The Rocket Flame

A Covid Return To School

The year 2020 wasn’t what anyone expected and going back to school was one of the biggest challenges. When returning back to school we were not greeted by smiles because they were covered by masks and although we were back together we are still separated by a distance of six feet. We are also split up by the A and B schedule of one day online and the other day in school. Senior Kierra Griffith comments on the A and B schedule saying, “Everything is disorganized with the online days and some teachers add a lot more work to do than others and the work is on different platforms.” With this unknown year ahead of us there are concerns from many students about masks, sports, and dislikes of the new rules. 

A big thing for JB students is sports and their fans. Stands would be packed with fans cheering on our teams but now only those who have a ticket can get in to watch. Contact sports have to change so there would be little to no contact with the players. Senior soccer player Kadenn Martin commented, “We can’t touch each other when we play, which is hard because it is a contact sport.” Off the fields and courts masks are required and before players can even begin to play they must get their temperature taken and answer a series of questions.

Many students have mixed feelings about the rules we have to follow in order to have a safe school experience. In classrooms there is a smaller number of students in each class. More work is done on your own because you can not do a lot of partner work due to social distancing. During Kadenn Martin’s interview she explains how there are smaller class sizes and how everyone is spread out. Even though there are smaller classes and everyone is spaced out we still have to wear a mask the entire time. Junior Ashley Alfree says, “Mask breaks are greatly appreciated.” The only time we can take our masks off is during our ten minute mask breaks and at lunch while we are eating. Overall, a lot of students do not like wearing masks and having to be socially distanced from their friends. 

Despite all of the challenges students have been facing so far this school year we are still hoping for a great year. The teachers and principals have worked hard to still provide the students with a great year on a somewhat normal basis. On a positive outlook students are excited that we will be going back to school all together on November 5. 


JBHS Graduation 2020

Graduation for the Class of 2020 was anything but ordinary. The class spent their final months of high school at home and away from their classmates. Although everyone hoped that we would be back in school and back to normal life in time for graduation, that was not the case and the school had to find alternative ways to honor the years’ seniors and their accomplishments. 

“I did not think we would get here. I was not sure if we would ever get to this point… it took a lot of work to get here” says Mr.Chip Dickey (Principal).

The administrators of the district had to work night and day to assure that the 2020 graduates would not be let down and that they would get the recognition they deserved.

“None of us will ever forget March 13th, 2020; the day when all our expectations and plans for the school year were put on hold. We had to reimagine our year and how we go about this thing called school. This year, more than any other, has been about the importance of innovation, collaboration, perseverance, patience, and work as a team. It wasn’t always perfect but all of us, no matter what our role, students, parents, teachers, and staff rose to the challenge, and pushed through to the finish of what certainly would go down as one of, if not the most challenging school year of our lives, “ says Dickey.

The ending of the year threw everyone for a loophole, and left everyone changing plans and working to solve problems.

“Two graduation ceremonies were held this past summer.  The first was a “Graduation Parade” where each student arrived in a vehicle with family members, accepted their diploma, walked inside the building for a professional photo taken in front of their Class Gift and the JB Rockets and received a Class of 2020 Graduation yard sign. The second ceremony more closely resembled a traditional graduation ceremony.  Each student was seated with 2 adults of their choosing who were permitted to escort the student to the stage so the student could receive his or her diploma,” said class advisors Ms. Beeler and Mrs. Rife.

Not every graduate attended both ceremonies, but each ceremony allowed the graduate to receive their diploma with their friends and families watching.

“Most especially though we didn’t expect for us to not be able to break it down one last time on the dance floor for our senior prom, or to have our last moments with each other cut short. We thought the musical would go on, the class trip would endure, and that our graduation ceremony would be a bit more normal than it has been,” says Valedictorian Sarah Kimmel.

The class had no idea that they would never get to experience some of the simple things that they looked forward to most throughout their years in high school.

