High School 1327 opens Connection Center for students

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Orion Csizmadia-Zinnes

The Student Center at High School 1327, where the Connection Center is located.

On Oct. 5, High School 1327 (HS 1327) announced in an email that it would open  a Connection Center on campus. The Connection Center is stationed in the Student Center of HS 1327 and is open Tuesday to Friday, from 8:15 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. The center offers free breakfast and lunch and welcomes students who need a stable wifi connection, support from teachers, or a quiet place to work.

Students who would like to use the Connection Center need to email Chad Stuart, the Assistant Principal of HS 1327. Also, students can also ask their teacher and other staff to connect them.

According to HS 1327 Campus Connection Center Cohort and Small Learning Communities Curricula Integration & Drama Teacher Jasper Thelin, the Connection Center is taking several safety precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

“You have to do the daily health screen, which is a link in the email or a QR code in front of the door. You have to be masked up and socially distant and stay in your cohort, whichever of the three. [The health screen] is just a little questionnaire about your symptoms,” Thelin said.

Assistant Principal Chad Stuart commented on the difficulties of keeping students separated. 

“Our only stumbling block is the natural tendencies of high school students to want to get close to each other. At times, we have had to remind students that they need to be 6 feet apart,” said Stuart.

Students working at the Connection Center at High School 1327. (Orion Csizmadia-Zinnes)

To lower the risk of COVID-19, students are separated into cohorts. There are three cohorts: one for 9th and 10th graders, one for 11th and 12th graders, and one for English language learners. Each cohort has a maximum of 14 students.

To ensure additional safety, the Connection Center undergoes a cleaning of every used surface each night, as well as an hourly cleaning of the bathrooms. 

Another COVID-19 concern is lunchtime, where students must take off their masks to eat. Sophomore Briana Tomsett, who attends the Connection Center weekly, commented on the issue. 

“…we all have a tendency to stand close to our friends. I know that we (students) like to eat during class sometimes but with social distancing happening and being in small classrooms with little airflow, I think that eating in class would be a problem and make some uncomfortable.”

The Connection Center, for Freshman Finn Cieply, was an opportunity to return to some normalcy during the pandemic. 

“My mom got an email, and then I decided to sign up for it… I wanted to get out of the house and try to get on campus a bit,” Cieply said.

As well as a return to campus, unstable wifi connections are one of the reasons students may find the Connection Center appealing. 

“If anyone has wifi problems they can come here and it’s pretty easy to do your work because there’s no distractions. It’s a quiet room,” Cieply said.

Thelin hopes to expand the role of the Connection Center beyond a place for students to attend class and do schoolwork. He coined a name for his vision of what the Connection Center could be, calling it the “Campus Connection Center Cohort for Casual Conversations Concerning Class Content, Character and Creativity.”

“Casual conversations concerning class content, character and creativity I think is what we really need moving forward. I really think as a school we need to be reprioritizing the way we teach in order to be meeting kids with the trauma they’re facing of being in this isolated socially paralyzed mindset. We need to stop thinking about the curricular benchmarks and learning outcomes as much and prioritize the learning experiences of the kids,” Thelin said.

The Connection Center will be open as long as school is virtual. Any HS 1327 student is welcome to sign up and attend.

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