Shortage of school bus drivers

School has started, and many parents in the Saint Paul School District are dealing with the problem of how to get their kids to and from school due to a school bus driver shortage. The district has reported being short 50 bus drivers, which is affecting the following schools:

  • American Indian Magnet
  • Murray Middle School
  • Wellstone Elementary
  • L’Etoile du Nord Elementary
  • Capitol Hill Magnet School
  • Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion
  • Battle Creek Middle School
  • Central High School
  • Como Park Senior High
  • Harding Senior High
  • Washington Technology Magnet School

The district has said that the four high schools (Central, Harding, Como, and Washington) will be using Metro Transit this year. Students will be given a free bus pass, but Metro Transit reported that they will not be changing their times, nor their locations, and that if students want to get a bus ride, they will have to get one at their available stops. A bus typically comes every 15 minutes, or 30 minutes.

One of the issues students face with the Metro Transit pick up times, is that some have to take very early busses, as there is no option closer to the start of school (for example, one bus picks up at 8:25am, which does not give students time to get to school on time).

With the seven remaining schools (middle and elementary), to try to make this easier for some of the students, they will adjust their start times, and when school ends, to fit with the routes the school bus company is able to cover.

At a press conference, Superintendent Joe Gothard said that this has become a nationwide issue and he’s working with schools to reduce this problem.

Just in the state of Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools, are telling students’ families that they will pay them to drive their kids to school. In the Stillwater school district, KARE 11 has reported that the school district is suing their bus driver contractor for a breach of contract, due to them leaving 20 percent of their routes uncovered.

You may have noticed that Highland Park was not on this list, however, that is not to say students haven’t been affected by the shortage. Routes have had to be combined, due to a lack of drivers, and this has resulted in students being dropped off later. Even with the inconvenience, it is still better than taking Metro Transit.

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Schools impact on students’ mental health

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

Many students struggle with their mental health during school. Some struggle with ADHD, anxiety, depression, etc. These struggles can affect their long-term education and health. Some consequences consist of affecting the students, others, their school, their communities, and the larger society.

According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, students mental health problems can affect a student’s energy level, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism, hindering performance. Research suggests that depression is associated with lower grade point averages, and that co-occurring depression and anxiety can increase this association. Depression has also been linked to dropping out of school. 

I asked two students this question: “How has school impacted your energy levels, concentration, dependability, mental ability, and optimism?”

The first student was a freshman, and they said that “School is a waste of my energy levels. It puts a lot of stress on parents and the students.”

The second student was a senior, who said, “Throughout my years of education, I have only found one year to be easy and helpful on my mental health. And that year was elementary school. We learned a little and did not have 7 classes a day. I am extremely stressed out senior year with college applications and my grades.”

Another one of the consequences that mental health issues is that it affects others around you. According to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, peers, family members, faculty, and staff may be personally affected out of concern for these students. Staff play an important role in educating students. They also play a big part in the students’ lives. I have had teachers that act like my own family.

Depression and anxiety can have harmful effects on relationships and work productivity. Roommates, peers, faculty, and staff also experience profound grief over student suicides and suicidal behavior.

I asked the same two students: “Has a staff member ever affected your education? If so, how? Was it a positive or a negative impact?”

The freshman said, “It was a positive impact because they help me with my work, while being a good educator.”

The senior said, “Most of my years of school I always had a favorite staff member I could go to for advice and help. I feel that staff members play a big role in students’ education.”

According to MPR News, up to one in five kids living in the U.S. shows signs or symptoms of a mental health disorder in a given year. So, in a school classroom of 25 students, five of them may be struggling with the same issues many adults deal with: depression, anxiety, substance abuse. And yet, most children — nearly 80 percent — who need mental health services won’t get them. 

Mental health is an important aspect of school. Whether you struggle with a mental illness or family issues at home, students normally struggle. There will always be something outside of school that distracts the student from their education.

How has COVID-19 impacted students across Saint Paul?

