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I am delighted to share the following reflections submitted by my students as part of Global Student Project My Return to School During Covid19. My students look forward to reading their peers’ reflections from other Jesuit schools around the world.  Thank you! 

Returning to School: James, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

My return to school has been different, but fun. In-person school is far superior to online school, as there is actual human interaction. For one, there are no WIFI problems at school. For the past year, I have been having to deal with internet issues at home. Second, when I am at school it is much easier to get help with subjects and ideas that I need help with. This is not the case at home. Online school feels like a monotonous rhythm that seems to drag on forever even though it is only a few hours. Coming back to school and being able to see friends makes it a million times better.

Another benefit of coming back to school that I have experienced is playing water polo. Being able to practice and play on a team is something that has not been allowed for a very long time. And now that we are able to do it again, I am extremely happy. Online workouts are not even close to the experience that in-person ones are.

Returning to school in larger groups for various reasons including assemblies, masses, and sports should absolutely be allowed. The evidence shows that kids are not the ones who should be afraid of this virus. Of course, to prevent the spread they should still follow guidelines such as wearing masks and social distancing, but they are not the ones dying. So I believe that it is crucial to allow kids to gain the invaluable experiences that they gain at school. And especially when it comes to sports, young and in-shape athletes are probably the lowest risk population of them all. Therefore, it is ridiculous to further restrict their access to athletic competition.

All teachers and students should be required to take the vaccine once it is available to them. If they refuse, then they should be refused their spots as teachers or students. The only grounds people have against the vaccine are baseless conspiracy theories backed by absolutely zero evidence. If there were reputable sources that were putting out articles or information proving that the vaccine is dangerous, then that would be a different story. But the fact is, the baseless claims are coming from random accounts on various social media sites. There is no reason to believe these claims. This is why I believe the vaccine should be required for teachers and students.

Returning to School: Jan, 16, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA

For me, the recent “return to school” situation has been an interesting and thought-provoking experience. Although staying at home all day can get tiring and repetitive, I’m trying to use it as an opportunity to spend more time with my family and de-stress from school and the pandemic. Since the rest of my family is also working from home, we all have time to play board games and go on walks or hikes in the evening. We now also have the opportunity to call our grandparents more often, since they live in Europe, and the time difference makes it harder to contact them.

Even though this return to school is not ideal, I understand its importance and try to make the best of the situation. I also think that the options of going to school physically again are interesting and important to start thinking about and pursuing. Although we would still need to socially distance and wear masks, there is still value in slowly returning to normal. I believe that even though these changes have significantly impacted all of our lifestyles, we should still try to adapt to the situation and make the best of it. And most importantly, I think we can use this situation to spend time with our families and with our thoughts.

When we return to school, I think we should continue to socially distance while wearing masks, and we should try to refrain from larger gatherings. Similarly, during sports and after-school activities, I think we should continue to socially distance since it will help minimize the potential spread of the virus and keep us and our families safe. I also think that when available, we all should take the vaccine, since we already need several vaccines before attending school, and they help keep us and our loved ones safe, just like the COVID-19 vaccine would. However, since the vaccine is currently scarce, we should be required to take it after its available to people of lower risk.

Returning to School: Jason, 16, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

I remember the time when my school first announced through an email that it would be closing down indefinitely until the coronavirus pandemic would be situated. At first, I was extremely happy because I thought this would be an extended spring break for me to relax, but as time went by over a year now, I find the longing to return back to school and reunite with my classmates and friends. But even as I return back to school, I feel like the experience has vastly changed for me and provides a whole different feeling than any of my other years there.

The most prevalent change I’ve experienced during the return to school is the restrictions to interacting with my classmates and friends. It feels different to be social distanced in class and wearing a mask to school every day. Before Covid-19 hit, I would sit with my friends together at lunch and talk about our days, but now that hasn’t been the case since, we have to sit far apart due to these restrictions. In addition, I haven’t met some of my other good friends in school from virtual learning, and physical presence of friends and teachers is one of the things that keeps me engaged in class and school. Overall, my time returning from school has completely knocked off several aspects of school, and I really hope that with incoming vaccines and a possible decline in covid-19 cases would my school and education return back to its norms.

