EVHS’s First Week of Phase 3 Cohorts

As EVHS unveils its first week of cohorts, many teachers and students are sharing their experiences.



EVHS provides more information on Cohorts and an Opt-In Form on its school website.

Karen Chen and Jason Lin

On April 19th, Evergreen Valley High School (EVHS) opened its campus to in-person cohorts for all students. Students who signed up to participate were given schedules to come on campus and meet with teachers for support and assistance with their schoolwork and studies. 

To coordinate students’ schedules on-campus, the administration at EVHS has carefully evaluated the priorities of each student. Dr. Geordie Hamilton, the Dean of Students, and Honey Gubuan, the Associate Principal of Educational Development, worked through students’ grades to determine how to meet their needs through the cohorts. 

“There’s some behind the scenes work that myself and the Associate Principal of Educational Development, Honey Gubuan, did in matching up students with what looked like most needed pairings to us. We do that a number of ways,” said Dr. Geordie Hamilton. “But certainly a lot of it has to do with looking at students’ current grades and seeing where they may be struggling and then maybe seeing that as a priority.”

Last minute requests and changes in attendance have also led administrators like Dr. Geordie Hamilton to experience a hectic first week. With the release of cohort schedules and beginning of on-campus activities, many students have requested to leave or opt-in due to vaccines, social events, and more. 

“It was a lot of juggling because you have requests from teachers, requests from parents, requests from students, and people change their minds, and that’s all fine, but it’s a lot of scheduling and moving people around digitally,” said Dr. Geordie Hamilton. 

Although tensions and alterations to the schedules were initially high, as the first week of cohorts has continued, requests and changes have been mellowing out. 

The cohorts themselves have been running smoother than some have expected. Mr. Lubbs, a physics teacher at EVHS, expected the cohorts to experience some changes and issues at the start. In contrast to his expectation, his Wednesday cohort didn’t experience any major issues. Safety protocols such as sanitation, wearing masks, and distancing set by the district have all been followed to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Additionally, the utilities on campus have been functioning without error, providing safety to both students and staff.

However, Mr. Lubbs is hoping to change how he operates the cohorts. As of this week, Mr. Lubbs has been using cohorts as a study hall for students to work on assignments and ask him any questions they might have. Students who attended his cohort reported through a survey about wanting changes in the cohort’s activities and more social engagement. 

“I might do something like an Among Us style where you have your own, you’re on your own device and playing as a group. We’re in the same room, you can holler at each other kind of thing,” said Mr. Lubbs. 

Mr. Lubbs commented about how cohorts should be more than just an opportunity to simply learn.

“I don’t know if this is one of those things where people signed up thinking it was going to be one thing. Like now we’re back in school, so we’re going to do school things. That’s kinda not how it’s going to go,” said Mr. Lubbs. 

Moving forward, Mr. Lubbs is planning to hold a study hall for the first half of the cohort and plan some social engagements for the second half of each session. While the study hall may not have been positively received by all, Mr. Lubbs has seen benefits in giving students more time to work at school.

“I had a couple students that were there that just hadn’t turned anything in. This is the only time that they were able to do so. They just need somebody looking at them to do the work,” said Mr. Lubbs.

Jayanth Samala, a junior and a student of Mr. Lubbs commented positively on his experience in Mr. Lubbs cohort session.

“Distance learning has a completely different vibe since you are online. While for cohorts, the whole thing is in person,” said Jayanth, “In terms of academics, I’d say the cohorts are better since you can do a lot more stuff that you couldn’t do online.”

Navigation around the campus has also been a concern for the staff at EVHS. Due to construction, pathways to the office, classrooms, and other areas have changed and are expected to continue changing in the future. Yet even with this difficulty, cohorts have been carried out smoother than expected for many teachers. With students returning to campus, the campus is once again awakening. 

Mrs. Pongol, a chemistry teacher at EVHS, also found similar results during her cohort sessions. Mrs. Pongol stated how the productivity of her students were significantly higher than if they were learning online. For an example, one of her students managed to finish 3 assignments in the time period and the 2 others were equally as productive.

“I am very happy to see the faces live. Most students just have their pictures, some of them don’t have any pictures, so I was really excited to see the faces and the person: the student.” said Mrs. Pongol. “So it is really very different from what we see in distance learning.” 

Like many teachers on campus, Mrs. Pongol feels that cohorts are an important part of the return to normalcy. Furthermore, cohorts provide an important opportunity for teachers to personally help students who are struggling or have special needs.

“If they’re in class with me, I can call their attention to see if there is really something wrong or something they don’t understand,” said Mrs. Pongol. “Because I can really see them ‘cause I am really that teacher: the old school teacher. That I really want to see the students work.”

She also feels that cohorts should expand further in order to really benefit students.

“I would encourage or probably require students with a D or lower to come in. I would really want the students who are having difficulties or those with IBC or 504 plans to be there,” said Mrs. Pongol. “I would like my students to pass the course with not just a passing grade, but they pass with an understanding and appreciation of chemistry.”

Teachers aren’t the only ones who are enjoying cohorts. Many students also feel that cohorts have provided them with a great opportunity to connect with fellow students. 

“It just feels like there are humans and not just a bunch of black screens that you’re staring at. There is actually moving people” commented Kacey Yang, a sophomore at EVHS.

Remarkably, many students at EVHS praised how safe they felt the cohorts were. Notably, the 6 feet social distancing and use of disinfectants provided a big feeling of relief. Furthermore, the fact that students ages 16 and up were able to get vaccinated provided some with the confidence necessary to return. 

“Yeah I think I feel very safe. I am not very afraid of COVID anymore because a lot of people are getting vaccinated and my family has gotten vaccinated. I just feel safer there during the cohort,” said Taniv Duhra, a sophomore at EVHS.

“I definitely felt safe. I’ve been tested like every week since I was in the cross country and track team. So I know I am covid free,” said Jayanth. “And since we haven’t gotten shutdown or anything, like EV has been doing sports for months now. Like I feel pretty safe cause nobody has come back positive.”

Students like Jayanth now encourage more students to attend cohorts. They feel that with more students the more interactive cohorts become. 

“Yeah I definitely would (encourage fellow students to come back), since it is more fun the more people who come back, for one. And for two, with more people I feel that the teachers will have more fun cause they’ve been missing out a lot now that everything’s online,” said Jayanth. 

The pandemic has been especially harsh for many freshmen who didn’t receive the proper orientation into high school. Jayanth and other students feel that cohorts could provide a supplement of communication to help new students acclimate into EVHS.

“Online, you can still talk to people, call people up, meet your friends. But you aren’t meeting new people, you are still in the same group online,” said Jayanth. “You are only calling the people who you know. With in person there is like a sense of random-sy, so you’ll be growing as a person rather than just staying in your own bubble.”

Other students feel that cohorts were just a productive method to spend your time catching up on work.

“With distance learning you are at home, it is not really optimized for work. At school it is supposed to be for that very purpose,” said Taniv. “There are a lot of distractions at home too, cause you have your thing in your room, your computer, your TV. School, it is built for a learning space with very little distractions and is very secure. And the people are there to learn too.”

The Phase 3 cohorts are one step closer to students returning to school for classes on campus. With more teens and teachers getting vaccinations, the return to normalcy is slowly becoming a reality. Looking into the future, Dr. Geordie Hamilton has high hopes for the remainder of the Phase 3 cohorts and the next school year. 

“So what we can all expect is what really the entire country expects at this point and that is a full return in the fall,” said Dr. Geordie Hamilton.