By: Musab Mohamud

While COVID-19 has been sweeping across the globe, schools, religious sites, and sports venues have been shut down. Even that is an understatement, as it seems the world has been put on hold by the fear of this dangerous virus.

Saint Paul Public Schools were postponed in early March of 2020, which according to many students feels like it was many years ago. A quote taken from one student reads, “It feels like we’ve been gone for a lot longer than 18 months. I had to find other ways to communicate with my friends because I couldn’t meet with them in the early months of lockdown.”

Another common theme with the students I interviewed was their fear of getting sick without prior knowledge of the virus. During the first spike of COVID many doctors and health officials were still scrambling to find the cause and nature of the virus. You can only imagine what kind of effect this would have upon an uninformed student base.

Many students across the district suffered lower grades during asynchronous and online school. The principal of Highland Park Senior High had to implement methods of credit recovery, which would ensure every student could receive their credits. One quote that pertains to this subject is: “I really had trouble keeping up with the work we received at the end of freshman year because I had no face-to-face connection with my teacher.” This is a sentiment shared by many students across the school. While online school made things a great deal easier, many students still struggled without a school presence.

Even now, during In-person classes, people are still in resentment of the mask rule and would love to see their friends’ faces. With many different perspectives upon the impact that COVID had upon students, a common answer is a resounding negative impression about it.

7 tips for staying on top of school work

By: Mary Koch & Ella Sutherland

School can be stressful, and it’s even worse when you’re falling behind in your work.

Here are some tips to stay organized this year.

1. Get a planner:
A great way to stay organized is by getting a planner. You can write down your assignments, plan your day, and add notes.

They make your life so much calmer because you won’t forget to do things, and you can make sure you’ll have the time you need throughout the day.

2. Prioritize:
It’s important to have fun, but school’s important too. Try to plan your day so you have time to get your work done first before moving on to the things you want to do.

If you’re able to finish your work, or at least get a good start, you’ll be able to have fun and not worry about when you’ll get things done. Your day can be stress free if you can make the decision to do the boring parts first.

3. Plan Ahead:
Going along with prioritizing and getting a planner, you should always plan when you want to get things done. If you don’t wait until the last minute you won’t be rushed, so you can do your best work.

Instead of planning on finishing assignments right before the due date, you could make your own due date, so you can make sure everything is turned in on time.

Making sure to study for tests early is a good way to get better grades. Don’t try to learn everything the night before when all you’ll really do is stress yourself out. Instead you could find time to study days before, so you really understand the topic.

4. Stay Focused:
Not everybody can focus in the same environment. Some people need complete silence, and some people do best when they’re listening to music.

Find out what works best for you, and try to use those things to your advantage. If you know you can get a better grade on a test while you have music playing, you can ask a teacher, so you can do what’s best for you.

If you’re not able to focus when you have people talking around you, move somewhere you won’t be as easily distracted.

5. Make Your Work Fun:
Not all school work has to be boring. You can make it fun by doing things like doing homework or studying with your friends. You can talk and help each other while still doing your work.

Another way to make homework fun is by eating a piece of candy for every assignment you finish. You can also decorate your notes and use fun colors.

6. Ask Questions:
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, your teacher will be happy to help out. You can ask in, before, or after class, or you could email your teacher privately and set up a time to meet.

Classes are so much easier when you actually understand the material, so speak up because teachers are there to help.

7. Organize:
If you’re able to keep your work and life organized, you’ll have a better chance of staying on top of your work. Whether you rely on a planner, or you just write things down anywhere, there are always ways to stay more organized.

Sticking to schedules or routines helps with knowing what you need to do and when. Having a designated spot to write down any homework or upcoming tests makes it easier to plan ahead and do things on time.

Those were just a few ways to keep your schoolwork stress free, and there are many other ways. Not everything works for everyone, but hopefully these will help keep this year organized.

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The four day school week: Innovation or insanity?

