When freshman Jace Rubenstein enrolled in North Springs Charter High School in Sandy Springs for its band program, drumming on a video call in his room wasn’t exactly how he pictured the experience.

Rubenstein, who lives in Johns Creek, signed up for the fine arts magnet school in part because of its marching band program — which has not yet had a practice.

Jace Rubenstein, a freshman at North Springs Charter High School, poses for a photo with his electric drum. (Special)

As the 2020-2021 school year starts virtually for Atlanta and Fulton and DeKalb counties, teachers and students have adjusted to almost everything online — not just with classrooms, but also extracurricular activities like club meetings and band practices. Athletic programs have also had postponements or additional COVID-19 safety precautions put into place, making almost all aspects of a typical school year different for students.

Rubenstein said marching band practice was slated to start the last week of the summer, and now he isn’t sure when it may come back. Fulton County School District delayed sports games until at least the middle of September, and DeKalb County School District delayed sports games until at least the end of the month.

Marching bands would usually have performances at football games.

To practice percussion in the virtual age, Rubenstein said he and his classmates mute their video and play along with the teacher, who’s unmuted, on an electric drum.

“It’s been fine for me,” said Rubenstein, whose school year started Aug. 17. “We’re still getting to play, which is the best thing.”

Danielle Rubenstein said one of the hardest adjustments to virtual learning is her son Jace not being able to meet people at his new school.

“The only people they really see during the day are the teachers,” Danielle Rubenstein said. “But everyone is doing their best.”

Softball keeps swinging

Laura McEwen said her daughter Amelia McEwen, a sophomore at Dunwoody High School, has been playing softball almost all her life. When they found out the DCSD athletic seasons had been postponed while on their way to softball scrimmage, they still wanted to try to have some sort of season.

DCSD has still allowed teams to do group conditioning while games are postponed, and McEwen said parents got together to create a league with the Murphey Candler Girls Softball Association so the girls could still play a pseudo-season. The teams are divided by school, McEwen said.

From left, Dunwoody High School students Courtney Craft, Amelia McEwen and Alani Moore pose for a photo at their first softball game of the season at Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park. (Special)

McEwen said they hold two DHS conditioning practices a week with Sunday games at Brookhaven’s Murphey Candler Park that are not associated with the school. The first game was Aug. 23. Masks are required except when players are on the field.

“It doesn’t count toward the region, but it was so fun to see some sort of normalcy,” McEwen said. “Distancing, mask[-wearing] and temperature checks were enforced.”

McEwen said her daughter played on a travel softball team over the summer, and Murphey Candler was one of the best venues in terms of COVID-19 safety precautions. Her daughter has been playing softball at the park since she was 8 years old.

“They’re not too upset about it,” McEwen said. “It feels like a partially normal season.”

Student government

Dabney Duncan, a senior at Dunwoody High School, said she’s found a way to connect with other students at her school through Instagram.

Duncan, president of the Student Government Association, said the club’s officers have been meeting about once a week via video call with their teacher sponsors. SGA would normally plan events such as homecoming or pep rallies, so in lieu of those, Duncan said they’ve been doing “Wildcat Wednesday” spirit day posts, named for the school’s mascot.

The SGA Instagram account, @dhswildcatpride, also posts other club information and has become a “virtual meeting place” for students, Duncan said.

Dunwoody High School senior and Student Government Association president Dabney Duncan poses for a photo at her virtual learning work station. (Special)

“We’re having to get really creative on ways to keep everyone connected,” Duncan said.

Duncan said usually the entire club, which has over 100 students, would also have a meeting every week, but those meetings have been cancelled since the organization isn’t doing any planning or a club vote.

Duncan started her position as SGA president with a virtual election last spring, which was conducted using a Google form.

“There downsides to virtual learning, but big picture, I know this is what has to be done,” Duncan said.