A normal end to the school year

What started out as a topsy-turvy rollercoaster of high COVID-19 case numbers, extreme weather and a week and a half of elearning ended with a smooth carousel of field trips, very low COVID-19 case numbers and the return of activities that make high school what it is. 

District 1 has actually been much quicker than most districts about allowing group gatherings, field trips, and other “normal” school activities, according to Principal Andrew McMillan. McMillan said he is excited to see even more events happening as the school year draws to a close.

“In (March and April), we saw some specific procedures come out about field trips being back on and some more group gatherings, which we’ve been a little ahead of the curve with,” McMillan said. “I’m very excited about our end of the year procedures, things like yearbook day, prom, just some normalcy in some of those events. Our yearbook day will be the first assembly we’ve had in three years.”

The Chapman fine arts department has especially appreciated being able to return to normal procedures. 

Band teacher and marching band director Kevin Horton was especially thankful to travel with the band again and sit in the bleachers during football season.

“Actually being able to sit in the stands this year for the football games was a big change.  Last year, we had to sit on the track due to the social distancing requirements,” Horton said. “Also, most of what we do is travel.  It was nice to get back to normal and do some traveling again.”

Senior and 2021-2022 drum major Nathaniel Robinson agreed that being able to travel and perform outside of school was a huge bonus for this school year.

“This year was really great because we got to go back on competitions and outside performances after dealing with COVID in the previous years,” Robinson said.

The band is not the only part of the fine arts department to take advantage of the ability to travel. Orchestra director Jeanette Kuhn has taken her students to many competitions and performances this year, which she says has brought back a sense of normalcy.

“We’ve not only had students be selected in auditions, but we’ve also participated in more events than ever before,” Kuhn said. “This year we had students selected to Region Orchestra and All-State Orchestra, participated in Concert Performance Assessment, went to Anderson University for an orchestra clinic with a professor, and have had students perform at many school ceremonies and events. It feels much more like ‘normal,’ whatever our new normal is.”

Choral director Rebecca Rostron, along with the rest of the fine arts department, had to find ways to rehearse and perform while still following strict COVID-19 guidelines during the 2020-2021 school year. 

Now that those guidelines have all but disappeared, however, they have been able to hold live concerts and rehearse normally, a stark contrast to standing 12 feet apart and singing while wearing a mask.

“The most significant difference is how we have been able to safely sing this year,” Rostron said. “This year we were able to sing on stage. Beginning at the end of last semester, we have been able to go on field trips again. Since the week before spring break, our chorus room has looked like a regular chorus room again, too.”

Not only has the return to “business as usual” allowed for easier rehearsals and more performing opportunities, but it has also permitted students to visit District 1 elementary and middle schools to encourage younger generations to continue their fine arts journeys. 

According to sophomore Gabrielle Niblack, all this time spent together has forged deeper friendships among the orchestra especially.

“We’ve actually been able to practice after school and before school and we’ve really been able to connect more as an orchestra and do things together,” Niblack said. “We were able to go around to different schools and promote orchestra, too.” 

As the end of the more-normal school year draws closer and closer, the thoughts of seniors start to shift from the joys of high school to graduation, adulthood and beyond. 

This graduating class, the class of 2022, holds a special place in McMillan’s heart.

“This is the group that I started out with as principal when they were ninth graders,” McMillan said. “To be able to watch them grow from ninth graders who were unsure of themselves to just really confident young adults that are ready to go and do whatever they want to do is just a wonderful thing.”

This senior class has also shown incredible resilience in their time at Chapman. 

According to Horton, even though his seniors have missed out on some of the most fun parts of band, they continue to work hard day in and day out to ensure that the band is the best version it can be. 

“Our seniors never went on an out of state trip when everyone else who has graduated has been to New York and to Florida at least once during their high school tenure,” Horton said. “It was unfortunate for them to not be able to experience the most meaningful part of being in band. However, their work ethic and resolve through all of this mess has been amazing.”

As they prepare to leave Chapman High School and venture out into the real world, McMillan’s message to the class of 2022 is to be successful in all that they do, but be thankful as well:

“Be great at what (you) want to do in life, and be kind to one another, too. Be grateful for where we are, who we are, the school that we’re in, the community we’re in, and enjoy every moment. There’s nothing like being in high school.”

Robinson emphasized just how rapidly even your senior year can go by, and he encourages underclassmen to take advantage of every part of high school. 

“Truly live your high school life to the fullest!” Robinson said. “Senior year goes by much quicker than you could ever imagine.”

As for the rest of the student body, McMillan’s message to them is to get ready. 

“This next school year is going to be one unlike any other,” McMillan said. “It’s going to be a great blend of post-pandemic innovation with the pre-pandemic who we used to be. I think you’re going to see a lot of return of what really made us great from day one, so buckle up and enjoy the ride.”