By: Marcus Lund

Let’s be real. School can sometimes feel way too long. Especially after returning from online learning and 4 period days; students are getting burnt out. A four day school week would be an amazing way to take off some of the pressure and offer an additional 24 hours of rest.

Or would it?

The four day school week is starting to be implemented in different school districts across the nation, with both positive and negative results. Four day school weeks would probably mean longer school days to make up for lost hours, which was shown to be difficult for some students, especially younger ones.

The transition to a four day system has also caused a temporary decrease in test scores and grades as students get used to the system. One study even showed the four day school week leading to an increase in juvenile crime.

However, the four day school week also offers numerous positives that I, as a high school student, am tempted to favor. The four day school system reliably attracted new teacher hiring in almost all schools it was implemented in. It also caused some minor, but visible cost cuts.

Additionally, the four day week also decreased student absences. Stress relief and mental health have also shown positive improvement with the implementation. Students can spend more time with their families and friends, and both teachers and students can have a more even work-life balance.

Reliable academic benefits for the system have not been studied deeply yet, and conflicting information has been surfacing on the topic for some time.

The four day school week is becoming more and more popular across the U.S., and with
good reason. With around 560 school districts in 25 states containing schools testing the four
day school week, could Highland Park be next? Let’s wait and see.

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‘Matilda’: The musical shown by HPSH Theater

By: McKenna Nutter

Images taken from: Photos from
Facebook: Joel Chirhart

‘Matilda’ is about a little girl born into a nasty, unappreciative family. A genius girl, full of stories and a mind as wide as the sky, trapped in a horrible family and a horrible school, run by the nasty Ms. Trunchbull. Agatha Trunchbull, ex-hammer throwing champion, runs a school much like a prison, and depending who you ask, some place much worse.

The only sort of light that reaches the classroom is the teacher, Jenny Honey. A kind-hearted soul, just as trapped as Matilda, Ms. Honey has never been able to find the courage to fight for herself, but when a clever little girl comes to her classroom, Jenny may find a reason to stand up for herself, Matilda, and her students. 

This year, Highland Park Theater got the opportunity to share this story. Senior Briana Li-Heidkamp sung her heart out as Matilda and Junior Jaya Bird could not have done better in her role of Ms. Honey.

One of the funniest parts in the show goes to Ms. Trunchbull, and senior Cleo Foley had everyone rolling with laughter.

Our whole cast was full of so many students and every one of them are incredibly talented.  

This year has been a hard year, and in theater we had no exception. Without a full audience, it was harder to keep the spirit up in the auditorium, but between all of the hard work, the whole cast and crew were able to have fun.

We were thankfully able to have our performance recorded and have a showing for other students during advisory. 

Images taken from: Photos from
Facebook: Joel Chirhart

If you aren’t involved in theater, it’s hard to know how much goes into a performance. This year, we had actors and crew in everyday after school working hard on learning lines for a two hour show.

We had our director, Nancy Michael, there through it all.

It’s more than remembering words, and places to be. Actors were working incredibly hard on character, and seeing the story through the characters’ eyes, and learning music and choreography.

So many students worked hard for this show, and not even all of them took the stage.

A number of students worked backstage with sets and costumes.

The whole show was choreographed by two Highland Park students: senior Soren Chirhart and junior Quinn Dwyer.

Between families, and friends of HPSH Theater, we could never have pulled it off, and a huge thank you to Nancy Michael for being there everyday and working hard to give us something to look forward to everyday.

Highland Theater is a community, and even though we have seen so many people on the stage, it never ceases to amaze me how talented our students at Highland are. 

The benefits of learning a language

By: Joxery Mezen Camacho

At Highland, students must take two years worth of language credits. And many like to continue on for all four years.

But why should we be learning a second language? Just for fun? Or are there actual benefits besides being able to say you’re bilingual?

With that in mind, here are 6 benefits to learning a new language: 

  1. Improve Memory 

An experiment in the ‘Journal of Experimental Child Psychology’ found that learning another language improves your working memory. Learning a language takes effort from your brain, since you have to memorize a lot of new words and different pronunciations. This helps you get better at recalling information such as words, names, and facts. 

