HOPKINS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — There is no senior hallway at Hopkins High School anymore, and fewer competitions pitting freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors against each other. The change isn’t directly related to the pandemic, but there is a connection.

Zach Miller, a Spanish teacher and head of the school’s culture committee, noticed the need for a change even before COVID-19.

“The issue we identified before is that we had our seniors who were super full of spirit. They were all into everything and would win the spirit competition every year. Meanwhile, the sophomores and freshmen would just sit there at assemblies. They didn’t know our fight song even,” he said.

A student told Miller that was just how things were: students have spirit when they’re seniors.

“You shouldn’t have just one good year. You should have four good years, so we have to do something,” Miller said.

He saw a story on WOOD TV8 in 2019 about Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School moving to a house system. He decided that’s what Hopkins High School should do as well. Then, COVID-19 shut down all schools in Michigan.

“We came out of COVID beat up and not ready to try to tackle something like that,” he said. “We said to ourselves, COVID destroyed all of our traditions and mixed students up in the hallway because of groupings. If we’re going to do this, yes, we’re tired, but this is the time now. We came back out of COVID, said let’s do it, and we haven’t looked back since.”

The house system is similar to what many Harry Potter fans know from the books and movies. Instead of Hufflepuff and Gryffindor, Hopkins administrators turned to the school mascot, the Vikings, for inspiration. They came up with several options based on Norse Mythology.

The students then voted and chose Dain, which is a deer; Elder, which represents fire and is symbolized by a dragon; Heidrun, or goat; and Fenrir, which is symbolized by a wolf.

Each house contains students from all four grade levels who meet in homeroom. Each house also has its own hallway, with decorations matching the individual animal. During homecoming week, instead of all the competitions pitting grades against each other, the houses battle for more points and, ultimately, the House Cup.

Ellie Sebright was a sophomore when Hopkins High School introduced the house system after spending her freshman year learning remotely.

“It took a minute to get used to it. Everyone was a little skeptical. It started off slow, but as time went on, we’ve definitely gotten more into it,” she said.

Now, she’s enjoying the camaraderie not just with her fellow seniors but with the younger classes as well.

“It was so cool to be able to come into a homeroom where it was like, we’re a team, this is us, like, let’s go win all these competitions,” she said.

Kellen Ford is a sophomore now. He found out in 8th grade he would be an Elder, the house of fire.

“I felt like a cool kid,” he said. “I felt like I was accepted by all sorts of people that otherwise I wouldn’t be able to form bonds with.”

It’s exactly what Miller was hoping for when he helped start the system. He has noticed the difference, too.

 “I’ve had freshmen who are integrated in there with us, forming bonds with upperclassmen who, before the system, they never would’ve talked to that kid. Now, it’s like high fives, fist bumps, and whatnot,” he said.

Although there is a competition factor between houses, each house crest also makes up the school Viking Shield, which Miller says shows they are united as Vikings.

Another way they promote unity is through the Big/Little Viking matchup, which pairs seniors with underclassmen. It’s something Ellarie Baugh is looking forward to in her senior year.

“I just want to be that example leader for the younger freshmen,” she said.