Underclassmen Abruptly Adapt to High School Life


Distance learning has taken a huge toll, both emotionally and physically, on all students—but how difficult has the return to in-person education at Venice High been for new freshmen and sophomores?

Freshman Allison Cunningham has started school in person this year after being online since March 13, 2020, previously attending Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, a small school in Westchester with less than 200 students. According to Cunnigham, students faced a lack of engagement and hands-on activity throughout the year, and many were left with negative feelings. 

“I didn’t learn anything,” said Cunningham. 

    Freshman Drey Phillips previously attended Mark Twain Middle School, working online for over a year. After being the school’s ASB President during the online 2020-2021 school year, Phillips has had an interesting perspective on the return. 

 “I felt really out of touch with the class, it felt really weird, and there wasn’t a connection like there is with in-person school,” Phillips said. “It was really stressful and it kind of took the fun out of school.” 

Phillips did not get to attend an in-person culmination from middle school, so the transition from middle school to high school felt “hazy,” as they put it. 

Sophomore Aleksandra Kaminer previously attended Palms Middle School, a school with a student population of around 1,200. 

“Because freshman year was just online, I didn’t get to experience high school,” she said. “I still felt like I was in middle school.”

Throughout that eventful year, students had to survive with limited resources.

“It’s extremely difficult to do online school… You don’t have teachers to physically be there to teach you, so you kind of have to co-teach yourself,” Kaminer said.

Freshman Sophia Torres came from a much smaller middle school outside of LAUSD, so getting adjusted to the brand new campus along with 2,000 other students took some extra effort.

“I would get easily distracted at home because there’s a lot of the things that I like to do,” she said. 

“At school I feel more focused.” 

Torres says she has felt safe throughout the return to school despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

 “I feel really safe [at school] because we’re getting tested every week to make sure that no one’s sick or anything,” Torres said.

Sophomore Naya Rivero shared a similar confidence about COVID-19 safety.

“​Personally, I’m not scared of getting sick,” she said. “What I am scared about though is passing it on to my family.”

“I do get kind of worried specifically when I’m trying to get to PE and I have to walk between a mass of students, to the point where it’s like their arms are rubbing against mine,” she said. “It’s worrying.” Rivero says she makes sure to navigate the construction zone near the West Gym in a way that avoids large crowds.

Rivero also touched on navigating through life as young adults, and finding success to pursue for our futures. 

“COVID-19 was pretty stressful because I feel like when you’re older, you’re supposed to kind of know where you’re going.”

Though direction might have been a struggle in 2020, Venice High’s students have been quick on the comeback.

“What coming back means to me is that the world is slowly getting better when it comes to COVID-19, which is a blessing because I know we’re absolutely tired of this pandemic,” Kaminer said.