  1. Confidence in decision making

According to a research article in ‘Sage Journals’, if you think in a different language helps you make decisions because it reduces biases. This leads to less overthinking, making you able to make more decisions with confidence. 

  1. Helps improve your primary language 

When you learn a new language you’re introduced to more of the basics and specifics that languages are made up of — grammar, different tenses, and more that you don’t usually overthink since you’ve been talking for just about forever in your first language! This makes you more aware of these things in your primary language which decreases the chance of making mistakes. 

  1. Strengthens your mind 

Learning a new language is a great way to keep your brain working and growing! An article on states that learning a new language can reduce or delay Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, and dementia. The brain keeps getting stronger because of the new neural pathways that are created as a result of learning a new language. 

  1. Improve focus and attention 

When you learn a new language you tend to get good at switching from your primary language and the one you’re learning. This improves your ability to refocus, as well as focus on switching between tasks. 

  1. Opens more opportunities

Knowing more than one language can open new doors for you. It can be a way to beef up your resume, making you a more unique candidate for a job. It can also open up a different place to travel to, to study abroad in, or to live! A new language can also lead to new relationships with other people because of a similar goal or ability. 

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Homework stress and tips to help

By: McKenna Nutter

Research that was conducted at Stanford University, in 2013, found that high school students, who may be considered a part of ‘high achieving communities’, who spend more time on their homework, struggle with balancing their education with their social life and physical health. This lack of balance has caused many of these students stress. 

This study came to find that more than two hours of homework per night is not only overbearing, but it also is counterproductive. The students who participated in this study reported to be spending over three hours on homework, on average. 

When it came to stress, over 70% of the studied students reported they were often, or even always, stressed over schoolwork, and more than 99% claimed that homework was a stressor. More than 40% of students claimed they experienced three or more physical symptoms when asked if they ever experienced any headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss, and stomach problems, and 80% said they experienced at least one. 

Many students in this study, and even personally, felt forced and/or obligated, to choose homework and grades over the rest of their life. This could mean that any free time at home, time with my family, any social outings, and extracurricular activities were neglected because of homework. 

Some tips that can help with the stress of too much homework are:

  • Stick to a schedule: As a student, this has helped me a lot, with more than my homework. Just forcing myself to wake up at the same time everyday, get dress and do something like make my bed or pick up my room before school has helped me create good habits that I wouldn’t otherwise have.
  • Stay organized and check your agenda constantly: This is another important aspect to keeping stress down. A tool I use personally is a homework app. I enter my homework and the due dates into an app and check it off as complete when it is submitted. It also helps me when an adult also has access to my homework tracker to help me stay on task.
  • Communication: Communication with your teacher is ideal, it helps your teacher get to know you and it makes it easy to talk to them when you have questions. And as mentioned before, talking with an adult in your house is very helpful. Sit down for five minutes every night, or every couple nights, and discuss how homework is progressing and your upcoming assignments. I was very hesitant when I first started doing this, but it has given me a lot of motivation to get things done. 
  • Get a good night’s sleep. This one seems very obvious but it’s true. I’m sure everyone knows the importance of sleep, but as a high schooler myself, I cannot tell anyone how much easier school got when I started going to sleep at a decent time. If you were to do this, even on most nights, the difference is noticeable. 

There are many resources students can use to keep in contact with their teachers and many apps and websites to keep track of your schoolwork. The app I use personally is called ‘My Homework Student Planner’, and paper planners are another amazing way to stay up to date. I spend, at most, five minutes at the start of each day looking through Schoology for new assignments. 

SPPS reopens schools

SPPS will reopen schools starting Wednesday, April 14, for 6-12th graders. Those who decide to do in-person learning will be there for 4 1/2 hours from Monday through Thursday. Fridays will be distance learning days for all students.