“My graduation impacted my view on high school by teaching me to never take anything for granted and that everything can change in the blink of an eye. I realized I shouldn’t have complained about waking up and going to the class I hated or complained about how I just wanted to be done as soon as possible,” says 2020 graduate Mallory Peck.

The pandemic changed the views of many people, but affected students directly because of the loss of all the things they took for granted such as Prom, sports, extracurriculars and graduation.

“When I realized that I would not be returning to the school for the remainder of the year, my initial reaction was what was going to happen to all the extracurricular activities that I was involved in. All the work and time I spent into these activities was all of a sudden put to a halt. Even though I did not know what would happen to these events that I looked forward to all year, I knew that we would all adapt and come together to overcome these difficulties,” said an anonymous 2020 graduate. 

Every person throughout the school district was impacted by the spring school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but seniors had a special moment in their life taken away from them. Despite those losses, our district managed to pull through with new innovative ideas to honor the seniors. Although not every loss was made up for, the work that the James Buchanan High School put in for the 2020 graduates left everyone feeling grateful.

The Setbacks Make for a Better Comeback


Kylee Long puts on her swim cap before her first race.

It was around a year ago student Kylee Long’s life was forever changed. What was thought to be just another hunting trip turned out to be so much more. Long suffered an accidental gunshot to her right leg that resulted in a month spent in the UPMC Altoona hospital and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“They had to amputate above the knee because they didn’t have enough to keep my knee joint,” said Long.

She was released from the hospital on December 20, 2018, and, ever since that, has adjusted to her new way of life. Long had hoped to return to the soccer field this season, but ended up finding a new interest in the pool.

“I was looking for something to keep me in shape,” Long said. “I was talking to a swimmer who recommended coming to pre-season and trying it out.”

After attending the first pre-season training, Long had an interest in swimming and decided to join the team.

“I’ve really gotten the hang of each individual stroke,” said Long. “My favorite stroke is for sure [the] freestyle.”

Long has really enjoyed learning all the new strokes and getting to know her new teammates. She was even chosen to be a captain of the team.

“Kylee works so hard and is always cheering her teammates on,” said Coach Heckman. “She really deserved the position, she is a great role model.”

Long’s goal  is to improve all of her times by the end of the season. She always speaks about how thankful she is for all the support she gets from family and friends. After only a year, Long hopes to keep pushing her limits with her new way of life.

“It’s been a wild ride,” said Long. “I can’t believe it’s been a year since my accident, but the love and support has been endless through my good and bad times.”

A Day in the Life of an AP Student


Being in high school can be difficult for anyone, but when you add AP and Honors courses in the mix, you really have to be on top of your game to get the best grades. Brynn Taulton (11), an AP and Honors student definitely has some difficulties, but she manages to get A and B grades.


 Brynn arrives at school around 8:10 and waits in the gym. Then she goes to homeroom to get her stuff ready for the day and to watch the morning announcements. She also uses this time to make sure that she didn’t forget anything. When the bell rings again, she starts her day. 

“The night before, I make sure I have no assignments I haven’t done, said Taulton. “Then I go to school and in homeroom I get my folders and work ready.”


Brynn starts her day by going to gym class. Exercise can be beneficial to get the brain ready for the day. She then starts her academic classes by going to her first AP class, AP Language and Composition. The class teaches her about writing techniques and how to take the AP test, which she hopes to score a 3 or above on. 

“My first AP class of the day is AP Lang and we are reading a book right now,” said Taulton, “so I make sure I read the book and did the journal that goes along with it.”


She continues her day to her next class, also an AP class, AP World History. She is also aiming to score a 3 on the test for this class. The class teaches her test taking skills that she hopes will be beneficial to her on test day. It’s one of her easier AP classes, but still not something to be taken lightly.

“We have a lot of projects in that class, but overall it’s an easy class,” said Taulton. 


Next is activity period, a time that gives students a chance to ask their teachers questions and to get caught up on homework. Taulton likes to go to her teachers to ask questions so she can better understand the material she is working on. 

