Teachers, students share different perspectives on morning routines


Jaidyn Palladini

Traffic stop Students walk through the crowded lobby before going to homeroom in the morning.

Jaidyn Palladini, Reporter

On May 27, 2021 Superintendent, Dr. Charles Prijatelj sent out an email to all students regarding a threat that was circulating social media. The school district and the Altoona Police Department investigated the threat to protect the safety and health of students and staff. 

Now, morning checks and clear backpacks have become mandatory. Staff members have taken the time out of their mornings to check each individual students’ backpack while the students walk through metal detectors. 

“I think they are much more efficient now,” social studies teacher Jeffery Shultz said. “Some training for the staff, principals and some hands-on experience. With evolving and creating our own techniques, tips and procedures, I think we’ve gotten better with it.”

Although teachers agree that the searches are essential, they think that they can be more structured.

“I want to go on the record as saying that I feel that the bag checks are necessary for our safety,” social studies teacher Jeremy Green said. “I am not opposed to the idea of the checks at all; however, I feel that they could be more efficient. Students are continually being admitted to the building later and later each day, and it makes taking accurate attendance in reporting room extremely difficult. To increase efficiency, I really feel that we need to hire an increased security force for the screenings in the morning. Yet, it is my understanding that members of the school board are opposed to such measures as this would require increased funding and they are trying to cut back on district spending which would presumably raise taxes throughout the district. Also, it would be helpful to have a system in place to circulate teachers throughout these various duties, as I have been stuck doing the same duty every day since the beginning of the school year while other teachers have not had an assigned duty in the morning as of yet. “

Teachers have had to make several changes in their morning routines due to the daily checks. 

I have had to wake up earlier and get to school earlier than ever so that I can be ready at my post,” biology teacher Jessica Hogan said. “In the past, I just had to get to my room on time. This year, as I am now science department chair, I have to check that rooms are ready for subs and then get to my morning duty in the auditorium. I am not a morning person so #thestruggleisreal getting in here and at my post by 7:15 a.m.”

For Green, he has a hard time completing normal morning tasks.

“I have had to enter the building much earlier than previous years and even when I leave my post at 7:30 a.m., I have to walk all the way back to my room on the third floor of the B building. This makes it virtually impossible for me to meet the needs of my reporting room students, answer pertinent emails and prepare myself mentally to transition into teaching my first period class. I truly believe that it is taken for granted the pressure that this puts on the teachers who have these morning duties,” Green said.

Morning check procedures have slightly changed since the beginning of the school year. 

“I think that it’s smarter,” Shultz said. “We’ve learned certain things to look for and certain students who come in with crutches, a knee brace or something like that, we make arrangements to make sure it isn’t intrusive for them. We have certain students who we know are going to forget masks or whatnot or ways we push the bags down the tables, so we’re just trying to make it better. I know it’s not the most convenient thing for students, but I think it’s a good faith effort by everybody to provide a safe and secure environment for everybody involved.”

It seems that as people are more accustomed to the procedures

“Both teachers and students think that it goes much more smoothly,” Hogan said. “There have been tweaks here and there to get things moving more quickly too which we all hope continues as the cold weather is coming.”

Some students have also been affected by this change.

“The procedures have affected me if my bus driver is really late but if he is not, it doesn’t bother me,” freshman Jace Baronner said. 

Some students feel as if their lunch bags or purses take more time to search causing the lines to take longer. 

I have not had many issues with getting to class on time in the morning, but I feel more rushed than I used to,” sophomore Ava Rokosky said. “I pack my lunch everyday due to dietary restrictions, so when my lunch bag gets checked, it often holds up the line causing issues with the efficiency of the line. When attempting to leave the auditorium, the amount of people being pushed together creates another challenge because of concerns around COVID-19 as well as time management in reaching my locker then homeroom.”

“It didn’t affect much except when I could get to my locker and how much time I had to put my stuff in it,” sophomore Daniel Kelley said.

