The start of the 2021 school year brought a lot of new changes, like the mask mandates, new lunch periods and fluctuating bus schedules. However, one of the most obvious changes has been the increase of new students. Due to the year-long gap in students attending in-person school, Western is being introduced to twice the amount of new students than they are used to seeing each year, going from 3389 students in 2018 to 3555 currently in 2021.
According to principal Jimmy Arrojo, the attraction is because of the diverse community. Over 40 percent of students identify as Latino/Hispanic, among other ethnicities, and Western is situated in an area with a large range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
Arrojo cited extracurriculars like robotics and debate as a large factor in students choosing to come to Western. These clubs, along with academic programs like dual enrollment and Cambridge, have created an inviting school environment for new families in Broward.
Students who were at Western before the pandemic were asked if they felt the new changes.
“Yeah, definitely,” senior Camdyn Droz said. “It’s just way more crowded in the hallways.”
Many other seniors agreed that the school is much more crowded this year than ever before.
“I feel like there are so many more people,” senior Riley Hicks said. “Walking down the stairs is way worse than [before] last year.”
With this year being a lot more crowded, the school has instituted crowd control measures in order to curb the masses and prevent the spread of COVID, like a third lunch period. However, not everyone has liked the new measures.
“Now all my friends are split up into different lunches,” Hicks said.
As much as the new security measures might not be liked by a lot of students, it’s clear that without them there would be even more crowding problems. As a new student to campus, senior Justin Rodriguez felt that the lunches were still packed, even with the third lunch period.
“My first day when I got here, I didn’t really know where to sit because there were so many people,” Rodriguez said.
The stream of new kids not only affects students but staff as well. As a member that deals directly with the safety of the student body on the daily, security head Jermaine Hollis shared his views on the differences between now and the time before the pandemic.
“It’s different because we haven’t had to do it in the last year and a half,” Hollis said. “So it’s kind of like relearning to do the job again but with a lot more kids.”
It is apparent that this year will be a time of relearning for old and new students alike. But it seems that the goal of staff and teachers is to provide as safe a school year as possible.
“It’s quite interesting to rebuild relationships with the students, and get them to understand why we’re here,” Hollis said. “We’re not here for them to get in trouble but just to make sure they get across the stage in four years.”