By Chris Dailey
Wall High School reopened its doors full-time Sept. 2 as the 1,000+ student population returned to the hallways once again, although for the second straight year in masks.
While students are accustomed to the state mask mandate, many are still getting used to full days with 84-minute class blocks.
“I would rather have half days,” said Wall sophomore Colin Roarty.
Many Wall High School students enjoyed going home at noon and having hour-long blocks. Students did not eat in the building last school year, so half the school had never experienced unit lunch.
“I believe that the half day schedule was more beneficial,” said senior Carl Parcespe. “I would rather be able to go home and eat than have a lunch period.”
Not everyone agrees.
“Short days had its benefits, but I don’t feel like I’m getting the full course in during those days,” said fellow senior Joseph Gisoldi. “Eighty-four minute blocks help me perform better on tests and quizzes and allow time to ask questions to teachers if I don’t understand something we’re going over.”
While some students are happier than others, there is no denying the fact that longer school days have many benefits including adding much-needed structure back into the life of millions of students across the country ranging from first graders to high school seniors.
Longer school days provide more one-on-one opportunities for students and teachers.
As the end of the first marking period is near, many students are finally getting comfortable with the schedule.
Overall, some are happy to be back in the swing of things. At the end of the day, school is back in full swing.
By Zach Lichter
With the 2020-21 school year hitting the home stretch, Wall High School is creeping closer to normalcy.
As of Mon., April 19, the hybrid schooling environment has been eliminated. Students are now completely in school for their classes or completely virtual. With that move, the high school has also gone back to its regular alternate block schedule instead of the back-to-back A and B Days it featured for most of the year. School days, however, still end at 11:45 a.m.
The elimination of the hybrid marks the latest in a series of steps forward during the pandemic. On Feb. 8, Wall High School Principal Ms. Rosaleen Sirchio emailed all families to gauge interest in coming back into the building full time. Parents were asked to fill out a survey on Genesis choosing which learning plan their child would want to participate in beginning March 1.
Thirty-six percent of the parents who filled out the survey decided to have their children return for five-day in-person learning.
“At first, I didn’t know if I was going to go back five days,” said Wall sophomore Joseph Sambade. “My parents encouraged me to go back five days and I made the decision to go.”
As the school year has gone on, Wall High School considered ways to carefully reopen as certain conditions were met.
“The high school has a pandemic response team,” Ms. Sirchio said. “The team consists of administrators, teachers, counselors, parents, students, school nurse and the security team. The team discusses and evaluates the Health department data and recommendations and brainstorms solutions and plan recommendations for each phase of the return to school. We explored the possibility of providing families with an additional choice of the five-day-a-week learning option. After the questionnaire results came in, we analyzed the data and determined we could accommodate each student's choice.”
On Feb. 23, Ms. Sirchio emailed students announcing that five-day in-person would begin March 1. The challenge was making sure that all classrooms were safe. The custodians made sure that all students’ and teachers’ desks were safely spread apart. Teachers had to create seating charts for both groups so students would know where to sit with the increase of bodies in each classroom. Some classes were moved into bigger rooms so there was space for social distancing.
For some families, the idea of having their children learn completely in-person was a little scary. The ever-evolving mutations of the coronavirus and the U.S. surpassing half a million deaths drove the seriousness of the decision. Hybrid or all-virtual presented another option for people who are at high risk, lost a loved one to COVID or were concerned in general.
“I decided to do hybrid learning because I am just getting into a routine,” said Wall sophomore Brynn Heaney. “It was a super hard decision, but I thought it would be better to keep some sort of normalcy.”
Many students seem happy being back at school five days a week. They were able to see some of their friends in the opposite part of the alphabet in the building again for the first time since March 13, 2020, the last regular school day at Wall High School.
By Chris Dailey
It’s another week day and 19-year-old Dixie D’Amelio and her younger sister, Charli, are eating dinner in a video with other social media stars and the D’Amelio parents.
As a joke, their private chef, who is on the joke alongside the D’Amelio family, give Dixie a snail to eat, saying it’s a mushroom to get her to eat it, as they know she is prone to freak out when she eats certain foods.
