COVID-19 forces school officials to change the Aug. 25 Back to School Night into Zoom experience for parents


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Traditionally held on campus, Back to School Night for students’ parents will be held through Zoom meetings with teachers Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 5:45 p.m. for zero period and 6 p.m. for first period. Sunny Hills officials had to resort to an all-virtual program in keeping with COVID-19 health guidelines, and so like the current situation with students, they will be unable to see some of the newly designed aspects of the school such as the front doors in the main office wing.

Rida Zar, Opinion Editor

For the first time, Sunny Hills will hold a virtual Back-to-School-Night Tuesday, Aug. 25, for students’ parents in keeping with COVID-19 social distancing and health guidelines, school officials said.

We take pride in the positive and energetic school culture we have here at Sunny Hills High School,” said assistant principal Melissa Stinson, who is in charge of organizing the event. “While we would love to host this event on our physical campus, we know that the pride of our students and staff will still shine this evening through the virtual setting.”  

Parents will be required to use their child’s school account to access the teachers’ Zoom meetings.

“We are really hoping our students will provide support to their parents in helping them log into their student Zoom accounts so that parents can join the Zoom meetings,” Stinson said in an email interview. “If there is a problem and a parent is unable to attend the event virtually, parents should reach out to their students’ teachers with any questions or to set up individual phone conferences as needed.”

Before the main event, parents are encouraged to watch a video lasting eight minutes and 14 seconds; a link to it was sent out to parents and students on Aug, 21 via principal Allen Whitten’s digital weekly newsletter containing a PDF file of the program. 

The YouTube video includes a message from Whitten as well as an introduction of the ASB cabinet, a few Sunny Hills staff members, the school board, Parent Teacher Student Association [PTSA] and the Korean Parent Organization.  The National Anthem was sung by the vocal ensemble with a virtual performance from pep quad — a new version of the school’s cheerleaders. 

PTSA president Nivie Jhawar hopes the new online format will allow for an increase in parents’ attendance since they won’t have to make arrangements to leave their homes to come to campus.

“Parents who might be stuck at work can hopefully log in when in the past, they might have to miss the event,” Jhawar said. “The online aspect really gives everyone the opportunity to log in no matter where they are.”

Choir president senior Vivian Tran also acknowledged the challenge of producing the National Anthem video performance, which consisted of a 10-minute recording session Aug. 19.

“It was a really new experience for us, and we had to learn how to use a special program to join our voices,” Tran said. “My classmates and I were really worried with how it would sound, but it actually turned out a lot better than we thought it would.” 

Prior to remotely meeting teachers for the start of Back to School Night, parents have the option to join a virtual question-and-answer session with Sunny Hills counselors from 4-6 p.m. 

Similar to previous years’ on-site counselor chats, the Zoom meeting will be a general open session for anyone who would like to join in and ask questions.

It will be a great opportunity for us to share the timeline of our guidance calendar, valuable services for academic, socioemotional and career exploration, including the formats in which we are adapting for distance learning needs,” head counselor Beth Thomson said. 

On the program’s third page from Whitten’s email, teachers are listed under the subject they teach. Linked to their name is their Zoom meeting that parents can join based on their children’s school schedule.

Parents can join Zoom meetings with the teachers starting at 6 p.m or 5:45 p.m if their child has a zero period.

Math teacher Jennifer Papageorge, who’s also the school’s coordinator for the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, plans on hosting her Zoom meetings exactly as she would have in normal circumstances in the classroom with a motivational video and her plan for the year followed by a question-and-answer time.

“We are all trying our best to keep each student motivated given the current situation, and we hope to provide them with enough help and support through the AVID program that they won’t fall behind in any of their classes,” Papageorge said. 

ASB co-adviser and social science teacher Mike Paris said he is also looking forward to connecting with his students’ parents in a virtual platform.

“I’m a little concerned with technical issues for parents getting onto Zoom,” Paris said. “[But] we will make the best of it.

Freshman Matias Perez said his mom is excited about attending her first Sunny Hills Back to School Night, adding that she thinks it is awesome that Sunny Hills is still organizing such an event rather than removing it altogether. 

“I am interested on what the teachers have to say about their class and how it compares/contrasts to the information we were given by the teachers on the first day of school,” said Perez, who plans to join his mother during her Zoom sessions with his teachers. “It also doesn’t hurt to be informed.”