasm continued through all of the activities.

Kaylee Aschbrenner, junior, was one of many students who preferred the outdoor scenery to the confined space of the gym. “People were less sweaty, and it just made it easier to have a good time… I honestly hope that they do it again outside because the vibes were immaculate,” Aschbrenner said.

Although the homecoming dance could not take place in the school’s gym like it normally would due to COVID-19 protocols, the party still found an equal amount of life on the quad. Sunshine Roth, senior, made some positive memories at this year’s dance. “When they played Happiness by Kid Cudi, I got my friend and we got our boyfriends a

nd we went in the pit. We got some other friends and we were just jamming out so hard to the song,” Roth said. “It really was fun.”

Roth shared a similar sentiment to how the majority of Panthers feel about the return of student activities. “It’s going to be hard getting back to normal but it was nice to have something that felt familiar,” Roth said.

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