Dixie throws up after she eats the snail and millions of people online cancel the D’Amelios in the next wave of what is known as ‘cancel culture.’
Cancel culture (or call-out culture) is a modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles -- either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to such ostracism are said to be "canceled."
Following the snail event, Charli, who was on her way to reaching 100 million TikTok followers, lost over 3 million.
Eventually, the ‘cancellation process’ came to a halt and people moved on. It is a prime example of what cancel culture can do. And in many cases, it can lead to even more severe consequences.
Sometimes, cancel culture is good, as stars who do bad things are faced with consequences for doing so.
“Personally, I think cancel culture has pros and cons,” said Wall High School junior Micah Rubin. “On one hand, it makes people more conscientious about the things they say online. However, cancel culture can have negative implications as people’s lives and careers can be ruined over rather insignificant posts and comments.”
Another prime recent example of the cancel culture in effect is Ken Jennings, who was set to become the next host of “Jepoardy!” after the passing of longtime host, Alex Trebek. Jennings had an old inappropriate tweet that was found, people “canceled” him and questions were raised as if he should be the host.
Weeks later, the story died down, but Jennings was certainly worried for the few weeks he was being stared at by the public eye for his past comments.
“It’s overused, for some things I guess it could be good for some things, but getting canceled for something said years ago when everyone wasn’t so sensitive is outrageous,” said Wall freshman Matt Krokosz.
The majority of students when asked seemed to not be in favor of cancel culture. It can change your life, most times for the worse.
Cancel culture is certainly making headlines across the Internet day by day and every month a new celebrity is canceled, some for severe sins, others for minuscule things.
The internet is a place where everything can be kept and tracked, almost like a giant storage unit of all of your past words. If anybody can take a lesson from the acts of cancel culture it’s to be careful of what you say and do as it can, and most times will, come back to bite you.
By Zach Lichter
As Wall High School entered the 2020-21 school year with a lot of uncertainty. It was no doubt that the student council and the class advisors wanted to find a way to hold pep week safely.
Many of the events such as hall decorating, powder puff football and the pep rally have been postponed in the hope they will be feasible in the spring. But there were still plenty of other events that students were able to participate in like the car decorating contest, virtual painting night, the “Why I Love Wall High School” Contest and trivia about the school and town.
“The students that took part in the virtual painting night told me they really liked it,” said Wall assistant principal Mrs. Kristen Scott. “Many of our students also appreciated the prizes they won for Wall trivia and dressing up for spirit days. I like how students who were all virtual also won prizes so it kept them tied to the spirit week as well.”
Plans for the spring pep week are being closely considered for some of the traditional activities Wall High School has every year. Mrs. Scott is hoping that students will be able to participate in powder puff, hall decorating and the pep rally as a vaccine is distributed and the world returns to some kind of normalcy.
“I am working with the student advisory to determine some alternatives for the spring,” she said. “For example, if we can't do hallway decorating because there are still indoor restrictions that are greater than the outdoor restrictions, then we are looking at doing floats. For some of the activities, we would need to look exactly at the restrictions and best practice so we could make an informed decision on what type of alternative there is. We all hope that we won't need alternatives and we can simply have all activities planned safely, but only time will tell!”
With powder puff and the pep rally being moved to the spring, the traditional pep week was held this fall and that included the homecoming ceremony. This year’s homecoming nominees were seniors Cassandra Betz, Alexa Clayton, Casey Larkin, Austin Lord, Elizabeth Miller, Grace Penkethman, Logan Peters and Brett Tidwell. The ceremony took place at halftime during the football game between Wall and Manasquan.
All eight members of the homecoming court removed their masks but did not lock arms with their partners. They were socially distanced on the yard markers so their pictures could be taken.
“The administrators did a very nice job of making sure the court was comfortable and happy with what they decided for us to do,” Betz said.
The school still voted for the homecoming king and queen during the fall pep week. This year’s homecoming king is Logan Peters and this year’s homecoming queen is Betz.
