“Disconnected”: School Spirit in the Age of Digital Learning



Whit Whittall and Daniel Jimenez

The lack of school spirit is evident through our football games and the parking lot at different times of the day.

Online classes are becoming an increasingly favored alternative to the traditional classroom.

Online courses have typically been popular among upperclassmen, but this year, it seems many sophomores and even freshmen are jumping on the train, too.

Assistant Principal Jennifer Beard said 60 percent of students at the school have non-traditional schedules, which means they are taking at least one online class or a dual enrollment course.

With the number of students taking these classes increasing from year to year, some students don’t even come to school at all.

Lucinda Mattie, who is in charge of online classes and recovery at the school, said that in 2013 she had one student enrolled in an online class.

This year, she said, we have hundreds.

“This is the biggest number of students taking onlines that we have ever had,” said Mattie.

Administrative Assistant Tonekia Phairr said more than 400 students at the school take at least one online course. That means nearly 20 percent of students, almost one in five, take an online class.

This increase is largely due to the school’s growing student body. But the array of online course offerings may also be pulling students from the traditional classroom to the online classroom.

Mattie said the number of online courses offered since 2013 has increased significantly. Georgia Virtual offers 276 courses and Fulton Virtual offers 664, making the switch to online classes pretty effortless.

Phairr said the enrollment for online classes has risen by five percent since last year.

This trend has resulted in an almost empty parking lot before the end of the school day, and it is negatively affecting our school spirit more than we think.

As a cheerleader, I have witnessed how this contributes to our lack of school spirit and culture.

Students not being at the school prevents relationships and bonds from being made, resulting in students not being able to be a part of contagious energy and hype for big events.

According to an online study conducted by market research company Harris Poll on behalf of sports equipment company Varsity Brands, students with higher levels of school spirit perform better academically, are more civically engaged and are happier in general than their less-spirited peers.

The research found that students with higher levels of school spirit also have higher average GPAs and are more likely to plan to further their education than students with lower school spirit.

“I have only been at Cambridge for a year now, but I can still notice the lack of enthusiasm and energy,” said sophomore and cheerleader, Gracie Counsell. “I think with so many people leaving school early for online classes and just focused solely on that, it definitely takes away from the school spirit.”

“I honestly think these online classes have harmed the culture of our school more than it has helped,” said Counsell.

A great number of students leave campus just after fourth period — halfway through the school day — because half of their classes are online.

As a school spirit enthusiast, I can say that the consequences to these classes are evident.

One example is our pep rallies are now held during second period, versus previous years when they would be held at the end of the day.

Due to the number of people leaving campus during the school day, the school has moved pep rallies earlier in the day to actually boost attendance.

“We have had to make pep rallies during second or third period because students will try to skip them or they just won’t be here at the end of the day,” said Paige Sylvester, senior class president.

This is a major reflection of how a lot of our student body is not at school interacting with each other and emphasizing school spirit.

Being a participant in things like pep rallies and events that increase school spirit, I have felt how difficult it is to increase the morale when half of our school leaves campus in the middle of the day. It creates a mindset of I don’t go to school, so why would I go to the game?

Not being at school makes it exceedingly tough to unite the student body.

Junior Morgan Young, who takes all online and dual enrollment, says she doesn’t go to pep rallies because she is not at school during the day, and that she tries, but rarely attends football games on Friday nights, either.

But there are reasons to be hopeful.

Despite an increasing number of students going online for their classes, many are working hard to bring school spirit back.

Many students participated in our school spirit weeks this year to get excited about the first home game, and later, for our homecoming game on Friday.

This spirit was reflected at the homecoming game with a great turnout from both the fan and student sections, showing that our school spirit has yet to perish.

The recent school spirit shown is a sign of hope; however, we are still lacking a great amount of it.

The increasing number of students enrolled in online classes poses a threat to our school spirit for the present and future generations.

I can’t help but think, if this continues, will we even need school in the future? Why wouldn’t we just take everything online?

Yes, leaving campus early and having the ability to do other things with your time is nice, but is it as great as we think?

The act of going to school creates a community. That sense of community allows us to be a part of something much more than just academics; it builds relationships and bonds that have changed my high school experience.

This trend continuing will make school a place where we all just log onto our laptops and do our work, and that is not what your high school experience should be about.