For those switching from a big public high school to a small private school, adjusting to a new environment can be difficult, especially since students had to start online. Now, with in-person learning, new difficulties have risen for students to interact with one another: students must always wear a mask, social distance and follow one-way paths around campus. However, after finding their place in the community, many new students feel more comfortable and welcomed by their peers.
Sophomore Drew Chairuangdej, who transferred from Allen High School, was able to connect with students and football teammates on various social media platforms before school started. Since coming to a new school, he has found community in the football team.
“Adjusting to a new school with COVID-19 restrictions has been relatively difficult as it is harder to make new friends, but people have welcomed me every step of the way,” Chairuangdej said. “Being in a brotherly sport atmosphere almost made it easier to make friends, and the administration has done everything they can to make my transition here smoother. I have found that since coming to ESD, while I can recognize the community is tight-knit, I have felt very welcome here, and I am proud to be a part of this community.”
To help out with the transition for new families, the admissions network created the Campfire Program, an optional group for incoming new student families, returning students’ families as well as teachers to familiarize themselves with the ESD community. Teachers, called campfire guides, and students meet once a week to discuss classes, advisory and outside activities to ensure a smooth transition into a new school.
“The Campfire Program adds an extra layer of support and help [to navigate] the dynamic within ESD,” Campfire Program Director Corey Henderson said. “Campfire guides are able to share with families where they feel like an ESD student should be and how they should be performing, interacting and being social. At this point with the program, we feel like things are going well, and students are really embracing the help, especially starting the year in the middle of a pandemic.”
While some new students were worried about exclusion, students and teachers have attempted to foster an open and accommodating environment. The community can be tight-knit, but students and administrators are doing their best to account for new students.
“I expected [school] to be a bit awkward, but to my surprise, I never felt like I was new to this community,” freshman Simran Malhotra said. “Not only the freshmen, but also the sophomores and juniors in my classes were super friendly and never failed to make me laugh and feel like I’ve been part of this community for years. Adjusting to school was hard at first because of the masks and one way directions. I kind of got lost sometimes, but I feel like I’ve figured it out. All the teachers really helped me get to where I needed to be.”
Although there are some changes due to the pandemic, people are trying their best to deal with the situation at hand and continue on with their daily activities. With students switching from distant learning to in-person classes due to the virus, it can lead to inconsistency.
“These are unknown and crazy times, but everyone is trying to make the most out of it,” Henderson said. “When we are asked to do something that’s not normal, it presents a new set of issues, but the issues are workable. This is about protecting each other and protecting our students, faculty and staff. Teachers and students have gotten creative in the classroom, and it’s hard to say, ‘Let’s have fun during a pandemic,’ but we can not just sit here and worry. We need to sanitize, keep our masks on and keep on going.”