“Being chosen for homecoming queen means that my fellow classmates notice all my hard work, whether that be in school, sports or clubs,” Betz said. “Winning something like homecoming queen also helps keep me motivated to continue to be involved within our school and community. I like to be involved and lead by example, and I am very glad that my classmates at Wall High School see those qualities in me as well!”
The 2020 fall pep week was unlike any other at Wall High School, but the students and staff were able to make the most of it as everybody is continuing to navigate through this unusual school year.
By Zach Lichter
Novel coronaviruses call for novel solutions and, even in a pandemic, Wall High School’s pep week will go on.
Pep week 2020 kicks off with Mon., Oct. 26, and will be much different than recent years.
“There will be two pep weeks: one in the fall and one in the spring,” said Wall assistant principal Mrs. Kristen Scott. “The main events will be moved to the spring, like the pep rally and powder puff.”
The fall will still feature dress-up days and the naming of a homecoming king, queen and court. But COVID-19 has forced some creativity to come up with new events, chief among them a virtual painting night on Wed., Oct. 28. There will also be Wall High School and community trivia all week for prizes. This year’s theme is U.S. City Knights.
“Hall decorating will be moved to the spring and we might do floats if we’re not in some kind of normalcy,” Mrs. Scott said. “There will be a few backup plans that will be made if we’re still in the pandemic.”
Mrs. Scott met with the members of the student council and the class advisors to figure out how they would have pep week. The dates for the spring pep week haven’t been decided yet. But they are closely monitoring the pandemic based on what they planned for.
Wall started back to school Sept. 16 on a hybrid schedule. Students were given designated days on when they would learn in-person and virtually.
In the first phase, students who are in Group 1 with last names from A-K went to school on Mondays and Thursdays and students in Group 2 (last names L-Z) on Tuesdays and Fridays. Students also had the option to do all virtual learning if they didn’t feel comfortable going to school. On Wednesdays, all students stayed home and attend virtual classes so the custodians can disinfect the hallways.
Wall moved into Phase 2, eliminating the virtual Wednesdays, the week of Oct. 19.
“I like some of the structure that the school provides. I used to look forward to seeing certain friends,” said Wall sophomore Joey Sambade. “But with group scheduling, I can’t. I do miss summer, but I do like being back in school.”
Before the coronavirus lockdown, classes at the high school met every other day and were 84 minutes long. With the shortened school day, the blocks are now reduced to 60 minutes and there is currently no Unit Lunch. Students still have five minutes between blocks to go to their next class, but they must practice social distancing and remain six feet apart in the hallway.
2020 has definitely been an interesting year and one year we will certainly remember, but Wall High School has managed to try to strike a balance between safety and a sense of routine.
By Ryan Sy
A time of important decision-making and celebration for high school seniors including those at Wall High School became a lot tougher than ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.
May 1, known to many high school seniors as Decision Day, had never been virtual. Each year at Wall, the seniors head out into the Courtyard during lunch and take pictures with all of their classmates and celebrate the accomplishments that everyone has achieved on this special day.
Also during May, Advanced Placement exams are administered and, for the first time, were completed online and taken from home as the College Board had to adjust the plan because of the pandemic.
Having sat for the paper exams as a junior and online versions this spring, I thought it was a tough and strange environment taking the exams this year because it did not feel like a major exam at all. To me it felt similar to a Google Form type of assessment. Also, the test was considerably shorter this year: 50-minute exams and only two open-ended items compared to over three hours of testing with multiple choice and open-ended.
“I was definitely nervous about the exams not having any multiple-choice sections and was worried that only two [free-response questions] would be hard to score well on if they were on topics I was not familiar with,” said Wall senior Seraphina Plewa. “However, I think I actually preferred the online testing because the exam is a lot shorter and it seemed a lot more manageable to take a test for an hour instead of the usual exams that are two to three hours long.”
The 2020 AP exams had many concerns about the online transition. Questions about academic integrity were the most pressing. The College Board has said that there were measures in place before and during the exams to help it ensure that the individual registered was the actual person taking the test. I thought that the online pre-testing requirements were much easier and less time-consuming than in person. The opportunity to achieve college credit in these circumstances was appreciated by students enrolled in AP classes.
