When in-person classes began, students stayed in their second-period classes for Highlander Time (fourth period) every silver day. Due to student complaints, the Committee on Raising Student Voices and school administration found a solution: the Highlander Pod Initiative.
The plan allows students to sign up for a “pod” with up to ten students and choose the classroom they’d like to be in for Highlander Time, instead of students staying in their second-period class. The sign-ups change each week, so students have the freedom to change their pod or locations.
“10 friends can come together and find a classroom teacher, and stay in that room [during highlander time] and still follow all the socially distance rules,” Principal Dr. Ellen Reilly said.
The objective is to give students more freedom and opportunities to socialize, instead of being forced to stay in one place. Students now can do most of the same activities Highlander Time periods allowed in previous years, but with added COVID-19 precautions.
“You can study together, take walks together on campus, [and have] just enough time to socialize,” Reilly said. “[However] if you’re a person who’s like, ‘you know what, I just want to hang out and just study and be on my own,’ then you can go [to] trailers three through nine, and just be there and study and just do your own thing.”
The added freedom of choosing where to go has been exciting for many students, as the year so far has mostly been overshadowed by stringent pandemic precautions.
“My favorite part would be getting to choose your spot because it’s somewhere you actually want to be and not a set spot you have to stay at,” junior Maggie Olifer said.
Teachers also have experienced many benefits as a result of the new plan.
“Teachers were strapped in their classrooms, and this will give them time to go and meet with somebody or something, so [pods have] freed up teachers, and the kids can just go and be kids for a little while,” Reilly said. “Mr. Dwyer and his group went out [once], the kids sat on the football field and he ran, he enjoyed it and it gave him time to go outside and enjoy it.”
Both students and teachers have given positive feedback on the plan.
“I like getting to see students around their friends so I can see more of their personality. I also enjoy the flexibility that it offers students,” Dwyer said. “Going outside and getting fresh air or a little bit of exercise is also really nice.”
Among the new changes, both the staff and students are continuing to brainstorm and make things as normal as can be. As time goes on, they hope to add in some fun activities that they missed out on last year.
“I think that we will be able to keep the Highlander pods till the end of the year. I know that leadership has some activities planned [for each] grade level in the coming weeks,” Reilly said. “They are trying to incorporate some fun things to do but there is a good amount we still have to figure out.”