by Kaydence Ham/Staff Writer
As the end of the school year approaches swiftly, a look back at all GC’s progress seems appropriate, especially after the chaos of the pandemic. The masks, social distancing, and contact tracing have all slowly come to an end. This year was the first semi-normal year since the 2019-2020 school year. GCHS had Prom, Homecoming, field trips, award programs, and other extracurricular activities reintroduced for the first time in two years.
School administrators and staff have had a difficult job navigating the past couple of years. As this time period is coming to an end, it would be reasonable to address these issues with the school administrators. The biggest issue over the past few years has been the pandemic. Dr. Olin said, “As the superintendent of schools, I believe it was (and still is) my job to ensure that our schools were as safe as possible for our students and staff. Therefore, my team and I were in constant communication with the Hancock County Health Department and the Indiana Department of Health officials to help us craft our policies and procedures to navigate the tumultuous waters of the pandemic. I felt as though we were constantly walking the tightrope between that which was too restrictive and that which was too passive. We did not always get it right, and we definitely did not make everyone happy. That being said, I am grateful for the grace that most of our students, staff, and families exhibited throughout the year.”
Coming out of the pandemic has definitely brought about change, as the district tries to adjust to some sort of normal. Mr. Cary stated, “It really seemed like two different school years: one in the pandemic and one after the pandemic. We wanted to prioritize the health of our staff and our students, while also keeping an eye on the learning loss our students experienced during the pandemic.” Mrs. Coleman agreed. She said, “I really see this year in two different years. We have August to February where we still had to deal with COVID, the absences and all the craziness that the pandemic brought us. I have loved the year since March! I have gotten in more classrooms, gotten to interact more with teachers and students and it has just been a different atmosphere. I think the pandemic has taught us all about perseverance, patience and life. We’ve had to rely so heavily on family and friends, and educators.”
Although GC has had a very divided year due to the pandemic, students and administration have managed to sneak in some highlights this year. Mr. Cary stated, “There were quite a few highlights for the year: Band winning State again, having Prom for the first time in a few years, the first day of school with the Senior Turnaround, etc. It wasn’t a normal year, but we had a lot of normalcy along the way.”
Dr. Olin also discussed some important highlights for the district. He said, “Winning back-to-back state championships in marching band was the most exciting moment for me. Seeing 150+ students coming together to perform something that is creative and beautiful never gets old. Being told that Eden Elementary School had the third highest math passing rate in the state. Receiving the support of our community to build the auditorium was also quite special. Receiving the Family Friendly designation from the Indiana Department of Education for all eight schools was very rewarding. And of course…Dropping the mask mandate and returning to normalcy in the spring semester was definitely a highlight as well. Seeing our students at Prom for the first time in three years was quite special.”
GC has also had some challenges along the way. Dr. Olin stated, “We had a number of challenges filling teacher vacancies due to absenteeism during the pandemic. It is our goal to provide high quality education in the classroom each and every day. That was difficult to fulfill when we could not find the substitute teachers that we needed.” Many teachers even stepped in themselves and gave up their prep periods to help fill in a teacher’s position.
When asked about other challenges, Mr. Cary said, “I think the easy answer is COVID and the masks/contact tracing. The other big answer is that we had one less administrator after Mr. Beal retired. That meant a lot of work on the 3 of us instead of spread out amongst the four of us. At the end of the day, we prioritized what we could and made the most of the time we had.” Mr. Beal was with GC for 23 years, most of those at the high school before his retirement.
As the 2021-2022 school year comes to an end, GC is looking forward to many things next year. Mr. Cary says, “I am looking forward to adding another assistant principal to our office. We just hired Mr. Steve Wherry, who is the principal at Knightstown High School. He is going to make us so much better, and we are going to tackle some initiatives that have been put on the back burner during the pandemic. I also am looking forward to more normalcy than we already have.”
Seniors will be graduating June 5 and Mr. Cary wants them to know: “I hope they enjoy the last few weeks and make us proud in whatever they do moving forward.” Mrs. Coleman also had an encouraging piece of advice. “My advice for seniors is to never stop learning and growing. Whatever path you take next year, have confidence in that path. College isn’t for everyone but be sure you never give up on learning. Learn how to change a tire. Learn how to cook a recipe. Learn a new language. Just keep learning. And, don’t forget your roots. Be proud to be a GC graduate and come back and visit often!”