“It was crazy to go through a Stat(istics) exam last year for four hours to having to complete my exams in about an hour,” said Wall junior Jack Alexander.
Picking a college and major is not an easy choice for anyone. In the last few critical months before the deadline, the pandemic halted campus visits and accepted-students' days as well as the rest of the spring semester for college students. Those events are designed for students to view each school one last time and offer a chance for each school to try to make a good impression on each student who attends the sessions to potentially earn their commitment. Students in 2020 have been forced to use prior visits and online sessions to make their decisions without viewing the school in-person to ensure it is the right fit for them.
“I feel that it is more important now to stick out amongst other students through college,” said Alexander, who plans to double major in architecture and civil engineering. “This has definitely made me prioritize schools with great programs in both fields as opposed to just looking at top architecture institutions.”
Not only is making the decision on attending a school based on photos and virtual meetings difficult, it is compounded by the financial hardship felt by most as the country's unemployment has skyrocketed past the grim numbers of the Great Depression. Because of the uncertainty surrounding the situation, students are considering attending community college or taking a gap year since paying for college has become as difficult as ever. Under normal circumstances, college is an expensive price tag in the first place but these unprecedented times place the price of college completely out of reach for some.
By Ryan Sy
The annual Wall High School senior trip is a time for graduating students to have a fun-filled week in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., however, this year’s trip marked the last time the seniors saw each other in person before the end of the school year as COVID-19 created complications to senior celebrations such as the Decision Day, prom and commencement.
The COVID-19 or coronavirus was known to have entered the United States about a month before the trip took place. I was fortunate enough to be able to go on the trip. I had my fears about the virus, but I was not going to let my worries dampen the experience.
As the trip approached, plans did not change but extra precautions were put in place. These precautions included wiping down seats in the airport or at Disney. The trip, however, ended abruptly. The final day was cut out due to concerns of flights coming back home to New Jersey since the trip was on the last flight out of Orlando. This is the first occasion that the senior trip was cut short. It did not affect the time in Disney World as the night before was the final day in Disney itself. The seniors’ visit to Universal Studios was the only part of the trip affected.
“The coronavirus was a minor detail when looking at the trip overall,” said Wall senior Julia Fischer. “We may have had to leave a day early, but the coronavirus did not affect our time in Disney World.”
“It wasn't until Thursday where we had to make some adjustments,” said Class of 2020 co-advisor and math teacher Mrs. Jessica Erbe via email. “You could see that some of the kids had questions towards the end of the trip, since they were hearing all different stories from their friends at WHS. Thursday night was our first meeting where we addressed the issue of COVID-19 and ensured all students that they were safe!”
“In all of my eight years chaperoning the trip this was the second time we had ever made a major adjustment to our plans,” Mrs. Erbe added. “I am extremely grateful to each of our students and chaperones who took the news so well. [Co-advisor and fellow math teacher] Mr. [Eugene] DeLutio and I felt that this was a wonderful trip, and an amazing experience for the Class of 2020, and we are so happy that each student who went will have these memories forever.”
The seniors on the trip had four days of Disney World magic. During those days, there was no sense that there was a pandemic unfolding, rather, happiness and fun. The parks were busy because of the long lines and crowds of people entering the park. I remember the line waiting to get into Hollywood Studios because of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride.
“I think that overall the trip was a blast,” said Wall senior Peter Gacos. “It is really tough not to have a fun time in Disney as it is truly one of the happiest places on earth. I think that the coronavirus did not play too big of a part because it was easy to get caught up in being in Disney itself.”
As one of the last groups to experience the still-shuttered Disney World, this Wall class trip will forever have a place in history. Like many communities across America, Wall Township has transitioned to an online learning environment with virtual classes and discussion.
“I miss having a structured learning environment and seeing my friends,” Fischer added.
