EYE ON EDUCATION: LPHS students adapt to band, chorus during the pandemic

John Armstrong, left, and Nadia Phillip are students at Lake Placid High School taking chorus this year. They’re pictured here during an interview on Wednesday, Oct. 7 over the teleconferencing app Zoom from inside the school. (News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

LAKE PLACID — Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the music plays on at Lake Placid High School.

Students returned to school here in person last month. They arrived back to a new schedule, with new public health guidelines designed to protect them. Some students haven’t returned back at all, instead continuing to learn remotely. Although every teacher has had to get creative this year, some class formats have been altered perhaps more so than others, such as gym class, chorus and band, where public health guidance has made it difficult to continue instruction in the usual way.

Lake Placid High School students Nadia Phillip and John Armstrong have both been in chorus for a few years now. Phillip, a 14-year-old freshman who also plays flute, joined when she was in third grade, and Armstrong, a 16-yerar-old junior, joined when he was in seventh. They spoke to the News Wednesday morning, Oct. 7, via Zoom.

Neither of the students thought twice about joining again this year when they arrived back at school.

“I’ve just been doing it, so I stayed in the class,” Armstrong said.

In high school chorus and band, students are required to stand 12 feet apart when they’re singing or playing instruments, double the usual 6-foot distance per health guidance. That’s because singing and playing instruments are thought to produce more aerosols, with a stronger airflow, than talking would — and public health officials believe that the novel coronavirus is transmitted through respiratory droplets spread through the air.

Large events that the students would normally prepare for, such as parades, have largely been canceled. If they haven’t been canceled — such as the holiday concerts — whether they’ll happen remains uncertain.

Phillip said it is “kind of disappointing” that the events she would normally participate in as part of chorus and band may not be happening for a while.

The content of the classes has changed, and there’s a lot more sanitization of surfaces involved to curb the potential for virus transmission. So far this year, no students or staff have tested positive for COVID-19.

There have been some perks to the changes. For example, the altered class schedule has allowed teachers to dive more into music theory, music appreciation and broader concepts than in years past, according to music teacher and musical director Taylor Prosper.

The changes to the classes are “OK,” Phillip said.

“It gets boring sometimes,” she added.

“I think that it’s the right decision for now, what we’re doing now,” Armstrong said. “If we want to stay in school, I think this works.

“We’re learning instead of just singing, and that is helping us for next year, I think,” he added later.

The students’ return to school in general has been “fun,” Phillip said.

“It’s kind of weird,” she said.

Though it’s different than years past, many Lake Placid students have been grateful to be back after finishing the last school year remotely.

“At least you get to see people,” Armstrong said.

“I think we have a really good group of kids and we have fun together. Still being able to sing together is fun.”