Students are back in school again, and unlike last year, they're actually in the school! With in-person schooling making a return and online schooling seeming to be a thing of the past, classrooms are full of energy and excitement to be seeing their teachers and friends again.

Strathmore High School Principal Doug Raycroft said in-person learning is incredibly important for students, since many struggled with online learning.

"Some students did ok, depending on their learning style and how mature they are, some students were able to learn at home relatively successfully. But most students, it really hindered their progress because they aren't able to ask those questions, so the feedback is not as quick. You're basically just getting the lecture over top."

He explained that formative assessment is a big part of learning that you can only get in a real classroom setting. Formative assessment is when you're getting regular, constant feedback.

"You've got a peer you can ask, you've got a teacher you can ask, you get to work through your issues a little bit quicker. Where if you're at home that feedback isn't as quick, so it really is great for the kids to come back."

The benefits to learning will be huge, but the even bigger impact could possibly be in mental and social well-being, as students will once again be able to spend time with friends, join clubs and sports, and have a chance to engage with their peers in a big group setting.

"When they don't feel connected to other people and to something bigger than themselves, we saw an increase in mental health issues we were dealing with over the last two years too. It's just great to have kids back, I think it really helps their learning."

"Students like to identify themselves in some area. There's so many different opportunities that we need to offer for people to build their self esteem and to be good citizens. If you're an athlete and you want to join a team, or if you want to get involved in some of our fine arts projects. Having all those as a way for students to connect to different areas of the building is huge, it's enormous. Without that, it was just a big void in the building."

It's not just great for the students, even the teachers are excited to be in-person! Raycroft explained that even teachers and staff struggled with zoom meetings and conferences. Holy Cross Collegiate Music Director and Grade Nine Science Teacher Sarah Haughey also said it's exciting to be spending time with her students again, especially for things like the return of band performances.

"I'm really grateful to be back in the classroom fulltime with our students, last spring was probably one of the best of my teaching career when things started opening up after covid and seeing the energy of kids being able to do live performances and go on field trips and just do some simple things that we have taken for granted for a long time. So this year I think there's a lot of energy, the kids are excited to go back to off campus trips and live performances, and even little things like fundraising and getting together as a group to celebrate masses and assemblies is really exciting."

It's only the first day of school for Strathmore High School, but Raycroft said the return of in-person is already creating a noticeable change.

"You can already tell, it was great to go to the first football game and those big crowds and the kids were having fun so there was a lot of pride in the school."

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