🏠😷🦠 Life As A QuaranTEEN 🦠😷🏠 The UnifiEd Student Voice Team Blog Surrounding COVID-19
Extracurriculars are a delicate endeavor that most high schoolers have to balance. Whether it’s sports, clubs, or working, we get a first-hand account of “adulting” by learning to maintain personal...
indulgences while maintaining academic deadlines for school work. However, even in extracurriculars, there are some disparities that the pandemic has only amplified. As funds are allocated and planning for club meets pursues into the next school year, one thing has been made abundantly clear; sports programs will be kept alive (even if the players contract the virus) while academic extracurriculars and clubs are left in limbo trying to figure out when they will be allowed to meet.
Sports: Sports have always been a top priority in most schools before and during the pandemic. Though sports had a minor pause at the beginning of the pandemic, most were back to semi-normal within a couple of months, while academics and extracurriculars were (and still are) put on hiatus. As a student, a part of the cheer team, and a participant in multiple extracurricular clubs, I’ve seen close up the difference in importance during the pandemic between academics and sports.
Sports have done the absolute most this past year. Even though some games were canceled, sports were still able to practice, while academics and extracurriculars weren’t able to have a club meeting until late into the school year. I am club secretary for FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America), and we had to postpone meetings for the longest time because of the pandemic even though sports were almost all normal again.
Sports vs. academics has been an ongoing issue in nearly all schools. Sports are taken more seriously with more importance and given more funding when academics are equally important and deserve equal amounts of funding. Some students succeed more in the sports area rather than academics, and some students thrive in academics rather than sports. This is why it is so important for funding to go equally into all school happenings.
Academics: Academics are the backbone of our schooling. Even though they’re often neglected, the four core classes (English, History, Science, and Math) are necessary to build a working knowledge of the real world and develop critical thinking skills. But when schools went online, the entire learning process was put on hold. After school went online (and stayed online) last March, kids of all ages essentially forgot what it meant to be inside a classroom and how to make the most of their education. Many of my peers continue to protest about the original lockdown and how it was detrimental to their motivation, academic success, and mental health. I sympathize with their troubles because this strange year has caused immense stress for everyone. As a student who thrives in academic environments, I was deeply hurt when learning went online, but sports continued with few restrictions. It seemed like athletes had precedence over primarily-academic students and that learning was no longer the priority. While I understand that it is essential to preserve safety, especially with high infection rates, it would have been nice if all opportunities were treated equally.
Extracurriculars: At some schools, football teams were put on quarantine multiple times because a team member tested positive for the virus, and yet, games still ensued. Although they didn’t play for a few weeks after uncovering the results, extracurriculars such as book clubs could no longer meet because of precaution. I understand that sports teams follow the guidelines of the TSSAA when observing procedures regarding the virus, so certain things are outside of the jurisdiction of the school's administration. However, I don’t appreciate the unfair and clear preference of sports teams over other extracurriculars; from lenient rules to financial support for these programs, the schools and county show where their priorities are in reopening school activities.
Arts: I have always been involved in the arts programs at my school. I’m certainly no artist, but I have been involved in and had close connections to friends with all of our performing arts programs at Signal Mountain HS. While Signal is more privileged than many schools regarding its community support and average student socioeconomic status, participating in the arts at Signal has always been haunted by funding questions. The funding at Signal across our art department varies wildly depending on the program and specific art.
Our visual arts program is funded, to my knowledge, only as a class. It rarely gets opportunities to have exhibits or events outside of classes unless the event is part of something hosted by someone else. The theatre program has some support from our Theatre Arts Boosters Program, and we try to use funds from one show to fund the next, but any competitions which we attempt to compete in must be paid for by students. We rely heavily on community support and material donations for many of our shows and certainly receive abysmal funding from the school system for the work we attempt to do both in the classroom and outside of it.
Our musical arts classes likely have the best fundraising model, but that is partially due to our school band’s large size and the fact that the band and strings classes work together. Our band does several fundraisers a year and even raised $30,000 this past fall, in addition to funding that students contribute each year at registration and money from the music boosters. Between traveling to football games, instruments and repairs, uniforms, music, and competitions, fees certainly pile up quickly for the band program. I’m not sure precisely the state of funding for our school’s choir program, but I assume it is in much the same state as our visual art program as they rarely do anything outside of school-sponsored events and the occasional competition where students are required to arrange their own transportation.
The sheer amount of fundraising (including teachers paying for things out of pocket) that most art programs must do to conduct basic activities or do anything outside of that to truly carry out curricula and impact students is approaching disgraceful to the budgeting of HCDE and the lack of support the arts receive through the school system. In fact, during the budget campaign in 2019, one of the proposal’s major points was to ensure that every elementary school had an art teacher and all students were getting weekly art instruction, which wasn’t previously happening. It is evident that the priorities of budgeting for the school system don't include the arts. Perhaps that is changing, but it certainly isn’t changing enough or fast enough for what the students need in schools.
Overall, as students this past year, the inequities between different aspects of student life have become evident from who is allowed to have activities with COVID restrictions to budgeting concerns. Hopefully, the blatant prioritization of some parts of student life over others will be seen this year for the last time. I genuinely hope that one day we can say that the inequities during the COVID pandemic led to equitable student activities support and not that we saw the issue and allowed it to continue happening. At this point, to continue to inequitably support some activities over others would simply be perpetuating this issue by looking at it with ignorance and pretending that the problem isn’t there. The Student Voice Team advocated for this change in funding at the student budget meeting, and a blog on that meeting is coming soon!