I am a junior. It is my first year at VNHS, yet I have never been on campus.

The headline isn’t a riddle, but rather an unusual point-of-view story about my first time on the VNHS campus.

For+the+first+time+in+over+a+year%2C+the+VNHS+campus+has+opened+its+doors+for+students+to+return+to+campus+under+covid+guidelines.+

CREDIT: Ivan Delgado | VNHS

For the first time in over a year, the VNHS campus has opened its doors for students to return to campus under covid guidelines.

My junior year has been my first year at Van Nuys High School. I decided to set foot on campus last month to do hybrid learning.

The only time I have ever been on campus before was to pick up textbooks. I attended Orientation and Back-to-School Night virtually through Zoom. When the option to attend school through the hybrid learning model became available, I jumped at the opportunity.

My original intention of going back to school was to get used to the massive campus. I came from a small private school. Because I had no friends here —seeing as though all my friends are at other schools — I was hoping to enter campus and see a courtyard full of kids, socially distant, but talking and interacting with one another. That was the fantasy anyway.

On my first day, I drove to school, parked in the student parking lot, put on my mask and walked up to the front entrance. An LAUSD faculty member took my temperature, scanned the QR Code with my Daily Pass and then I took my first step as an official member of the VNHS Wolfpack community. It felt like a right of passage.

But from there, the novelty of being on campus quickly faded. Being on campus was one of the most awkward feelings I have felt in years. School has always been a hectic place to be. The dream for most kids has always been to not have to go to school and live life, but returning to a campus brought back all the memories of what a social experience school was for me in the past. I had begun to yearn for normalcy — a time before the pandemic. I yearned to experience busy classrooms cluttered with backpacks, desks covered in pages of work, mobs of students crowding the staircase and the sound of lockers slamming shut.

That was far from the reality of what in-person school is actually like now. The school felt like a ghost town; a large campus but few people. Those waiting for school to start in the courtyards are not interested in interacting with others. They are distant and cold, glued to their phones with their headphones in their ears. Everyone is isolated. When I headed to my Advisory class for the first time, I climbed up the staircase and strolled down the empty hallway listening to the echo of my own footsteps until I was able to find my classroom.

When I reached the class I was assigned to, I introduced myself to my advisor. I began looking for a place to sit down, walking the rows of empty desks. Every other desk was marked with a giant X and chairs were stacked in piles on either side of the room.

There were only three of us: my advisor, another student, and myself. I easily found a desk and unpacked the contents of my backpack. On the desk next to me marked with an X, I had sanitary wipes, a bottle of water and extra masks. On my desk I placed my computer, notebooks, a pen and pencil and my headphones.

The interesting thing —while also being the most frustrating thing at the same time — is that the way we attended classes was no different from the way I attended them at home. Sitting in class with my headphones on, I follow the same schedule as everyone else at home or at school — moving virtually from class to class. Not once have I left the room to attend another class as I wished I could do.

Although I could’ve taken the same classes from the comfort of my room, there are some positives to being on campus. I gained the ability to adapt to a new school and experience a small bit of social interaction with other students and faculty members. I began talking with the other student in my class and we hit it off right away. We have followed each other on social media and he introduced me to another student that attends class across the hall. We’ve had some great conversations during our 10-minute passing periods. At lunch, I found an empty space under the shaded trees and sat down with my newly found friends. Faculty members who have never seen me before have approached me and, in a friendly manner, asked me questions about how my day is going, what courses I am taking, what school I came from and how am I adjusting to this new environment.

The fact is, going back to school via the hybrid learning plan probably doesn’t make sense for students who are well-adjusted to the school environment. But while it may not be the ideal high school experience, for new students like me, it is the best way to find new friends, meet faculty members and learn the layout of the campus.

Coming to school in person has given me some sense of returning to normalcy, but it’s not nearly enough. Over this past year and a half, isolated at home, I’ve come to appreciate how important school really is.