Secondary schools resume in-person class instruction

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Photo credit: Michael Hartt

Although a return to in-person learning has brought a sense of normalcy back to many students’ lives, classrooms look very different from what students are used to. Senior Maddie Kohler believes that some of these changes are preventing her from getting the most she can out of school. “I’m collaborating with other students, so not being able to come close to one another within the classroom can be upsetting and inhibit my own learning,” Kohler said.

By Michael Hartt, Editor-in-Chief

Senior Sarah Shanley, after months of being subjected to an online school environment as a result of COVID-19, is very relieved that she returned to school in person instruction at North on Jan. 28.

“I am really excited about it. I think that a lot of students struggled online,” Shanley said. “I know that I did, so I think going back is going to raise morale and grades and that type of thing.”

The return to school plan proposed and approved by the Board of Education late last year includes requirements for schools that will make transmission of COVID-19 less likely. Many of these requirements, along with different precautions, have been implemented, according to English teacher Jonathen Byrne.

“There is hand sanitizer everywhere. Everyone is going to be wearing masks. Everyone is going to have to wear a mask the proper way,” Byrne said. “(The administration has) created ways to move through the building that should try to mitigate contact and mitigate people congregating in the same areas so the air can stay more clear.”

In addition to those precautions, there are also desk shields that help to block possibly infected airflow between students, socially distanced seats, and classroom cleanings in between cohort times.

Even with all of the safety measures being put into effect, there is still a lot of concern among faculty and students about possible COVID-19 transmission in the school environment. Shanley thinks that the nature of high school students will make containing the virus among them inherently more difficult.

“I think that they are taking every measure necessary, but I think that it is definitely harder with high school students because a lot of us have the ability to drive and go see our friends,” Shanley said. “So where we see low numbers in middle school and elementary school, it might not be the same for high school students because a lot of people don’t follow the rules.”

The return to school comes after many months of struggle for some students due to the online environment. A study conducted by the CDC reaffirmed this claim with data showing that mental health-related emergency room visits for ages 12 to 17 rose 31% between March and Oct. 2020. 

Shanley said that being at home from school so long has made performing well difficult for her, so she is optimistic that returning to school will improve her performance.

“I feel like (online school has) never felt real even though it has been going on for ten months and with online due dates and in online classes it doesn’t feel as important even though I know it is,” Shanley said. “I just feel like as soon as we go back to regular school everything is going to feel more real.”

Senior Maddie Kohler feels confident that most things about school will start to feel normal now that students are going back in person, but she is not optimistic about seniors getting to partake in normal senior year festivities and wishes that faculty were doing more to assure that is happening.

“Now that we are back in school I was hoping things would change when it comes to supporting the seniors in our last semester of high school,” Kohler said. “I understand that nobody wants to give us false hope for things that might never happen, but I would hope at the very least that there is more effort into coming up with safe ideas that can try and make up for all the fun traditions that we haven’t been able to experience.”