“I use this time to study and do homework, especially reading the book for AP Lang. I also go to Mrs. Snyder’s a lot because Biology is a difficult class,” said Taulton.


She then moves on to her next AP class: AP Biology. For this class she isn’t aiming for a 3 on the test, but a C in the class. If she gets a C or above she will get college credits from Hagerstown Community College through the Essence program. Biology has many different concepts within it, but right now Taulton is focusing on one to finish her literature review paper. 

“The paper is a behavioral analysis [of] serial killers and how Biology has made them into who they are and the way they think,” she said.  “I’ve already spent multiple hours on the paper and still have a lot to go.”


Then she gets a break in the day for lunch. This break allows her brain time to cool down before more classes. She also gets to eat some food and chat with friends.

“I like having lunch at this time,” said Taulton, “It gives me a break before my afternoon classes.”


Her afternoon classes are next and it is an easy way to end her day. She has Spanish 3 and Algebra 2 to finish the day, and, to her, these are her easiest classes.

“Those are my easiest classes of the day, but I still have to work hard to get good grades in them just like any other class,” said Taulton.


With the school day over Brynn goes home. She doesn’t start her homework right away though, she usually gives herself some time to chill out and take a break from school work. Then she likes to start homework sometimes taking her 3 hours.

“When I get home from school I take an hour or 2 to chill and then I spend about 3 hours doing homework with a few breaks in between,” said Taulton.

AP classes aren’t for everyone, but for the people who do take them, it can be very helpful. Getting college credits early can save you time and money in the long run, and the classes can also teach you life skills. Taulton has gotten both from taking the classes and according to her it’s worth it.

“AP classes are really hard sometimes, but they’re worth it,” she said.

ExSITESment Awaits For JB Alumni


Megan Rummel

On his last day at JBHS, Mr. Colby Sites (Faculty) shows off his crazy taco socks.

Life is all about a journey: it can take you anywhere in the world and allow you to experience new surroundings. For Mr. Colby Sites (Faculty), his journey took him back to his hometown school to pursue student teaching. 


At first, Sites wasn’t sure what he wanted to do after high school. He kept changing his mind until he finally came up with an idea. 


“I always liked the idea of helping people. My original idea was that I wanted to be a therapist, but then I quickly changed that to a massage therapist,” said Sites. “Finally in fifth grade, I made the decision that maybe if I took history and wanting to help other people and applied that together, the first thing that I came up with was a teacher.” 


His inspiration of becoming a History teacher comes from his fifth grade teacher. 


“In fifth grade, I was at Mountain View Elementary [School] and I had this awesome fifth grade teacher,” Sites explained. “She taught us the Civil War, and I loved it. I loved learning about the Civil War. I loved how she taught it to us, just hearing all the information – the great battles, the great military men, the beards – it was all fascinating to me.”


Sites was not placed at James Buchanan originally, but instead at New Oxford Middle School; however the cooperating teacher chose not to have a student teacher. He tried another school and that, too, did not pan out for him. Finally, he was told that he could go to Bermudian Springs, but he asked Mr. Lum to see if he could be a student teacher for him and the rest is history.


From the time that he graduated from JB in 2015, he always felt a personal connection to this school. 


“The reason why I wanted to come back to JB was I always loved this school ever since I’ve been here,” he said. “I praise this school and the students that are here.” 


According to Sites, the most important thing about being a teacher is being able to connect and relate to students. To do so, he tries to find ways to start conversations with them. 


“Me wearing crazy socks creates a conversation and creates a relationship with students that stems from honest questions,” said Sites. “I think the best way to relate to students is being honest with them. I try to be a good upstanding person, and I try to put other people first.” 


Another thing that Sites strives to do is be a little different from other teachers. He explained that there is a “cliche” of when you see a teacher. He said that the first thing that comes to mind is the way they look like or how they dress. So in order to stray from the typical stereotype, he comes up with ideas on how to be unique. 


