By Alexis Park, Contributor
March 16, 2020, was the last day of in-person public school for most Chicagoans. The majority of students, not only within Chicago Public Schools, were then under the false pretense that schools would be back in session in a matter of two weeks. Unfortunately, the virus we had dismissed as a passing difficulty grew into a pandemic. Two weeks turned into months, and now the virus has reached an one-year milestone. Payton students are one semester into the school year, and all CPS schools remain closed Wednesday as Chicago stays in lockdown.
Payton’s freshman class spent the end of their eighth grade year at home and transitioned to high school during the pandemic. Remote learning has proved to be an obstacle in the way of budding friendships, education, and extracurriculars, but nevertheless, according to a Paw Print survey, most freshmen would describe their first months at Payton as a “positive” experience.
Words used to describe the curriculum at Payton included “rigorous” and “demanding,” as well as “stressful.” Nonetheless, Payton freshmen said they expected a rigorous curriculum, and believe that the curriculum will help them grow, even through remote learning. Technology issues are common, and students are especially grateful that the teachers are understanding and willing to make accommodations. “All the teachers are very supportive and helpful,” Sophie Gettelman ‘24 said. “But my favorite teachers are the ones with the most energy in the classroom.”
There have also been multiple racist incidents, and many are concerned that such incidents will become a regularity during the next four years they will spend at Payton. “Payton is a prime example of systemic racism, and microaggressions play out in the everyday classroom,” Anoushka Lal ‘24 said. The first act of racism during remote learning this school year took place within the first week of school.
Educating and practicing mindfulness would promote anti-racism and inclusivity. “It’s hard for people to understand a culture that isn’t their own,” Hailan Yu ‘24 said. “But the freshman orientation, reading, and discussions about racial inequality in English are helping educate more people.”
Building and fostering an inclusive community where all voices are heard is vital. Bonds are stronger when people with different backgrounds, origins, and opinions feel safe within the community. However, because of the pandemic, interactions between classmates have been limited. Freshmen have expressed interest in utilizing virtual ways to interact with people who are not in one of their classes, as well as becoming more involved and getting to know the school itself better. “I hope to see more spirit events in the future so more people will get to know each other and people will continue to feel proud about being a Grizzly,” Janice Mei ‘24 said.