Senior Returns to Much Different HPHS

As a freshman, I had imagined that the first day of my senior year would be spent roaming the halls with my classmates and counting down the days until graduation.

Instead, I spent my first day perched on my couch, a cup of coffee in hand, as I struggled to understand what my teachers were saying through the poor connection on Google Meet.

Online school has become just another part of the “new normal” the world has been forced to adapt to with the recent coronavirus pandemic. Still, while other schools have ultimately decided to continue with online learning for their students’ safety, the Highland Park Independent School District has adopted a hybrid learning schedule.

This new approach has cut the on-campus student population in half (although 15% of students chose to remain completely online), with those having last names beginning with A-L attending in person on A-Days, while those with last names starting with M-Z stay at home, only to switch on the next day (now aptly known as B-Day).

My second first day as a W was on a B-Day, the first day I had actually “been to school” in six months, yet the familiarity of my campus was lost on me upon walking through the doors of the student entrance on Westchester.

The halls, which I had previously found suffocating due to the overflow of students commuting from class to class, are still stifling – now due to the required masks every student and staff member must wear – yet considerably emptier.

Navigating the corridors has become like walking through a maze, with each staircase only funneling traffic one way to minimize the number of students clustered together. I can no longer talk to my friends during lunch, as the barriers between each seat block not only potential germs but also sound.  

Though half of my senior year has been taken away, and the memories I had longed to make gone with it, I wonder if we should even be in school at all. I look at the news, and I see death tolls, grief, and little progress on containing the spread of the contagion that has uprooted everyone’s lives.

I look at my teachers and see only sacrifices being made. Those who are high risk or have high-risk people at home, those so concerned over the potential of contracting the virus that they have chosen to wear hazmat suits and quarantine themselves in the corners of their rooms behind plastic sheets, those risking their safety because they have to provide us with an education even during a pandemic.

I look at my classmates and see fear, hesitation, and uncertainty. And despite how badly I want to gain some sense of normality back, I can’t help but wonder: Is it worth it?


For nearly 40 years, People Newspapers has worked tirelessly to tell the stories—good, bad, and sublime—of our neighbors in the Park Cities and Preston Hollow. To support our efforts, please contact [email protected] for advertising opportunities. Please also consider sharing this story with your friends and social media followers.

Shaye Wattson

Shaye Wattson began her senior year at Highland Park High School in August and returned to campus on Sept. 9.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *