After more than a year of distance learning, sophomore Daniel Ortiz was glad to finally set foot on campus for the first time last week.
“Being on campus is nice and quiet. It gives me room to think,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz was one of the 232 students who wore a mask to start the new school year in person at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School on Aug.16. He is not the only student who prefers learning on campus. Distance learning began in March 2020 and lasted throughout the last school year. Not all students’ homes were well-equipped to handle it. Many dealt with noisy, distracting workspaces and struggled to stay connected.
When students arrived at school on Aug.16, they had to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, accessed through the school district’s Daily Pass, an app that provides students and staff access to their COVID-19 test results for the daily health check-in required to enter campus. It serves as the district’s frontline defense against COVID-19 on campus and offers a more efficient way to keep students safe.
Since returning back to school, safety has been DPMHS Principal Armen Petrossian’s first priority. He dedicated the first week of school to making sure students could learn safely. Most of his time was spent at the front gate assisting students with their Daily Pass and ensuring students had a valid COVID-19 PCR test on file. Those who didn’t have a COVID test on the first day of school made their way to Mulholland Middle School and waited in line for 60 minutes or more for a rapid antigen test.
“The first couple days of school were challenging. My efforts were spent in making sure everyone came in safe,” Petrossian said.
Parents, students, and staff who want to know the number of active cases on their school campuses can view them on the district’s COVID Report Card webpage. No COVID cases have occurred among DPMHS students or staff since school started more than a week ago.
Using a Daily Pass to enter campus isn’t the only change students and staff faced this school year. The school day now starts at 8:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. The class schedule changed to four periods a day, instead of six periods. Classes are now 90-minutes long and there is no nutrition break. Students in physical education have that class every other day. When 9th and 10th graders don’t have P.E., they have Photography 1 or Keyboard class. Every Thursday, students and staff get a weekly COVID test on campus, even if they are vaccinated.
Despite preparations to return to in-person instruction when COVID-19 cases are still high, the Daily Pass system had some bugs, including the site crashing on the first day of school. DPMHS students line up in the parking lot every morning waiting upwards of half an hour to have their passes scanned and to be given the subsequent go-ahead to enter campus. As some students stood in line, many of their peers had already begun to learn. The first period teachers were instructed to not mark students tardy. However, some began to teach before all students were accounted for. This left some students feeling frustrated about a situation they cannot control.
“Every morning I dread the process of arriving at school early only to spend my time in a long-drawn-out line just to enter campus on time,” senior Tia Jarret said.
Despite challenges, many students were excited to be back on campus.
“I just want to have fun and enjoy my final year of high school. I want to do things I haven’t had a chance to do yet” senior Ben Bryan said.
After a long and challenging first week of school, things are starting to look up. The leadership class has been working to bring the school back together and resume one of the school’s longest-running events, Fiesta Friday.
“Despite the rough patches, I’ve cherished being connected with the DPMHS community after remaining isolated from my teachers and peers for so long,” Jarrett said.