“I like being creative and I like expressing myself. I think everything I own I try to have a story associated with it,” said Sites. “I always strive to be a little different. So socks and ties is just one way that gives me the ability to express myself.” 


One interesting fact that Sites explained to his students at the beginning of the school year is that he does not get paid for being a student teacher. To Sites, being able to spend time with his students and interacting with them is more important than money. 


“I enjoy waking up every day and coming to class,” he said.  “I dread the amount of preparation and all of the grading that I have to do, but there’s rarely a day where I regret coming into class and seeing my students and engaging with them.” 


Recently, Sites was given the opportunity to go to the James Buchanan Middle School, where he will be doing some teaching in a History class. Nonetheless, he still plans on staying within the district. 


“My short-term plan is that I will start substituting around the building, that way I get my foot in the door and still be in the school district,” said Sites. “I get to see all of the kids that I had in class and I still get to do what I love. There will be a couple of positions that will be open around the Tuscarora School District that I will be applying for.”


Sites’ last day is on Friday, November 1st, which means that his time at JB is soon coming to an end. 


“On my last day, I don’t know how I’m going to feel,” Sites said. “I don’t know if I’m going to cry, if I’m going to triumphantly walk out of here, I don’t know what the students are going to feel…I hope I don’t bawl like a little baby, but it will definitely be a little heartbreaking on my last day.”


The memories that he creates at his time at JB allowed him to fully experience student teaching.

Student teaching is less about being a teacher and more about the students and taking the time to get to know all of them.”

— Mr. Sites

A Day In the Life of Mrs.Czuprynski


 She is a common face if you go to the library during a study hall or spend a period in there for a class. You need copies, have a computer problem, or need a certain book for a class? Mrs. Joyce Czuprynski (Faculty) is the person to whom you visit. She spends her day working with all the people in the high school, and is always there to help.  Czuprynski has been working at JBHS for nine years as the librarian. She attended college at Penn State Main Campus and received a degree in Child Development. 

Even before students arrive, Czuprynski’s day has already started. 

 “Usually when I get in here there is either someone already copying or maybe they already had a problem with the copier that I need to fix; maybe like a copier jam,” says Czuprynski.

Issues like the one described are extremely common all throughout her day. Mrs. Czuprynski also deals with computer issues in the school. Students take their broken or damaged Chromebooks to her, where she then takes them to the technology department.  She also assists and advises students with checking out books that they need for assignments.

The library is a very common place for students and teachers to work and collaborate with technology and knowledge.  Although the library is known to be very technological, it was not always this way.  

“Basically it was a reader’s advisory, then helping people find things on the shelf, and then just checking the resources out,  tracking overdues,”Czuprynski said.

Her responsibilities have changed tremendously over the years. Now Czuprynski is responsible for almost all of the technology in the school.  Often times when students come in for resources, they search for books and other resources online. Her day is packed full of technological problems and using it to assist students.


To help her with all of these things, she has two service learners who often perform many of the same tasks that she does.  Elena McNulty (12) and Kamari Moser (12) devote part of their day to Czuprynski and the library.

“We always fill the copier, we take care of students if it’s busy, we also troubleshoot with computers,” says McNulty. 

McNulty also notes how important Czuprynski is to students and teachers alike.

“Without Mrs. C, simple problems with computers would take longer to be resolved and during study halls, kids can come to the library in a quieter environment,” McNulty said.

Czuprynski is someone who will have the resources needed throughout a student’s or faculty member’s day.  You can find her typing away on a computer or talking to a student in the library anytime you need her, and she is always willing to help.


A Day in the Life of the Cafeteria Staff


Right after the lunch bell rings, students pour into the cafeteria with stomachs rumbling, eager to get their first bite since breakfast. Long lines of students that wrap around the room start to grow shorter and shorter as their needs for a delicious meal are satisfied by the hard work and careful preparation of the cafeteria staff. Throughout the day, they are constantly on the move to make sure that each student and teacher is able to get a meal that will make them hungry for more.

