New school year, new school—now throw a pandemic into the mix

Transfer students at GBHS reflect on starting their year at a new school virtually.

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Sarah Yee

New students at GBHS were not given the same opportunities to grow a sense of belonging within the school in-person this year as traditional welcoming events became virtual.

In these unprecedented times, transfer students have had an unprecedented start to the school year.

During a normal school year, transfer students would have multiple opportunities to familiarize themselves with the Granite Bay High School community through events like Grizzly Retreat, a welcome dance and orientations for freshmen and new students.

However the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has made this school year anything but a normal one. 

Many of the ways GBHS transfer students are traditionally welcomed have undergone drastic changes. 

Behind the scenes, the staff, administration and Student Government classes at GBHS have been doing their best to help transfer students while also following the health guidelines imposed.

“(We’re) just trying to offer some of these supports in a way that makes sense for our new reality,” assistant principal, Lisa Stanley said.

Stanley said she and the administration, along with the help of Link Crew and the Student Government classes, have made several changes to the way they held their traditional welcoming events. 

“We would typically have (Grizzly retreat day) at the beginning of the year, where we would have just a huge student tunnel, and of course, a big rally joining in our gym, kind of a celebration of everyone, especially our class of 2024,” Stanley said.

“We actually changed (Grizzly Retreat Day) in August and that became a Grizzly Welcome Day and we modified some of those events.

Students still came to campus, we had Link crew leaders and student government leaders that were on both sides (of the driveway). As cars pulled through the parking lot, we cheered them on and held up signs as they drove their way through (the school) to pick up Chromebooks…and some other necessary materials.” 

Aside from the changes made to Grizzly Retreat, Stanley, the administration, Link Crew and Student Government also organized a welcome video and virtual orientations. Most recently, they’ve provided on campus tours to give new students opportunities to familiarize themselves with the campus. 

Sela Sangwin is a new sophomore and recent transfer student from Oakmont High School. Sangwin moved to GBHS for its strong drama program about a month into the 2020-2021 school year.

“I made the decision to move when the school year had already started,” she said. “We were already off distance learning, so it was a little bit less daunting to switch schools.”

Liliana Núñez is a freshman and transfer student from the Rocklin Unified School District. A student-athlete, Núñez moved to GBHS for its strong academics and athletics.

Núñez reflected on hearing GBHS would be shifting its learning online. 

“I think my nerves honestly calmed down,” she said. “I knew one person in my grade but only through social media and another is a sophomore that I’m really close with.”

Since the start of the school year, Sangwin and Núñez have adjusted to GBHS and everything the high school is about. 

Both praised their teachers and the GBHS staff for easing the transition. 

“Granite Bay is a great school and has pretty great teachers that welcome you well,” Núñez said. 

Sangwin agreed.

“All my teachers have been really very flexible and very kind..all the staff and students have been very kind to me,” she said.

Yet Sangwin and Núñez both recognize the uniqueness of this school year—and the challenges the future holds. 

“I don’t feel not welcomed but at the same time I’m not not being welcomed,” Núñez said. “It’s like an in-between.”

“I think that with the social (aspect) and just with the whole vibe of the school, I’m going to have to figure that out when we get back to school,” Sangwin said, reflecting on the future of this school year. “When I eventually go back to school, it’s going to be a little bit awkward to try and get to know people that I’ve been seeing through the zoom screen this entire time.”

Most importantly, however, Sangwin said she feels welcome at GBHS regardless of whatever the future holds.

“I feel very welcome here…Right now in the present, I’m enjoying it a lot,” she said.

To all the new students at GBHS, Stanley asserted that administration is doing their best to ensure their comfort and safety. 

“It really is our intention to lay that foundation to do everything that we can to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy,” Stanley said, “…and to move us back into that normal traditional experience of high school, where (the students) can experience everything they’ve been looking forward to.

That’s really our ultimate goal.”

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