HHS News and Tidbits for the End of the Academic Year


Patrick Sweeney, News Editor

The end of the academic school year is right around the corner for students at Holyoke High School North Campus. The 2020-21 school year has been unlike any other. All students began the year remotely and participated in remote learning until early this month. Students and staff at Holyoke High School have shown amazing persistence throughout this challenging time. The end of the year is filled with reasons to smile as well as opportunities for students to continue on with their learning this summer. I spoke with the Principal of Holyoke High School, Lori McKenna, to get an insider’s look of what to expect for the remainder of the school year as well as some other news tidbits. 

Sophomores at Holyoke High School came back into the building two weeks ago to take the MCAS exams required by the state of Massachusetts. McKenna stated that there was a “great turnout” for the exams, adding that 175 students “completed both English and Math exams.” She said that these high numbers show that the Sophomores had an “awesome attitude and were ready to make it happen, even in a tough year.”

Students at Holyoke High School had the opportunity to return to an in-person model of learning earlier in May. McKenna stated that it was an “interesting return to school” and was different for everyone since it was the first time that students were in the building since last March when schools closed due to the pandemic. She was pleased that about 40% of high school students returned to the building. She added that she and the administrators at the high school “could not be more excited” about welcoming students back, adding that “not having students has been depressing.” Although McKenna was happy about students returning to the building, she also applauded those who chose to stay remote, saying that it was a “good choice” and that “everyone can keep their own routine and setup without the upheaval of having to transition to a drastically different learning model.” McKenna said that she spoke to several students within the school who chose to stay remote. She said these students “did not want to disrupt something that was already working.” McKenna also stated that the option of going back in-person was especially important for Freshman and Seniors. She stated that Freshmen who returned to school now have the opportunity to “learn about the building and get used to high school.” Seniors who returned in-person are experiencing something different. It is a “bittersweet” moment for them and it is the “last time they can walk the halls as a Knight.” Lastly, McKenna stated that “everyone waits to be a Senior” and now, they have the opportunity to “be a Senior in the building.” Overall, McKenna was very pleased with how Holyoke High School has handled the return to in-person learning. 

McKenna also took time to acknowledge the stressors of Freshmen going back in-person. She said that when the Freshman “entered the building through the back door, she could sense their nervous energy.” She compared going back to school as “their first day of school in May” since they knew nothing about the building. She was pleased to report that they “found the lay of the land after a few days and were not afraid to ask for help or directions.” 

Students at Holyoke High School have many options to improve their grades from the 2020-21 school year this summer. McKenna stated that there are two options for students to take advantage of this summer – a “fully remote program, which is a continuation of credit recovery as well as a fully in-person program.” Both of these programs will run from Mondays through Thursdays on July 6 through August 5. McKenna also added that students who participate in these programs will be able to “recover and become more on track to graduate,” saying that they will go into next school year with a “better mindset” and that they will “not be as far behind in their classes.” There will be various teachers available in both programs to give students the support they need to be successful. McKenna also added that “students who are not a part of credit recovery can join either program. They can recover core classes as well as elective courses. Students can speak with their Squad teacher or counselor for more information about either program.”

Sports at Holyoke High School are officially back in action! Many students are excited to be able to participate in activities they love since they were not able to do so for more than a year. McKenna was very pleased with the spring sports season, saying that “athletics and extracurriculars are such a big part of keeping students engaged in school and motivating them to do well,” adding that everyone has been doing a fantastic job adhering to the safety protocols put in place to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. McKenna ended on a positive note by stating, “We are still in a pandemic and have to pay attention to safety, but are able to engage in things we love. This is great for athletes to see. We had a tough start to the year but it was able to work out.”

The Class of 2021 at Holyoke High School deserves a lot of credit for their wonderful perseverance during this unprecedented year. McKenna stated that because of this, she and other staff at the school want to “give Seniors the send-off that they deserve and want.” She also added that the cap and gown event was a success, as well as the Gary Rome car raffle, in which the winner was announced this Sunday. There was also a Senior Car Parade on Sunday in which participants drove by both the North and Dean campuses. Seniors have one more major event before they graduate from HHS – a Senior Breakfast being held during the Class Day event. 

A large shoutout is also going out to the Class of 2021 for being the first class ever to graduate from the Academies here at Holyoke High School. This is a major achievement and speaks to the wonderful work that all students and staff do inside those academies. This was also the pilot year of the Senior Capstone projects, which took place within the Performing and Media Arts Academy. Students who participated in this project worked throughout the year to develop a piece featuring a topic of their interest. They worked with Ms. Brunelle during the first semester to come up with ideas, then worked independently to finish their final product. McKenna viewed the presentations and had nothing but positive feedback. She said, “Students set the tone for continuing the Capstone projects in the future. It is a culminating experience from their high school and their academy. The students and Ms. Brunelle (their guide with the project) set the bar really high for what it means to do a capstone project.”

Students at HHS have been enjoying the McKenna Minute videos that Mrs. McKenna posts. They find them helpful and a positive way to start the week. Good news – Mrs. McKenna has informed The Herald that these short videos are here to stay. They will be continuing next year and she might even spotlight students on the videos!

There are many wonderful events going on at Holyoke High School North Campus at the end of this school year. Teachers and students have done a wonderful job coming together as one during this challenging time and school year. The return to school has gone extremely well for students who chose to return to the in-person model. Seniors are being celebrated and many wonderful events are planned to close out their high school career. Most of all, the HHS community needs to know one thing – stay positive and finish the academic year strong. As Mrs. McKenna said, “Don’t give up. If you made bad choices, it is not too late to turn around that bad choice. Reach out to someone, finish out with credit recovery. This is not the time to slow down, be persistent, set goals and do what you need to do to meet those goals.”