Students have had to walk through metal detectors while entering the school in the morning along with the bag checks.

As far as going through the metal detector, it feels extremely uncomfortable,” Rokosky said. “School is a place where students should feel safe, but the metal detectors are almost humiliating to be marched through every morning as if we are suspected of a crime. If the problems have gotten to the point where this type of searching is required, I think the school should reevaluate the other measures they are taking to prevent students from thinking of illegal practices in the first place. Mental health and drug use should be taught through a more open lense rather than needing scare tactics that only deter students from getting caught.” 

“The metal detectors bug me a lot because if our ID is on, it goes off,” Baronner said. “If we also have a bracelet with metal, it also goes off.”

“I haven’t been going through the metal detectors lately because I go through the band room, but when I did, it was pretty troublesome to get in and out because of maybe a zipper or a belt,” Kelley said. “It would make the metal detector go off, and I would have to take more time from the things I do in the morning.”

Several music students must enter through the band room for morning checks. 

“From what I heard from Mr. and Mrs. Detwiler is that a lot of the teachers here don’t know which way a case should be faced when opening,” sophomore Patrick Reed said. “That led to a lot of instruments being dropped.”

Instrument cases have been checked by Larry and Kelly Detwiler in the band room for less of a chance of them getting broken. 

“Yeah I do [go through band room] because when I was in seventh grade, the security guard that checked my instrument almost broke it, so I think that with Mr. Detwiler checking the cases is a lot safer for instruments,” junior Julia McCauley said. 

According to K. Detwiler, opening instrument cases correctly isn’t the only issue.

Opening cases and checking them backed up the lines in the main entrances and caused too many delays and security did not know how to properly open cases therefore there were some accidents with instruments being dropped,” K. Detwiler said. 

Music teachers have also been affected by this change with morning checks. 

My morning routine has been affected like the rest of the staff,” Detwiler said. “That morning time was normally used to prepare for the day.  Now I do not have that time.  I now come in extra early to do the preparation.”

For students involved in MLTV, they must go up early in preparation for morning announcements for students and staff in the mornings.

“The students need to get here as soon as possible in the morning to make sure everything is turned on and all segments are ready to go,” broadcasting teacher Douglas Sipes said. “They also plan out the camera shots, change talent names, write ins/outs for videos, etc.” 

Teachers have certain ways of knowing when students must report to the broadcasting room in the morning before school starts. 

I created passes at the beginning of the year for each period the students are in, for example, if they are in homeroom, period one and community service with me they will have passes that say several pieces of information but definitely include their name then B-232, RR, Pds one, seven, eight so teachers can identify quickly,” Sipes said. “The students keep these passes in the ID plastic.”

Although several students have reasons to go to certain rooms earlier in the morning, teachers are still questioning. 

“At the beginning of the year, I was questioned about going to the broadcasting room early,” sophomore Jake Yohn said. “However, after showing my broadcasting pass, they let me through. Now that the first marking period is over, most of the teachers who stand in the hall recognize me and allow me to pass without having to show my pass.”

Because of being involved in MLTV, Yohn’s mornings are different from other students.

“My morning routine wasn’t really impacted by being stopped in the morning,” Yohn said. “However, my routine is different when compared to other students. I typically show up early and, after passing by the teachers in the hall, set everything up for MLTV. When I’m done setting up, I’ll wait for everyone to arrive before we all do the show. While it may be different from the average student’s routine, I enjoy it very much.”

Social studies teacher Thomas Fox plays music as students walk into the building every morning hoping to bring joy. 

“I have always enjoyed playing music throughout my career as a teacher, in particular in the mornings before school,” Fox said. “Now, with security checks, I don’t really get that opportunity, especially on Fridays. So, I thought, why not bring the music with me? For the last month or so  every Friday I have brought my speaker and it’s been well received.”

Fox feels that the music impacts students in positive ways. 

What I have found is that music brings joy and I can tell by the smiles,” Fox said. “It’s amazing what music can do. It definitely sets a happy mood going into the weekend!”