On February 2nd, the Pulse staff, along with the Intro Journalism class, were able to hold a press conference with our principal, Mr. Killeen. Like most things, this event had to be modified from its usual time-honored fashion to fit the distance learning model. Instead of walking into our classroom with “Hail to the Chief” playing triumphantly in the background, Mr. Killeen clicked into our Google Meet while Mr. Black played “Mission Impossible”––a song choice to reflect the tribulations of the past year.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the questions asked by students regarded life and school under the gloom of COVID-19. Mr. Killeen referred to the health guidance and informed us that we have to be in the red tier for 5 days in order to be eligible to open our school. He also mentioned that reopening at the high school level is substantially more challenging than reopening at an elementary or middle school level. For example, the guidance proposes students staying together: “How do you do that when you have 25,000 students with different schedules?” Mr. Killeen said, “I think there will be local discretion in how we implement return to school…hopefully this year, I would love to have you guys on campus…we have plans ready to go, we just need to know if we can actually implement them.”
Other than physical health and wellbeing, mental health and wellness has also been a concern during these times of isolation. On this topic, Mr. Killeen referenced the student summit that was held in late January, saying that, according to the comments made by those present at the summit, social emotional health plays a big role in the matter of reopening. He mentioned that, although not many students have chosen this option, there are some who have opted to do distance learning from campus (where there are resources available including social workers and counselors).
CCA culture was also a popular theme among the questions and answers. On the culture upon reopening, Mr. Killeen envisions that everyone will be reacquainting themselves with campus and each other and there will certainly be an air of excitement. Afterwards, he believes that CCA students will come together and foster a culture of inclusivity, wellness, connectivity, as well as racial equity. He also mentioned that the freshmen students will have a lot of catching up to do in regards to learning the culture of CCA and acclimating to campus. Luckily, PALs and other student-run organizations, with the full support of Mr. Killeen, are preparing some special events and activities for these new students––by students, for students. And as for the seniors? Mr. Killeen advised us to harness the first “C” of CCA’s motto––“Creative, Confident, Accepting”––and participate in the planning of special senior events so that we can do things that are meaningful and special to us. In regards to graduation, he said, “…if it is very important in the future to have a tradition ceremony, we will do it when we are allowed to do it. I take my cue from you; as principal, it is my job to support what you want to do provided we can do it safely… The board wants to create a committee but I will always do what CCA students want to do.”
As the school board has been a hot topic as of late, some Pulse staff members also inquired about Mr. Killeen’s opinion. In fact, our Editor-in-Chief, Izzy Ster, started with a question about board transparency with the community. In response, he said “there are two ways we communicate. One is from the district level and one is from the site level. I’m hopeful that our community here at CCA feels like our communication systems at the site level are strong…the challenge at the district level has been back and forth communication…that does need to improve… I want them to get to know our school so that we can be a team in how we communicate and not be confusing in how we communicate.”
Even in the most unusual of situations, this virtual press conference is proof that we can still accomplish the things that we treasured in the past. Big thank you to Mr. Killeen and all of CCA’s administration and teachers for leading us through the COVID era. And, in case anyone was wondering, the answer to staying sane during quarantine, according to Mr. Killeen, is bike rides and ice cream.