A long line forms around the cafeteria, awaiting their second meal of the day.

6:00 AM


The first to arrive every morning, Mrs. Rhonda Lyons (Faculty) comes to the school to set up everything necessary for that day. She uses about ninety minutes of her early morning time to prepare all the food for the breakfast bar that is served in the auditorium lobby as students arrive to school. Lyons also makes sure that all workstations are clean and ready for the rest of the cafeteria team.


“Myself, I do the odds and ends, the early stuff in the beginning,” said Lyons describing her morning duties. “Getting stuff ready for the girls before they come in because I’m in there the earliest.”


8:00 AM


After other staff members have started arriving to work, students begin coming off their buses and into the school, hungry for the many options offered at the breakfast bar. The staff as a whole enjoys seeing their hard work pay off in the positive reactions of the students.

Diane Crowe (Faculty) rings up Jaden Pabon (9) at the cash register.

“Probably the satisfaction when the kids compliment and kids are happy with the food we’re making,” said Lyons referring to the most rewarding parts of her job. “And they seem to enjoy the meal and look forward to certain things that we make.”


8:45-11:00 AM


When the breakfast bar is put away and the lobby is cleared, the real work begins in the kitchen. Chopping up fruit and putting toppings on pizzas, the cafeteria workers continue to get busier and busier as the minutes fly by. It takes a team effort to make sure the lunch lines have enough hot items, sides, and many other meal options to successfully feed the hungry students of James Buchanan High School. These two hours and fifteen minutes are definitely the busiest times of the day for these diligent workers.

Staci McCulloh (Faculty) chops up oranges into slices in preparation for the lunch periods.

“A typical day at work is usually pretty busy and just different things coming at you from all directions,” said Director Adam Carlson (Faculty).


11:30 AM-1:30 PM


The bell for the first lunch period rings over the school and students rush into the cafeteria with their mouths watering, waiting for a good hot meal. Two staff members take their positions at the cash registers while two more take their positions in the lines, preparing to serve the hungry students. This is the point in the day where the activity in the kitchen slowly dies down. The hard work of preparation has been completed and now all that needs to be done is the serving of meals. The staff hopes that all students are satisfied with their meals and feel confident in their ability to prepare them.

Judy Woodward (Faculty) stays very busy as she serves up deli bar to the hungry students.

“I’m hoping it just makes a positive impact in the students’ day,” said Carlson. “No matter how bad their day is going, they can rely on having a good hot meal from us.”


1:45-2:30 PM


When the final bell has rung and the cafeteria has emptied itself, the staff works as a team to prepare everything for the next day. Working together, they accomplish tasks such as washing lunch trays, putting everything back in the refrigerator, cleaning up the scraps from the lunch lines, sweeping the kitchen floors and much more. The cafeteria staff members leave at 2:30 PM feeling confident and proud that they have filled hungry stomachs and satisfied cravings. They hope to be constantly learning and trying new things as chefs and workers.

The kitchen after it has been diligently cleaned up by the staff.

“Just being able to be creative in the kitchen, creative with the menu and getting the staff on board with doing new things,” said Carlson. “And increasing everybody’s ability to cook.”


Overall, the day consists of constant business, being up and moving, focusing on their goals, and trying to accomplish everything that they have set out to do for that day.

A Day in the Life of Mr. Bradley


Mr. Thomas Bradley (Faculty) smiles for a photo at his desk.

Former JBMS Science teacher,  Mr. Thomas Bradley (Faculty) took the position of Assistant Principal of James Buchanan High School.  The transition from teacher to principal has been overwhelming but in a good way.

“The analogy I have been giving most people is that as a teacher I was able to control my day and now my day as an Assistant Principal is dictated by others,” said Bradley. “The part I enjoy the most is the interactions I get to have with all the different people.”

