Cardboard Cutouts of RLA Students Added to Normalize the School Year

At the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the majority of Lexington High School students were enrolled in the hybrid learning model. However, over time, many students switched to become fully remote. This caused the school to feel empty and lonely for those remaining in the hybrid model. 

“It just didn’t feel right. Every day we went to school in-person, we were reminded of how unusual this year is,” Haven Nofrends, a junior in Cohort A, said. 

To solve this problem, the LHS administration came up with an ingenious idea: add cardboard cutouts of RLA students throughout the school. Each hybrid student is assigned two to three remote cardboard cutout students to carry around to their classes and sit with on the bus. 

LHS guidance counselor Ness Happi described the numerous benefits of the practice.

 “Carrying around these cutouts tricks your mind into believing that your friends are with you. You can pretend like they are just another student, who you can bond with and talk to!” Happi said.

 Group work has started to feel more natural with the cardboard cutouts present. Rather than talking to people through a screen with constant internet glitches, or straining to communicate with people six feet away, students can now collaborate with their fellow cardboard classmates.

“It’s a bit awkward to work with people in breakout rooms when they have their cameras off. Without body language cues, it’s hard to stay on the same page with your team members,” Cameron Offerson, a sophomore, said. 

The cardboard cutouts, however, have helped restore a sense of normalcy in LHS classrooms, where all the students are seamlessly collaborating. 

“The difficulties of having breakout rooms where everyone stays camera-off and microphone-off are gone with this strategy,” Happi said. “Rather than talking to themselves, students have the option of talking to one of their cardboard counterparts, although the reaction level does remain somewhat similar to that of the breakout room setting.”

Moreover, the presence of cardboard RLA students makes it possible to connect with students in school, without awkward solutions like Advisory. 

“I think it just works to be able to talk to your peers when they’re at school. It is not at all easy to connect with other students online, especially when groups are assigned and you have to talk about a specific topic. Knowing whether my classmates would rather have no arms or no legs does not help me get to know them better, but just creates an awkward atmosphere. It is significantly more effective to just talk to pieces of cardboard that look like your friends, and it is way more fun!” Noah D’Visory, a junior, said. 

With the numerous problems that are solved by the cardboard cutouts, the LHS administration sees no need for modifying the RLA and hybrid learning options. Students are thriving with the assurance  that they get to have their cardboard friends along with them and that they are able to socialize fairly normally during the unusual school year.