Is COVID still affecting school programs?

Mya Roberts, Reporter

High school activities play a big part in some students’ high school careers. Some of these activities are where students find their school families and they give them a place to belong. Some of these activities are struggling to get new people to join their programs, while other activities are booming. 

Choir is a program that has struggled with the limitations that covid has put on them but this incoming school year choir has 40 new members joining. 

“Given the low numbers of 8th-grade students enrolled in choir at our feeder middle schools, the number of incoming freshmen that are enrolled in choir are pretty good,” choir director Elise Peterson said.

After the limitations that covid put on the choir programs and other setbacks, the choir programs are trying to rebuild. 

“Also, there are new teachers in each of the respective feeder schools, so we’re working to rebuild programs and get more students in the choirs,” Peterson said.

To spread the word about their program to the middle school, they hold singer festivals, work with their choirs, and attend concerts. These have proved to work, but numbers are still low.

“It has been effective, since there are so few 8th graders, the numbers are still down for next year, but I anticipate that they will come back up,” Peterson said. 

Peterson is trying to figure out how to get any student to join choir in high school, no matter who they are.

“If we could figure out how to get students in the high school to join choir in HS, even if they didn’t sing in middle school, that would help!” Peterson said.

Our Computer Science Academy is one program that has been booming in recent years since covid. They had a total of 66 applications turned in this year with 42 of those applicants joining the program. 

“I believe the nature of what we do, computer science, has not been hurt as much as others due to the restrictions put in place the last couple of years, because if anything, they just proved even more how important the computer science field is,” assistant facilitator Andrew Meile said.

The Computer Science Academy holds numerous events to spread the word about their programs as well as keeping information about the program on their website and Twitter pages.

“We have an open house in the fall, coding clubs, and a computer science carnival in the early winter as well,” Meile said. “On top of that, we have a website and Twitter account to promote our program.”

These tactics have continued to help this program even through the hardships we have all been experiencing for the past few years.

“Our numbers have not dipped through all the unfair restrictions that the students have had to experience in the past couple of years,” Meile said.

The BioMedical engineering program has also been greatly succeeding in the past few years. Their program is growing and had almost 40 applicants this year. 

“Our applications and rates of acceptance have been going up the last 2 years,” Kristin Ramshaw said.

They hold several activities to spread the word about their program and they have proven to be very helpful, so helpful that they don’t feel the need to make any changes to help gain more applicants.

“Several events – open house, 8th grade career day, outreach events at middle schools in the evenings and weekends,” Ramshaw said.

The journalism program here in the south has been hit very hard. They have no incoming freshmen from the middle schools participating in their program next year. 

It’s the first time since I started at Olathe South that I haven’t had any freshmen,” advisor Heather Springer said.

To spread the word about this program, Springer sends out letters to the incoming freshmen that were recommended by English teachers. This year things played out a little differently. 

“This year was a little different though, because the English teachers just asked for a blanket form to send out to students,” Springer said. “They forwarded that link onto their students.”

This proved to be very ineffective for the journalism program.

“I understand where the middle schools are coming from, because they don’t know which middle school students are going to attend, but the personalized letter is definitely a selling point,” Springer said.

Springer believes that they need more personalization in their recruitment process. She believes that due to the fact that there were no faces in the newspaper or yearbook classes made it hard for younger students to want to be on staff.

“We’ve discussed making a video to send out, but I know North had the same struggle and they sent a recruitment video too,” Springer said.

Springer hopes to be able to get as many opportunities as possible to spread the word about the journalism programs, although some ideas may need some substantial planning.

“I’d like to be part of the recruitment/enrollment night in spring,” Springer said. “I’d like to consider doing a visit to each middle school too.”

Springer believes that there are a large number of reasons that there is a lack in journalism programs. The main reasons are the lack of personalization they put into their recruitment process and the lack of the “activities fair” during the 8th grade visit day this year.

“In years prior to COVID we always set up a table for 8th graders to learn about things they could join at South,” Springer said. “We usually get at least a few applications from that.”

Springer believes that her programs are still seeing an effect from losing the spring 2020 semester. 

“The incoming freshmen would have been in 6th grade, and then 7th grade was a weird year too, so they’re still getting their footing after not really having a middle school experience,” Springer said. “Maybe that confidence that would have been built up with middle school experience just isn’t there.”