A Year without Stability: Reflecting on the First Quarter


Photo by: Tracy McClowry

The hallway illustrates social distancing at NHS.

Payton McClowry and Colin McClowry

The first quarter of NHS’s school year wrapped up on Nov. 6 as students and staff try to navigate their way through a global pandemic. 

The conclusion of the first-nine weeks allows for grades to be updated and for students and staff to confirm status. Here is a look back at what happened, and what is ahead.

Overcoming Adversity

NHS began the school year with an in-person model taking place while other major-area schools, namely Appleton and Oshkosh, remained fully-virtual for the entirety of the first quarter. However, a large number of students and staff in quarantined for COVID exposure and the spike of cases in the community caused NHS to close its doors for the month of October while classes took place online.

At the end of the first quarter, 71 high school students had contracted the coronavirus accounting for about 4 percent of the in-person school body according to the N.J.S.D. COVID Dashboard

Looking to get students back to school, NHS offered the chance for students to do real-time learning over Zoom for the rest of the semester, limiting the number of students in the building. About 1,200 students chose to come back to NHS in some capacity when the school went to its “yellow model” at the start of November. This made it so students with the last name starting with the letters A-K learn in-person one day and letters L-Z come the next day. So far this solution has been helpful as no students were quarantined as close-contacts during the first two weeks of November, according to Principal Brian Wunderlich.

A Lack of Engagement

In a school-year without a global pandemic, the attendance rate at NHS in September and October sits at about 97.25 percent and 96.3 percent, respectively. But with a rise in cases and virtual classes taking place, attendance sat at about 90.35 percent at the start of October according to the Associate Principal Tim Kachur. To combat this, the administration pushed mandatory Zoom meetings for both the morning and afternoon classes that tracked attendance. With this in-place, attendance rose slightly in the last two weeks of Neenah’s fully virtual classes to a rate of 91.82 percent.

Another hurdle placed in front of students and staff this year was the three-hour classes that were implemented just one year after 90-minute classes were introduced. With enough time to get used to the change, students are now able to fairly assess the schedule. 

“I understand that they are necessary to slow the spread and contact-trace, but I think they make learning harder,” senior Afton Congdon said. 

 Agreeing that the new class schedule is not ideal, Principal Wunderlich applauded his staff as he has admired how teachers have “done their best” to get the most out of their students with the longer class periods adding that “they’ve been resilient” over these first two months. 

Guidance for Quarter Two

In a time that is so unpredictable, NHS administrators and staff have continued to try and promote student’s success.

In an effort to keep students engaged in literature, Neenah’s Library and Media Center has created a book pick-up system as a safe and easy way to keep students reading. Students can achieve this by filling out a google form and setting up a time for curbside delivery.

The district has also added a tech support page to N.J.S.D.’s website to assist students and parents as education has become more reliant on technology. It gives tutorials on navigating common websites and resources used in classes. Important contact information is also given for solving any technical difficulties.

One of the largest focal points for N.J.S.D. has been continually providing students with meals while distance learning has taken place. The federal government has funded free school meals for all students under 18 years of age. Similar to the library system, it requires an online form to be filled out. From there, the school website gives dates and times for pickups. 

There is no doubt that this still year has and will continue to bring many challenges. But so far NHS has provided many resources and made several adjustments to try and make the 2020-’21 scho0l year a success.