Currently, we are all in self-isolation and hoping for a return to normalcy in the near future. Roads are empty and boardwalks are closed. But, in making these sacrifices, the Wall community is helping those on the front lines and also saving lives by staying home.
Families are being brought closer together since they are spending more time together, time that was lacking within our daily lives before this pandemic. They are eating meals together again along with watching movies and reigniting relationships with each other.
There is no question that the impact of this pandemic will forever alter our lives. That Wall’s seniors were able to get almost all of their trip in before the coronavirus closure of the theme parks punctuates their time at the high school in this unusual point in history.
By Ryan Sy
Wall Township has had its moments in sports of success, but nothing can compare to what occurred in 2019 at Wall High School athletic history.
The sports of baseball, boys basketball and football all won at least a sectional championship for each respective sport during the calendar year of 2019. It is hard enough to win a sectional championship in one sport but to win three in the same year across the winter, spring and fall seasons is an unprecedented feat. Additionally, the boys golf team contributed a sectional title to the spring while both the boys and girls soccer teams chipped in sectional championships in the fall.
“I enjoyed being on winning teams and watching how we would improve throughout the year,” said Wall senior Sean Nocera, who played on both the baseball and basketball teams in 2019. “When our baseball team won the [Group III] state championship, it was one of the coolest experiences of my life. We worked so hard for it.”
The last time Wall High School sports had a season that rivals 2019 was 1983. In that school year, both the football and baseball teams won group sectional titles. Even then, it does not match what occurred in 2019.
The boys basketball team defeated Burlington Township by a tight margin with the score 53-47 on March 5 in the Wall gym en route to the Central Jersey Group III championship. Two days later, the basketball team played Moorestown in the Group III semifinal and was defeated 64-44.
The baseball team won the overall Group III state title defeating West Morris on June 8 in dominating fashion by the score of 10-2. This game was spearheaded on the mound by 2019 graduate and current Monmouth University pitcher Trey Dombrowski.
Most recently, the football team narrowly defeated Rumson-Fair Haven by the score 14-13 on Nov. 22 to clinch the Central Group III crown. Two weeks later, the football team fell in a loss to Woodrow Wilson at Rutgers Stadium by the score 12-7 on Dec. 8.
“It was very fun to be on both teams because I got to make memories with my friends and I was also able to play in very big games which is what I love,” said Wall junior Logan Peters, who contributed on both the basketball and football teams in 2019. “I really remember the first win against Rumson and the win against Mater Dei ‘cause those wins showed to us that we had what it takes to win a state championship.”
Wall will seek to continue the streak of sectional championships in 2020. Currently, the boys basketball team has an overall record of 15-4 and could challenge for consecutive state titles.
By Lindsey Griffeth
Getting pushed up against lockers, having threatening messages sent to you and getting laughed at by a group of classmates are things many have experienced in school. But the possibility may soon exist if a freshman gets backed into a wall for not giving up lunch money, the bully’s parents could be forced to cough up more than spare change.
Mallory’s Law is a piece of legislation going through the New Jersey state legislature. Its goal is to help ensure parents are making sure their children don't bully others, whether it's online or in person. What the bill proposes to do on top of punishing the offender is fine the child's parents or guardians if he/she is determined to have bullied someone.
Bullying continues to be a problem in schools, despite the increased attention paid to preventing it, like New Jersey’s harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) policy, one of the strictest in the country. Mallory’s Law, named for Mallory Grossman, a 12-year-old who took her life after she was repeatedly bullied, is the first to propose holding parents responsible for bullying committed by their children.
Mallory’s Law could have helped with the recent case of a female student bullied for her religion at the Marine Academy of Science and Technology (MAST) high school in Sandy Hook. She had been harassed by her classmates to the point where she had to leave the school prior to her senior year. Mallory’s Law might have halted the instances that led to her bullying and subsequent transfer.
Some people agree with the bill.
“Parents should be held responsible for their child's actions,” said Wall junior Evan Deangelis. “I think the bill would help.”
“I think making parents literally pay for their kids actions is harsh and it should be used as a punishment depending on the situation, not an across-the board kinda thing,” said sophomore James Coyle.
