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Heading back to school in a pandemic

In the choir room, students sit farther than six feet apart and wear masks. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

Pekin, Illinois, U.S.A. –  We all have them – the jittery butterflies on the day we start a new year of school. We also have a longing to do the best, a longing to make the most out of the year ahead, and a longing to see our friends that we missed over the summer.

For me, the start of this school year does not disappoint, but with the global pandemic, it also feels exceptionally individual from the rest.

By now, the world knows the consequences of the novel coronavirus. As a result, we are dealing with the inconsistent enforcement of mask wearing and social distancing.

Some struggle to adapt even though we know or hope it’s all for the better. This time around as the school year starts, my district is allowing us to physically attend school every other day.

The only thing that is certain is that there are no guarantees of how long this plan will last or when the normal will return. It’s only a matter of time.

I am a sophomore, and I am honestly having the same feelings about returning to school as I did exactly a year ago as a freshman at a new school.

“Sophomores know the school, they are experienced, they should not be acting like little Freshies (Freshmen) on their first day!” 

Oops, I am not going to be the typical sophomore this year. Putting into perspective the kind of environment we are in, I would not be surprised if everyone in the school – including teachers and administrators – are feeling like “Freshies” themselves.

We now have to cope with new rules: one-way hallways, limited class sizes, mandatory temperature checks, no changing into PE clothes and more. This is the new normal, and I want to be at school. It’s only a matter of time.

Students eat lunch at assigned seats in the cafeteria, tables and chairs set further apart than in the past. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

My school district is partaking in hybrid learning. This allows us to come to school every other day, and the days we do not go we have online learning.

Pekin High School’s 1,800 students got split in into two different groups that attend class in the building on different days. Because of that division, I unfortunately don’t get to see many of my friends who would have been in some of my classes. It’s only a matter of time.

In this chemistry classroom, students will sit far apart, each with their own materials. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

Very few sports and clubs can happen this year.

After months of practically doing nothing because of the virus, students are longing to get involved and feel somewhat busy. Teachers always preach to us about how important getting involved is, but how can we do that this year when so many activities, school dances, and school games are canceled? It’s only a matter of time.

On top of the new adjustments to the school day, we must not forget the reason why this is all occurring – the global pandemic.

The idea of safety needs to be the top priority compared to the rapid school changes.

The prime concern is to keep all students and staff safe by enforcing the Centers for Disease Control’s safety guidelines, even things as simple as wearing masks and social distancing.

I am very anxious to see how my school will handle the new guidelines and the students who refuse to follow them.

Everything is new at school. Everything has changed from last year. After a few days of new, it will start to feel normal, yet odd. It’s only a matter of time.

Tables spaced apart in the school cafeteria, with just four chairs each. (Norah Springborn/YJI)

We are living and taking part in a time of uncertainty and rapid change, but this too shall pass.

Dealing with the changes should make students feel like “freshies” or strangers at a brand new school. Hopefully one year from now everyone can look back upon the strange circumstances we all had to endure with good thoughts.

Kids have to learn, kids have to be involved, some kids have to depend on school food, and for those reasons our school administrators have worked countless hours to come up with a back to school plan that meets all the needs.

Whether you are returning to school, doing online school, or know of someone who is, the new road of change will be bumpy, but it’s only a matter of time.

We will one day be back to normal and it might even be a better and finer normal. Fingers crossed!

Norah Springborn is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International. 

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1 Comment

  • “Partaking???“ (Big word for a Sophomore!)
    If you are a Freshie, I feel like a toddler. 🙂
    Love your reporting!!!