Updated: Oct 19, 2021
At the end of last school year, plenty of students who hadn’t opted into the hybrid program were looking forward to returning to campus the next year. The possibility of seeing people in person, eating lunch with friends, and participating in extracurricular activities was more exciting than it had ever been before.
I interviewed a few students last year about their expectations and hopes for what was then the upcoming school year. How do the realities of being back on campus this year hold up against the expectations of a few of those students, and other students? What do students feel the school is doing well with the return, and what do they think the school could do better?
“[The return to campus] hasn’t been that bad,” senior Spencer Hart said. “I was expecting it to go a lot worse, and generally I had the anticipation that we’d get closed down really quickly, but there’s been surprisingly very few cases of COVID and the teachers have been pretty understanding.”
“Testing has been really consistent, too,” Spencer added, their pleasant surprise apparent. “I thought we were going to do [consistent testing] for the first week or so, and then we’d give up on it and it’d just become a mess, but it hasn’t been like that.”
Maggie Pereja, a junior, had very different feelings about the return to campus: “My expectations were very low, and somehow comparing it to actually being here is worse, because I've seen kids have their mask under their nose or they think COVID is a joke and fake cough really loud,” though she also said that she likes being on campus because “it's great to see [her] friends and peers in person instead of through Zoom.”
Both Spencer and Liam Taylor, another junior I spoke to, said that in their experience, students have actually been really good at wearing their masks, and that they’ve only seen a few wearing them incorrectly. “There are some teachers who let their masks slip under their nose often, but for the most part everyone’s been really good about that,” added Liam.
“It’s not fun, but it’s not worse than regular school, either,” Liam said about how the return to campus is comparing to his expectations. “It’s not worse than my expectations for being back on campus. It’s like regular school, but with less breathability.”
When asked about how it feels to be back at school as a senior after a year and a half of being out, Spencer had this to say: “It feels wrong [to be a senior], almost. Sometimes it clicks, like I’ll see a 7th grader walking in the halls and they’re twelve and they look like a child and I’m like, “Holy crap I’m a senior. But most of the time, it feels like I’m a junior and the seniors are just not here right now, like I just haven’t seen one in awhile.”
And what about problems with the way the school is handling COVID precautions, and how they can improve? I know I certainly have some gripes - namely, that social distancing in the line at the Front Turn Around is never enforced - so other members of the student body must have some, too.
“One complaint I have [about how the school is doing with COVID precautions],” Spencer said, “is that during lunch we’re required to all sit in the Quad together with our masks off to eat, and the problem is they should let us spread out and not just be in the Quad because having all of the students stick together and take off their masks at one period of time is not a very good idea.”
Liam echoed this sentiment: “[The lunch situation] isn’t great. It’s nearly impossible to do social distancing because we have so many students, but we have to pull down our masks to eat.”
“There aren’t enough tables for everyone to sit at because the students are all packed together,” Maggie added. She, like Liam and Spencer, is in favor of letting students spread out during lunch. On an only partially related note, Maggie suggested the school invest in dividers.
Because Spencer is ASB President this year, I felt it vital to ask how they feel about the football games and the looming possibility of having school dances during a school year controlled by COVID.
“I personally am very against having football games and dances,” they said. “I love the spirit that they bring to campus, but it’s definitely not worth the risk of COVID spreading. [The football games] are a lot of people taking their masks off to eat or drink, which could expose people. I’m especially against dances because they’re going to be in extremely close proximity even if they’re outside and everyone’s going to be moving and breathing a lot more, and it’s a big risk that I don’t want to push for.”
In contrast, Maggie thinks it’s “a great idea to have football games” but that only “a certain number of people” should be allowed to attend games and dances to encourage a stricter adherence to COVID protocols than what we have now.
Ultimately, being back at school is weird for everyone right now, and while there are things about our return that could be improved to make things easier on students, the general consensus is that going back to school is much needed and hasn’t been handled as poorly as people expected. I don’t know about you, but I count that as a big win.