The Class of 2024: Fallen Behind?


As the class of 2024 return to the classroom, they face the effects of entering high school a year late

The doors of the school have opened once more after over a year of online learning. Students and staff alike are working to settle back into old routines and adjust to new regulations, but for the class of 2024, the experience of returning to school is especially strange.

The majority of the sophomore class have not attended in-person learning since schools closed in March of 2020, their eighth grade year, and though the class of 2024 have just begun their second year here, most had not stepped into the school prior to the first day on August 26. 

Sophomore Kylie Lewandowski compared the stark contrast between middle and high school, stating the most recent challenges she has faced.“This year, my classes are encompassed by people of different grades, plus the school is twice as big and more difficult to navigate,” said Lewandowski.

Lewandowski is enrolled in Advanced Functions and Modeling, Research Chemistry, and Foundations in Dance, all of which contain students of numerous grade levels.

Potomac Falls is larger than River Bend both in size and population, with 1,668 students attending Potomac Falls compared to River Bend Middle School’s 1,226. The increase in students is one of the most notable differences between middle and high school, and it has left many students feeling intimidated and overwhelmed.

Sophomores have had to make the leap from eighth grade to tenth grade. Sophomore Ayyoob Saeed, most known for his recurring segment on Feature Friday, said, “It is almost like going from the kiddy-pool and then jumping right into the deep end,” said Saeed. “You kind of get a jolt of excitement in the beginning, but then panic and dread starts to set in as the water rises above your neckline.” 

Many sophomores feel lost and confused as they attempt to make a smooth transition. “It’s a strange process. It’s almost like you have to cruise by in an area in which everybody is already able to navigate,” said Saeed.

Returning to the classroom as a highschool sophomore after last attending school as a middle schooler, the 2021 Sophomore Activities Coordinator, Lily Jacobs said, “It feels unusual. I don’t feel like I’m a sophomore, I still feel like I’m in eigth grade. There’s just this major social change that I can’t explain.”

The return to school has proved difficult for many sophomore students. A recent study suggests that children and teen’s mental health is in a decline due to the pandemic, making the return to school all the more difficult. Parents have reported that their children have displayed elevated symptoms of anxiety and depression and 22% experienced overall worsened mental health. “You feel like you don’t belong…” said Saeed. “You feel as if you’re the odd one out, that you are going to fail.”

The class of 2024’s back-to-school experience varies greatly not only to the other grades as they each return to the classroom, but to the typical school year of a sophomore student. While sophomores ordinarily know their way around the school and have already had a year to learn and adjust to life as a high school student, the class of 2024 has not.

“There are sophomores wandering the halls as confused and lost as freshmen. No lockers, more clubs and activities, more courses and classrooms, it’s all new to us despite being high schoolers for over a year,” said Lewandowski. 

While students have a natural expectation for academics to become more challenging, they couldn’t have foreseen that their biggest struggle would be the stress and emptiness they feel due to the lack of inclusion in the highschool community. “There is an additional level of stress that I think years prior have not felt. Of course, everyone, when entering a new grade, has some type of stress because it is always going to be a little bit harder than the year before even for the best students. But I think there is definitely this added element of stress,” said Saeed.

In an effort to aid sophomores entering high school for the first time, the school hosted a “Sophomore Stroll,” a brief tour of the school led by upperclassmen. However, for many sophomores, it wasn’t enough.

“For the majority of people in my grade, this year was like their freshmen year. They didn’t go back to school their freshman year like I did,” said Jacobs, who opted for hybrid learning in spring of 2021. “I definitely think the school could have done better in ensuring that sophomores were more comfortable. The last time the other sophomores in my grade were in school, they were in eigth grade, in a different building, a different setting. The difference between middle school and highschool, it’s pretty major.”

Lewandowski felt the school could have better assisted the transition for sophomores. “With virtual school, we had a modified workload. It is frankly overwhelming to suddenly shift into more assignments and due dates. We never got to glide into a high school schedule. I would like more knowledge of access to resources to help us study and complete assignments,” said Lewandowski.

It is unknown what the future holds for the class of 2024, and how these unique circumstances will affect them long term. Some students worry this may have a serious impact on the rest of their high school experience. “Depending on how soon the current situation clears up, our first real year of high school might not be until we are juniors. At that point, we would be upperclassmen starting to search for colleges,” said Lewandowski.

However, some students remain hopeful for the future.“I believe I’ll only be able to answer that question once I’ve graduated,”  said Jacobs. Through it all, the class of 2024 has displayed fierce resilience in the face of severe challenges. Only time will tell what they do with the circumstances they have been given.