While it is obvious the Carbon High is being physically changed by the construction that is going on at the front of the facility, this year has brought large changes to the way the school operates as well.
“It’s been a good year as we have gotten through the first quarter of school, but it has also been unique to say the least,” said Chris Winfree, the principal at Carbon High School. “With all of the protocols that are in place because of COVID, it has been different. We have appreciated the support of the students and the parents when it comes to all the craziness. We have had nothing but good, positive support. We are lucky to be able to have our students in class and learning. The kids want to be here, and they are showing they want to be here because they are willing to follow the protocols that we have in place. While many schools across the country are shut down, here we are with school going on every day.”
“We have a phenomenal staff. We added seven new teachers this year, some of whom have never taught before, and we are thrilled they are here. All our teachers are rock stars for what they have done as far as I am concerned. Across the board they are an amazing group. They are willing to do whatever they have to do, to keep kids in the building,” commented Winfree.
One big change at Carbon High School is how education is delivered to students, and it may well have set a new precedent for future operations.
“The Carbon On-Line School has been a huge blessing to us,” he explained.
Students or families who are concerned about their health and safety have an option to complete courses online through Edgenuity. Students are tracked and interventions are provided by Carbon teachers on an as-needed basis. Students move through the courses each academic quarter and receive grades for the completed courses.
“Remote learning, with cameras in the classrooms that students can log into if they cannot be there and participate, has been a huge help. This keeps them from falling behind, whether they are home with something related to COVID or have a medical problem that prevents them from attending class in person. Normally when a student misses school they are stuck; they are behind on their studies and have to make it up. Now they can stay caught up live. This is something no one really would have thought about as an option had it not been for what is going on in the world. We’ve seen a lot of very positive things come out of a negative scenario.”
Winfree pointed out that when teachers start class they log in and start their cameras so students can participate with the class. Students who are quarantined or otherwise home for short periods of time can use this remote learning. It is not intended for long term or as a period by period option.
One of the strange things that has gone on this year is how the school has had to administer their attendance code. In the days before the pandemic kids were either basically at school or they weren’t. Now it is so different.
“We have to keep changing things when it comes to attendance,” said Winfree. “It has really been weird because we discover new things all the time, and we have codes we need to use to mark students status. We have to do this because the state wants to know. You have students who are in the building and then you have kids who are supposed to be here, but aren’t. Then you have the people who are quarantined by the health department, but if they participate virtually then you have to make allowance for that. Then you have those that are self-quarantined, and it is not a health department mandate so you have to mark them a different way. And along with that comes a different code for if they participate virtually or not. And then we have those that are on line, which is basically a home school situation, but they are still Carbon High students. The circumstances are virtually endless and we have to account for all those scenarios.”
There are other frustrations too, even though things overall, are going well. The school has gone through the first quarter, both in the classrooms and with school activities with minimal problems. While some things could not happen, (like the Homecoming Dance for example), some other activities and the sports’ seasons happened in a pretty normal fashion with no cancellations or road blocks.
“We didn’t get to have a school musical this year, and that is always a big deal here at Carbon High,” he stated. “We have not been able to have regular choir or band performances. Students ask me all the time if we are going to be able to have prom, and I tell them we will have to see what happens because at this point I really don’t know. There are also some field trips that have been canceled. Freshman who are coming in do not even know what they are missing, while seniors are missing out on some of the things they planned on. However, the kids have responded well to the changes and uncertainty.”
The school had a very good football year, despite only having won only one game. But things are changing and the future is bright because of who is at the top of the program now.
“Phil Howa has brought a new excitement to the football program,” said Winfree. “He has made such a change in the culture of the program. We want to win football games, but building the team to do that is a process; it isn’t going to happen in one year. The excitement he created was wonderful. We had 80 plus players in the program this year. There were years this school didn’t have 50. Injuries hurt the team this year, but now we have experienced underclassmen who are going to come back next year. The players know Coach Howa, his program, and his assistants. He has some great ideas for what he wants to do moving forward. He and his staff have done an amazing job.”
Winfree said the school is grateful for the fact that the fall sports were uninterrupted. Now however the school will be moving into the winter sports which will present new challenges.
“Indoor sports are just going to be a lot harder to manage under the circumstances,” he said. “But everyone is excited about them and we are moving forward unless someone tells us otherwise.”