The hardest thing for Bradley was getting use to others commanding his time.  Now as Bradley fills his new role, no day is the same. As an Assistant Principal, Bradley communicates with parents, students, teachers, and administrators.

“Mr. Bradley is really nice,” said Brenden Wingate (10).“When I’m in trouble he’ll approach me and we will talk about it in a civilized way.”

Most people do not realize just how busy a day in the life of an Assistant Principal is, but in fact, it is jammed packed with meetings, phone calls, and many surprise incidents.  A typical day for Bradley is shown in the timeline below.

A Day In the Life Of Mr. Poe


When you think of your teachers, you probably think of them staying in one classroom, teaching the same class throughout the day, but that’s not the case for Mr. Eric Poe (Faculty).

For eleven years, Poe has been the James Buchanan High School’s Chorus teacher. Throughout his day he travels to three different schools, teaches five different classes, and instructs kids ranging from fifth to twelfth grade.

To be able to teach his students, Poe has to be “performing” at all times. He has to sing in his vocal classes to teach proper techniques and demonstrate how to sing the notes properly, as well as be able to play the trumpet and piano for his music theory and elementary band classes. Even when he’s not having a good day or not feeling well, he still has to perform and be at his best to be able to teach his students.

Starting out his day on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Poe reports with Messa Voce, a special choral group, to the high school at 7:15 AM. At this time, they rehearse chamber, more classical repertoire, and popular, or “pop” music. The popular music they put to choreography.

First period, Poe teaches high school Chorus. During this period, some students have band, so he and Mrs. Sheryl Deike (Faculty) have to trade the students off every other day, having a “full Band” one day, and “full Chorus” the next. Here, they practice music for their Chorus concerts.

Messa Voce returns to Poe second period. Most days, he mainly focuses on Messa Voce, but on Wednesday he rehearses with the Five-Point Band, Messa Voce’s music ensemble.

Everybody in Messa Voce is encouraged to try out for District Chorus, and most make it to County Chorus. Since these activities are at the beginning of the year, during that time they mainly focus on the music for that appropriate activity. When not working on that, they’re working on their concert music.

Third period, Poe teaches AP Music Theory. This class involves teaching students the mechanics of music. He teaches notation to his students, as well as ear training, to get them prepared for the AP test at the end of the year.

Period four, Poe not only has his lunch period, but also his planning period. While simultaneously eating his lunch, he also sends emails, writes his lesson plans, and completes anything else he needs to before 

he heads down to the middle school around 12:30 PM. By getting there early, he has to have enough time to prepare the auditorium and get organized before his students come.

“There’s a lot of different things happening during that period [middle school activity period], so it’s hard to get the students to our practice,” said Poe.

At the middle school, Poe teaches not only seventh and eighth grade Chorus, but also sixth grade Chorus. Like the high school, the middle school Chorus period also has Band that happens at the same time. In addition, this period serves as a free period for students to do make-up work and attend other clubs. Sometimes Chorus only gets to meet once a week, and with everybody asking to leave and signing out, it takes up around ten minutes of his period, making it go from forty to thirty minutes. At times, this period is one of the most stressful times of his day, according to Poe.

Around 2:15 PM, Poe heads either to Mountain View or St. Thomas Elementary schools to teach Beginners’ Band. He brings his trumpet along to show students how to play the different rhythms and what the notes should sound like. Many of his students ask how to play the notes and the correct finger positioning of them. At 3:15 PM, his students are picked up and he is able to go home.

Poe’s crazy schedule at times leaves him stressed and exhausted to a point where he does not have the time to help teachers out as much as he’d like

“I’m not complaining, I just want my colleagues to understand,” said Poe.

Although Poe has a crazy, busy day, he gets satisfaction from being able to teach so many kids and bringing music into their lives.


Diving In At James Buchanan


Ms. Angi Johnson (Faculty) smiles on the pool deck at James Buchanan High School.