Anyone who wanted to remain in virtual learning had to sign up by Thursday, March 11. If you didn’t sign up, you will be automatically enrolled in school for April 14th. Students will continue to learn with their current teachers whether they are attending in person or virtually. 

For those wishing to return to school, the following health and safety measures will take place on the school’s end:

  • Face coverings for students and staff are required 
  • Daily cleaning and disinfecting for door handles, switches, hand railings, desks, and bathrooms. 
  • Assigned seating during meals
  • Conducting a daily health screening
  • Students and staff must remain six feet apart 
  • Avoid sharing workspaces including phones and computers
  • Stay home if you are sick and notify your supervisor
  • Go home if you become ill at work and notify your supervisor

If a student or staff contracts COVID-19 or shows symptoms, the following response will be carried out:

  • The area where the student or staff member has been will be disinfected. For example the cleaning of bathrooms, hallways, drinking fountains, cafeterias, kitchens, and health offices. 
  • Areas that are touched frequently will be cleaned. That includes: the door handles, outside lockers, student desks/chairs, tables, bleachers, exercise equipment, handrails, pool deck, and more. 
  • The cafeteria will be disinfected, and the kitchen staff will disinfect the kitchen 

Personally, for now, I think we should stay home, even though I am eager to get back to school, right now is not the best time. These steps that have been taken to avoid the spread of COVID and for those who get COVID are good to take, but it’s simply not enough.

How will you know if the student that has COVID has not infected someone else and then that person brings it home to their families? And are the schools going to provide a COVID test for a student who gets infected?

For more information, please visit: and look for additional info.

What’s happening with HPSH theatre?

By: McKenna Nutter

Highland Park Senior High School definitely has its fair share of extracurricular activities. A wide range of sports for every season, awareness clubs, creativity outlets, and so many more. My personal involvement lies with the Highland Park Theatre Club. Each club and team all have their own sense of community, and theatre is no different.

The challenges that the year of 2020 has thrown at us all were hard to overcome, but we’ve been able to adapt for the safety of everyone. Unfortunately, these adaptations have left almost all of us stuck at home, and many after school activities have made plans for the rest of this year.

This last fall, Highland Theatre put together a number of student directed virtual shows. Auditions, rehearsals, meetings and tech was all done over Google Meet. The talented actors faced the challenges of portraying movement, emotion and a storyline all from the comfort of their own homes.

Each of the shows were all recorded, and are now almost all posted on the Highland Park Theatre YouTube channel at: HP Theatre. On the channel, you will find ‘The Curious Art of Critique’, ‘Please Have a Seat’, ‘The Maltese Falcon’, ‘Words, Words, Words’, and ‘Heritage’. 

As fall turned into winter, HPSH Theatre was ready to start their next set of productions and everyone prepared for the upcoming recordings:

  • ‘Twelfth Night’ directed by Nancy Michael
  • ‘4 A.M.’ directed by Soren Chirhart
  • ‘Murder in the Knife Room’ directed by Briana Heidkamp
  • ‘I Said Run’ directed by Rachel Dickinson
  • ‘The Virtual Support Group from Hell’ directed by Colin Ward
  • ‘The Discussion’ written by Anne Douma and directed by Anne Douma and Na’Riyah Johnson

With the opportunity for in-person learning starting April 14th, HPSH Theatre is hopeful to have a socially distanced live audience for a production of last year’s planned performance of the musical ‘Matilda,’ by Ronald Dahl. With fingers crossed, we are waiting to hear if a live audience will be approved in order to continue with plans for this fun musical.

Auditions for the musical should hopefully be taking place as early as the week of March 16th. Unfortunately, a live audience is required because of restrictions on recording this specific production. It is unknown what will take place if a live audience is unachievable, but we are hopeful we will not have to change plans. 

With new planned safety measures beyond the ones already being put in place, theatre is also planning to make use of outdoor areas, masks at all times, and being socially distanced both on and off stage. We are also being mindful of the spread through germs on objects, so cleaning and sanitizing will become a regular occurence.