As the year starts to come to an end, many staff and students are starting to look back on the past year of Covid-19 and start thinking about the changes they hope to see in school next year.
When Mrs. Jennifer Wright stepped back into her classroom this spring after almost a year of virtual teaching, the difference was striking.
“It was very strange walking into my classroom, which was usually filled with 31 chairs, because students were usually bringing their own machines in and their own supplies,” she said. “It was a very strange experience, but now that I’m back with students it started to feel normal again.”
Students and teachers agree that staying home allows you to stay safe from the virus, but brings distractions such as wifi issues during the day, while going in person allows a better learning and teaching experience, but risks you to getting the Covid-19 virus.
Even though many students can go back to school now, there are definitely some major changes once they got there, like for example constantly following COVID-19 guidelines.
Aiden Williams, a seventh-grader at RCMS, said the return to school has been OK. “But it’s a bit annoying to wear a mask all the time,” he said.
Not only wearing masks, but also the social distancing and hallways seem to be a bit different.
“I definitely practiced social distancing,” said eighth-grader Alexa Gilbert, “but the one-way hallways also make it harder to get to class.”
Devan Charaipotra, a seventh-grader at RCMS, finds lunch difficult. If he could change something, he would allow outdoor lunch. “It’s kind of awkward with indoor lunch,” he said, “since it’s so quiet that when I try to talk to someone it seems like everyone around me would be able to hear what I say.”
Aidan said virtual school was harder because he found it more difficult to speak with teachers, and there were many times where the laptops would lag, causing connection loss when speaking.
Said eighth-grader Himagnya Elaprolu agreed, saying, “Online school just feels so much more laborious than in person school, and I hope that next year, things will hopefully be looking up.”
Not everyone is okay with in-person learning because people have different feelings on what they think is safe or not.
“I think that the school has done so much to keep it safe and clean,” said Mrs. Wright, but she encouraged everyone to remain careful.
“People have different comfort levels,” she said. “Some kids may be in a fully vaccinated home and some people aren’t. It’s going to be different to some and normal to some.”
Still, she said she feels that school is safe. “I think they don’t have anything to worry about,” she said.
The decision about whether to return was difficult for teachers as well as students.
“I miss having my own room,” says Stephen Holmlund, a Strategies for Success teacher who is teaching online this year. “I miss the combination of indoor and outdoor.”
He said he would go back into school if he could, because it can provide a much better learning environment.
Ms. Caroline Guild, a U.S. history teacher, is in-person for this school year and has had a very good experience compared to teaching online.
“You finally get to put on a face and get away from your family,” she said.
Mrs. Guild also mentioned that it’s easier to learn in person than it is online, as staying in your own house can bring some distractions, such as doing chores or taking care of pets, It can get confusing at some points, where as if you were in school, there would not be many distractions as the only thing you can do is pay attention.
Teachers have been with students the entire way by making classes more fun online and user-friendly so students can get work done a little easier.
Ms. Maitland Mann, a seventh-grade English honors teacher, said the year was surreal.
“But I think that personally and community-wise, I think it’s shown how resilient and adaptable we are as humans,” she said.
Eighth-grader Himagnya Elaprolu talked about how staying at home more also meant that she had to put more effort into staying fit, which required a lot of midday bike rides and walks.
At the beginning of the pandemic, extracurricular activities and sports switched on Zoom or were just cancelled. Now many are getting back to normal.
Sam Lepsch does field hockey and boxing in person wearing a mask, while drums and guitar are still virtual.
“It doesn’t really make much of a difference,” Sam said. “I’m still doing the stuff I enjoy, and I hardly notice the mask half of the time.”
Not only physical health, but mental health was also affected due to the quarantine.
“My friends and I would do yoga online for mental health,” Ms. Mann said.
Although this year was something that was strange and different for many, many people managed to stay safe, healthy, and find a way to keep themselves content.
Staff and students are looking forward to a more normal year next year, especially after more people are vaccinated.
“I know a lot of people didn’t feel well after the second shot, but I would still rather be sick and have the vaccine then not,” Devan said.
Ms. Mann is looking ahead to a better year next year.
“I hope next year things aren’t changing constantly, and I hope that everyone will be back in person,” she said.”
Students will be glad to see their friends next year.
“I really want to be able to see all my friends again,” Himagnya said. “It’s been so long, I think it would be like a breath of fresh air to see them again.”