New year, new Viking Times

Nayera Abdessalam, Managing Editor and Backpage writer

Students and staff returned to North High this August facing the transition from the 3/2 and remote schedule during the 2020-21 school year to now having the whole building back in person. 

Last school year, Viking Times were shortened to 15 minutes and built into the A1 and B2 blocks. This means teachers had different groups of students on A and B days because of the adjusted schedule during the remote learning model. According to Lynne Smith, Assistant Principal at North, this format was used by all OPS high schools and the district required her to remove everyone from their original Viking Times for the 2020-21 school year. 

This year they are back to being 25 minutes with students in classrooms with new teachers and peers. Typically, students have the same Viking Time teacher all four years of high school. However, due to the adjusted schedule last year and reassigned homerooms this year, juniors and seniors will not get that experience. 

My Viking Time was a tight-knit group that had bonded with our teacher, Sheila Connor, and developed many traditions in our daily block together. On the first day of freshmen year in homeroom, Connor took individual and group photos of us with the plan to retake them our senior year and compare. With all of us now spread out in different Viking Times, this memento sadly won’t be fulfilled. 

“We had already made plans for activities and things that we wanted to do senior year and so that all got obliterated,” said Amanda Gutierrez, another teacher at North who had a strong connection with the Viking Time students she had during their freshmen and sophomore years. 

Teachers and students that were a part of junior and senior Viking Times were all planning to return to their original Viking Times since the rest of the daily schedule reverted to normal in the wake of the chaotic COVID learning year.   

I didn’t find out about this change until the end of summer when a letter with information about orientation days came in the mail and my new advisement teacher was listed at the top. It was completely unexpected. 

“It wasn’t communicated to me through the school at all, the students found out before us and I was really shocked, I actually just thought it was an error,” Gutierrez said. 

Viking Time had always been my favorite part of the day because of how special Connor had made it for us, so having that taken away was hard to grapple with especially after such an unpredictable last school year. I couldn’t understand why things were changing again when they should have finally been settling down. 

After digging further into this issue, I started to realize the wider aim of our advisement period. 

On the decision making of the reassignment of Viking Times for this school year, Smith said, “It was decided due to many staff changes over the last couple of years and also students would have another adult in the building to have a relationship with that we would start fresh with the Viking Times this school year.” 

Gutierrez also agreed that there is an advantage to forming a relationship with another adult in the building. 

Coming from this perspective, the change seems far more reasonable and even beneficial. I had also not taken into account the fact that half of the school has never had an “original Viking Time” because they started high school either this year or when we were fully remote.  

In addition, plenty of students have transferred in and out of North so these students would need to be reassigned anyway. I can understand why putting everyone in brand new homerooms was much easier. 

Nonetheless, the whole situation could have been handled a little better. 

“North made a decision that impacts almost every teacher and student in this building for 25 minutes every day and to my knowledge they didn’t ask for a single student or teacher input. I don’t think that’s effective… especially if the goal was to make Viking Time more meaningful,” Gutierrez said. 

The overall lack of communication between administration, teachers, students, and parents seemed to be the root of all issues stemming from this. Otherwise, this was an understandable modification, omitting my personal preferences.