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Hybrid learning as a freshman

Article and photo by Claire Bauer, RCHS intern writer

Photo of desk online learning

Many Castle Pines students have learned to adapt to a new learning environment this school year. With a hybrid schedule that has students spending some days in the classroom and some at home, students are getting used to taking instruction from dining room tables, coffee shops – virtually anywhere there is a little quiet and an internet connection.

Students at Rock Canyon High School (RCHS) recently finished their first official quarter of hybrid learning – part of the week at home online, and part in-person at school. While this was a big change for all students, this year’s freshman class of 2024, have arguably had the most adaptations to make. Starting at an entirely new school during a pandemic presents its own challenges, from trying to find classrooms and make friends to adjusting to a new grading system and harder course load. Freshmen have made it nevertheless, and even found the good in rough times.

RCHS Principal Andy Abner said, “I feel like our freshmen are doing exceptionally well given the cards they’ve been dealt and given the fact we’re dealing with this pandemic, and things don’t look the way they normally would. We’ve noticed that with masks and things like that kids don’t talk as much, there’s not as much energy, and only having half the students here, the environment is just not as lively and exciting as it is normally.”

“High school has been a new and unique experience,” stated Lexi Rufenacht, a freshman at RCHS. “All of my teachers have been really helpful and understanding of the situation we’re in, but I think the most difficult part of the transition this school year has been making new friends. One of the worst downsides to this year has been not being able to go to social events, like what would’ve been my first homecoming, but even without many extracurriculars going on, I’m still able to find good ways to spend my time,” continued Rufenacht. “Tryouts for basketball are in December. Remaining an active member of my church, Jubilee Fellowship Church, is important to me. I wish we could go back to school in-person, but one thing I’ve found I like about online/hybrid learning is that I’m able to get my homework done in between classes and at lunch while at home,” she concluded.

Ella Bearman, also an RCHS freshman, agrees. “High school is fun because we have a lot more freedom, but the workload is a lot more than in middle school, and the work is much harder too. It’s been a difficult adjustment. As freshmen, my friends and I struggled to find things in the school, like the bathrooms! I miss the old, more social and fun aspects of school, but I’m glad we’re at least half in school rather than fully at home.”

The majority of students tend to prefer fully in-person school because they get to see their friends. Most students focus and learn better in-person, but they have also said that at-home learning provides a nice break from the stress of being at school. You can work at your own pace, eat and drink during class, and even nap between if you finish work early.

While Abner is concerned that freshmen aren’t getting the traditional high school welcome with school assemblies, homecoming week and all the other events that make being a RCHS Jaguar unique, he said, “I’m really proud of our freshmen for persevering through first quarter and doing a good job and working hard on their academics. It’s unfortunate those enjoyable things that typically come with being in high school don’t exist right now, but I am very proud of the work that they are doing as high school students.”



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