The general consensus of students is that the law is a good thing, but there are some differing opinions on when a parent should have to pay.
Wall Assistant Principal Mr. Kevin Davis said that the law would be likely to help with bullying situations. When asked if he supported the punishment of the parents, he said that it depends on the age of the child and what the situation is. Asked if he thought the bill could be abused in any way, “it's possible but unlikely,” he said.
As it moves slowly toward the possibility of being enacted, Mallory’s Law is viewed favorably by students and staff, but it is unknown if it will actually make a difference in decreasing bullying in schools.
By: Lexie Clayton
When asked on an everyday basis, “How are you doing?” it is common for people to just reply with, “I’m OK,'' or “I’m good.” Life sometimes gets too hectic that things that truly matter are pushed aside and forgotten about. For that reason, Challenge Day was created.
On Thurs., Oct. 10, students and faculty at Wall High School took part in Challenge Day.
Since 1987, Challenge Day is a social and emotional program that offers students a chance to explain how they are truly feeling. Furthermore, it helps people fight problems such as substance abuse, depression, anxiety and other disorders that cause people to feel alone and separated. Challenge Day is done at schools all around the world and promotes the feeling of love to everyone who is involved.
Since last school year, Challenge Day has been offered at Wall High School. Having a group of mostly 10th and 11th grade students as well as teachers open up to unfamiliar people and share the feelings and problems they deal with every day is not an easy task. Students and teachers had a chance to make students aware of real situations and see what life is really about.
“Personally, Challenge Day really opened my eyes and showed me how crucial it is to always show kindness, respect and acceptance,” said Wall junior Fiona Gill. “I felt more connected with my peers and teachers, and I felt obligated to make a change afterwards.”
Selected students from all different grades were chosen to participate in Challenge Day. It was filled with all the different emotions, starting off the day with kids cheering with happy faces and, by the end of the day, there was not a dry eye in the room, which really showed the effect the event has on students and teachers.
One activity that is presented in Challenge Day is called Cross the Line. People are asked to cross an imaginary line in the room if they have experienced any of the situations that are specifically mentioned, for example, if they know anyone who has lost a loved one to substance abuse. When students or teachers are asked about Challenge Day, that activity is one that is most remembered.
Challenge Day leaves people by the end of the day with a feeling of hope. The feeling is comforting to everyone whether it is someone who is battling something they have no control over or if someone just feels alone and like no one understands what they are going through.
“I think it really depends on the student,” said Wall High School School Family Liaison Counselor Ms. Gwen Vela. “Some students really let go and allow themselves to be vulnerable and I think that that kind of student really gets a lot out of it. I think the student who goes in with an open mind gets a lot out of it. I think, for a lot of students, it opens their minds to a lot of things they did not see before or had no idea that was happening to other people.”
Challenge Day is different for every student and each comes away with a different perspective of it. At the end of the day, however, students can all share similar lessons they took away from it.
“Sometimes when people are behaving a certain way, it is not personal; it is really about what they are going through and I would like to see more inclusion,” Ms. Vela said. “Creating a school that doesn’t allow someone to feel like they are alone because, ultimately if everyone feels included, it is safer too. It is about creating a safe emotional environment for kids.”
Many teachers at Wall participated in Challenge Day as well as students and they experienced the same feeling of closure.
“From a teacher's perspective, we are supposed to be role models and we are supposed to be believers in the school and that I see students really see students suffering and going through hard times, they can relate to them,” said Mrs. Miriam Arminio, a Spanish teacher at Wall. “But they can also look at us as leaders and see that we are not perfect either and we are all just human and trying to do the best we can.”
Overall, students and teachers understand and appreciate Challenge Day because it demonstrates real life conflicts that sometimes schools do not always focus on.
“I really think students sometimes feel alone and I think the students there at Challenge Day realize that they are not,” Mrs. Arminio said. “That’s why I feel it is so important that everyone does it. Because we are not alone. I think a lot of students think teachers don’t go through hard times too, but we do. And it’s nice to know that I will be there for students, but students can also be there for teachers.”