The first week of school, according to students


With a large number of students deciding to eat outside, social distancing has been a difficult practice both indoors and outdoors.

For the first time since March 2020, Pioneer students are back in the building. But while staff and students are generally happy to move on from Zoom, some have concerns about how COVID safety will prevail in the physical setting, with nearly 2,000 students in attendance. 

Most notably, the absence of COVID-19 regulations during lunch poses a concern to many students.

“In the lunchroom, it’s extremely crowded. I feel that the safety at the lunch table is very limited and that people are too grouped up in such a small area without masks,” said Pioneer sophomore Sahan Gunarante. 

With the possible risks of indoor lunch in a crowded cafeteria, Pioneer administration set out to create a system where students could opt to eat outside. With such a high enrollment, though, students are finding crowds there, too.

“I don’t want to touch the cafeteria or go near there. My friends and I go outside, but there aren’t enough tables. Some people just sit in the mulch,” said senior Kelsey Meadows. “It’s a mess.”

Although cafeteria seating has brought some complaints, other rules that Pioneer has implemented for COVID-19 safety have received the nod of approval from students. This includes the requirement that each class create a seating chart, should the need for contact tracing ever arrive. 

“I think that seating charts are quite smart. I appreciate that,” said Meadows. 

Andrew Foster, world history and geography teacher, as well as the school’s Latin instructor, echoed similar sentiments.

“I think it’s the most reasonable thing that we can do for contact tracing. It’s the easiest thing,” Foster said. “Most teachers have a seating chart already, so we just incorporate it, keep it like that.” 

When it comes to the overall flow of schedules and movement between classes, the first week of school still presented an unsure start for some. After the entirety of last year was virtual, this year’s freshmen aren’t the only ones new to the building; sophomores face the same issues of adjusting to the environment. 

“I have met a few sophomores who are feeling very overwhelmed. There’s not much direction in the hallways,” said Meadows. 

Pioneer held an orientation for underclassmen before the start of school, but familiarity with navigating the hallways and exploring extracurricular options is something that solidifies over time. Luckily, some students were able to receive guidance from fellow peers to aid the transition. 

“On the first day, finding my classes was a little bit difficult, [but] lots of people were able to guide me to the classes … students helped me find the extracurricular stuff,” said Gunarante.

While the return to school may not mirror pre-COVID years, students say it provides them with a sense of normalcy, sparking enthusiasm for what the year may bring.

“I’m not used to high school being something that I enjoy,” said Meadows.