Once Joel Martinez scanned the Evergreen High School cafeteria Tuesday morning, he came to a quick conclusion.
“I know half the people here, so I’m good,” the 15-year-old freshman said.
In a school year where black squares and faceless avatars dominated computer screens in remote learning, Martinez recognized plenty of classmates’ faces at freshmen orientation Tuesday — and his first day of in-person instruction in almost one year.
If he had his way, though, Martinez would stay in remote learning.
“I didn’t choose hybrid,” he said, “my parents chose it for me.”
Around 100 ninth-graders at Evergreen got their first taste of non-virtual high school for the second day of freshmen orientations across all the district’s high schools. Evergreen Public Schools first welcomed ninth-graders Monday, where Evergreen High greeted 109 ninth-graders.
Like students in other grades levels, high-schoolers in hybrid learning are separated into two cohorts. They attend classes in-person twice a week and remain in remote learning the remaining three days. Students also have the choice to stay in remote learning the rest of the school year.
Third-year Principal Danny Orrantia said he estimates roughly 40 percent of Evergreen students are choosing hybrid learning, though the ratio also differs at each of the district’s high schools.
Orrantia and other staff members welcomed freshmen during a 20-minute orientation inside the cafeteria and touched on COVID-19 safety procedures and expectations before students left for their first class with a color-coded map of the school in hand. The same chairs students sat in spaced 6 feet apart listening to introductions are the same chairs freshmen and sophomores will sit in to eat meals. The school’s auxiliary gymnasium has turned into an auxiliary cafeteria for juniors and seniors.
Throughout the halls, cheerleaders were on hand at various locations to help freshmen navigate their new surroundings and find classrooms. Senior Alexis Hannon and sophomore Abi Spears said they felt it was important to volunteer their time to assist wherever they could. Students in grades 10-12 will be back in the building for in-person instruction later this week when Evergreen Public Schools brings in all high school students who choose hybrid learning starting Thursday.
“If you need help,” Hannon said, “that’s what our job is. We really wanted to show that.”
Freshman Riley Mitchell, 15, said he jumped at the opportunity for hybrid learning when given the option. Fellow freshman Coltrane MacQuarrie, 14, had never stepped inside Evergreen until Tuesday. He said finding the willpower to do work in remote learning made school at home difficult, but he’s happy to find a bit of normalcy by returning to classrooms.
And that bit of normalcy returned in waves Tuesday.
“I also missed seeing people,” he said.