On October 29, 2018, Ms. Angie Johnson (Faculty) started as the new swim instructor at James Buchanan High School. Prior to her new job as a swim instructor, Johnson had been an aquatics director at the Chambersburg YMCA for 12 years.

Growing up in Hawaii,  Johnson has been around water her whole life.  As a child, her mother and father would always take her to pools and water parks.  Kings Dominion was Johnson’s first water park. She feels most comfortable in the water or on the pool deck.

“Basically water is my life,” said Johnson.

Wanting to put her love for water to good use, Johnson became the Aquatics Director at the YMCA.  Her job entailed teaching swim lessons to all ages, teaching and making sure kids know water safety, and also managing the lifeguards that were on duty to make sure everyone maintains safety. As soon as Johnson started teaching Aquatics, she instantly knew her life came to a full circle.

“Water safety is very important and everyone needs to be aware of how dangerous water can be,” said Johnson. “But it can be so much fun too.”

Johnson has been smoothly transitioning into her new position as the new swim instructor.  Students all seem to agree that Ms. Johnson is an excellent teacher.

Abigail Nagy (9) and Makinna Peck (9) smile for a picture before going to swim class.

“She is very helpful as a teacher and always explains what to do, sometimes even through example,” said Makinna Peck (9).

Peck and Nagy really appreciate the fact that Johnson will go the extra mile by getting into the pool with them and taking the time to explain how to do different skills.

“I think Ms. Johnson is doing a good job of keeping us on task and keeping us busy,” said Abigail Nagy (9).

The students especially enjoy how Johnson changes up the class every day.  For example, on Mondays and Wednesdays, they do water fitness. Tuesdays and Thursdays, they do water aerobics, and Friday is a free day.  

“Aquatics is different this year because there aren’t as many students, sand Samuel Ocasio (11).  “So it’s fun because we

Samuel Ocasio (11) swims during his special aquatics class.

get to change it up every day.”

Johnson is excited to give high school students an opportunity to do a different type of physical education that is water-based.  She is also looking forward to giving the high school students an opportunity to teach the elementary children as she did in high school.

“I am just really excited to be here, and it’s going to be an amazing experience, I just know it,” said Johnson. “Everybody so far has been so welcoming and friendly.”

Ms. Angi Johnson (Faculty) teaches Alexis Snyder (9) and Samuel Ocasio (11) about the breaststroke.

A Day in the Life of Life Skills: More Than Just A Class


Edward Leevy (10) smiling for a picture while unloading boxes

   Throughout the school day, your routine probably consists of doing the same things, but have you ever thought about how some other classes spend their day?

  The Life Skills Class routine ranges to something different every day. A couple days a week, a group of kids will go to Mercersburg Academy and help clean up the dining hall. If it is a work day, the students leave after the announcements and help at their assigned area for a couple of hours.

  Then, two days a week, the students go to Target and help there, too. Their duties change daily Some days they will unload trucks that come in, and other days they stock up the shelves with the items that are delivered.

  “It helps them with things they will need in their everyday lives and in a job,” said Mrs. Kristy Horst (Faculty).

  The students not only learn what it is like to have a job and a set routine, but also how to interact with people. Working at Target and the Academy gives them that chance.

  After the students come back from their duties, they will go and have lunch together during 8th period. When lunch is over, they then go to Art.

   “I think the most important part is that they’re just able to come in and unwind and be creative and whoever they wanna be,” said Maggie Strawoet (12). 


Gregory Murray (11) works on his art project with his classmates Kaitlyn Miller (9) and Justin Mellott (9)

For most of them, it is their favorite period of the day. They do different art projects together and on Fridays, Mrs. Kayla Chambers-Matulevich (Faculty) plays songs they suggest.

  Lastly, the students finish their day by helping out in the school. During 10th period, several students go and empty all the recycling bins in the classrooms. They then take it outside to the larger recycling bin. This gives the students an opportunity to clean and help out all the teachers.

  Now even though every day differs, this is what a typical day looks for this class. Through spending time together, all of the students have formed friendships with not only each other but with their peers throughout the school and community, and they certainly are a light in the school.


Brooms, Mops, and Dustpans Oh My!

The Truth Behind How The School Gets Clean


As the bell rings, the students file out the door onto the buses, leaving the mess that is left over from the day behind. The real question is, who is in charge of cleaning the school preparing for the next day? A team of seven janitors work day and night to clean and sanitize the school to ensure the health of everyone here.


Mr. Jeff Cole (Faculty) is the newly-hired Head Custodian for James Buchanan High School. Starting May 14 2018, Cole recently just celebrated his six-month anniversary of employment at TSD.


“If you like what you do, you never work a day in your life,” said Cole. “I love what I do, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Growing up in southern New Jersey, he went to a local college for an Asian and Latin degree. After completing his degree, Cole served a couple years in the New Jersey Police Department and realized it wasn’t for him.


“If you don’t see yourself retiring from the job, then what’s the point in working?” said Cole.


Cole then got a job as a janitor at an elementary school in south Jersey. When starting this new job, he realized that being a custodian was for him. The faculty and staff liked him so much that they invited him to class celebrations at a local beach.


“Being a janitor is very rewarding, said Cole. “You see a difference in what you’re doing start to finish.”


Taking a trip to Gettysburg, Cole fell in love with the area of Pennsylvania, intrigued by the scenery and historical aspect of the community. Leaving his hometown, he went house searching for the right match for him. After a long search, he found a house in the community of Mercersburg with a short commute to work. Cole heard about the head custodial position on a listing the school posted. With previous experience, he knew that he fulfilled all of the qualifications.  


“I just wanted to be happy,” said Cole.


Starting in May, school was coming close to completion. Cole was trained by the other janitors in the school, they showed him what needs to be done and how to do it. With summer quickly approaching, he had multiple jobs that had to be completed before school started. One task was to move everything out of the classrooms into the hallway, so that they could strip the floors and wax. They also were in charge of draining the water out of the pool to clean and disinfect from the year prior. One staff member touched up and repainted some spots of the school. The cafeteria tables are also deep cleaned, cleaning the pipes and underneath the tables, using the special “gum knife” to remove all the multi-colored spots.


“It’s hard to be a perfectionist when there is so much to do,” said Cole.


With school starting up again, a routine that seems to change every day was put into place. Coming into school around 2:30 and clocking out at 11:00, Cole starts off his shift with filling mop buckets, so that he can sweep and mop, assisted by a fellow janitor on the same shift. After the cafeteria is swept and mopped, they both move on to the 300 hallway referring to themselves as the “300 hallway pit crew.”  Going into each classroom, they spray each desk with sanitizer, letting it set to get the best results. In the meantime, they also sweep and collect the trash.


“We all enjoy the disinfection and the health aspect of cleaning,” said Cole.


After completing the classrooms, they move onto the library repeating the same process. On the list to complete is the lobby, main bathrooms, nurse’s office, athletic trainer’s room, and the faculty room. Each night, they also spray a certain chemical onto the wrestling mat to ensure all harmful bacteria is gone. Responsibilities might be added when team members are out, as well.


“Every night is different,” said Cole. “You have to plan yourself around what is going on in the school.”

The janitors are responsible to clean up after events, such as sporting events and musical concerts, and sometimes their cleaning process is interrupted by other events taking place anywhere in the school. “Adapting and overcoming every situation” was a phrase Cole repeatedly said.


Students in extracurricular activities form friendships with the janitors as they pass them on their way to their practice or activity.


“One time, I was singing in the hallway, and he [Cole] joined in,” said Abby Carbaugh (12). That was a memory she liked since it made him so approachable and they both laughed about it.


People sometimes don’t notice that the spill made the day before is cleaned, or the pile of pencil eraser dust is off the floor. Lots of behind the scene work is completed daily to ensure the health and wellbeing of each individual student.


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