Though I wish school could return back to normal quickly, I do intend to point out that I believe schools should not take a giant step into allowing large assemblies and events due to the fact that COVID rates are still increasing despite the vaccines given out already. Even after the vaccine is available to everyone, I still do not believe that we should resume large gatherings because we do not really know how long this vaccine lasts. Even though the vaccine is proven that it treats coronavirus, no one knows the exact time frame of how long the effect of it lasts, and COVID may even be around when the vaccine wears off. Instead, I suggest that our country takes incremental steps in returning back to these large gatherings, inserting more people little by little until later, large gatherings will be allowable. That way, if something goes wrong with the vaccine, there will be minimize effects rather than a potential return to another deadly pandemic that has affected us this past full year. Because of all the unknowns of the vaccine, I also believe that students and teacher should not be required to take the vaccine since it could show possible side effects to others in the future. The vaccine should be a choice rather than a necessity. If anything goes wrong with vaccine, then at least not everyone will suffer the worst yet to come. Plus, it has been proven that as long as 80% of the population takes the vaccine, the coronavirus spread would decline and our world would be in good shape. Thus, I take the precaution stance that vaccine should not be forced to take, rather it should be a choice of one out of care for their self.

Returning to School: Jasper, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

My school gave us the opportunity to go back to school if we felt comfortable going back to school during this time.  Of course, masks, social distancing, and other safety protocols would still be practiced, but we were still able to attend school in front of a physical teacher with some classmates.  I do not feel comfortable attending classes in person and prefer to stay home to protect my loved ones.  I understand that I will miss out on opportunities to make new memories and experience what it is like attending class during a global pandemic, but I feel that the safety of my family comes before my wants.  But one of the main challenges that my family faced was the WIFI and connection issues.  My brother and I are both attending virtual classes and the WIFI connection could get slow at times.  Especially when my other family members are using the WIFI connection, speeds can get even slower.  Sometimes our school meetings could get choppy for us making it more difficult to understand the given material due to bad connection.

The overall learning experience has been a very challenging one.  Not so much learning and understanding the information but just the routine of waking up, logging onto class, doing homework after class, and going to bed, then the cycle continues.  It is mentally challenging to most in not all the students where finding motivation can be very challenging at times.

In my opinion, I think that schools should not reopen until at least Fall of 2021, or for seniors possibly during their graduation depending on the current situation in that area.  I believe that opening schools is premature even though vaccines are being distributed to teachers during this time.  There were previous times where schools have reopened but small outbreaks happened as well.  I understand that some students have learning disabilities or there are students that need to be in the classroom to perform better.  But why is there such an emphasis on bring students back to school.  I understand if it is to raise their grades, but I feel that grade is not a defining factor especially at a time like now.

We are experiencing something that we have never experienced before and sometimes it can be life changing.  There are so many other things that students should be caring about right now like their mental health and their wellbeing, and the wellbeing of their family.  Sure, students are the least likely of dying from COVID-19 but what about the people that they come home to everyday.  What about the students that live with grandparents who have pre-existing conditions and have a higher chance of passing away from COVID-19.  I feel that going back to the physical classrooms should not be important right now but just sacrificing a little more time. So that we all can come together to save lives and enjoy school and work to the fullest, not with restrictions.

I think that students should not be able to take the vaccine and the teacher who live with high risk for COVID-19 people should have priority, then the rest of the teachers.  I believe that student’s immune systems are strong enough to withstand COVID-19 and those vaccines should be given to people who really need them.  Same for the teachers, the vaccine is there for it to protect yourself and the people you care about, especially if those people are older and/or have pre-existing conditions.  Nothing is more important than someone’s safety and the wellbeing of their loved ones.  So in conclusion, I believe that schools should not reopen until the vaccine has been fully distributed and has been proven effective for everyone.

Returning to School: Jayke, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA  

Personally, I haven’t been exceedingly affected by COVID’s distance learning. However, it certainly has changed my routine. Having school at home has given me a lot of extra time. Before, I planned things like “when can I do this,” and now it is more of a “when should I do this.” Hours become days, days turn into a situation of getting through the week, and work, sleep, and events become intertwined. Interacting with people is also awkward behind our screens, being put within the hands of connections outside of our control. I hope that we will soon overcome this pandemic, but that can only be hastened by taking the necessary precautions and waiting until we are all completely safe with vaccinations.

Returning to School: Jonathan, 16, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

The symbolism in this image is shown through the blank background, lightbulbs, and the foot. The background and lightbulbs represent similar things. The lightbulbs and backgrounds are sketched and uncolored unlike the foot. This emphasizes the blandness and uncertainty of living at home during quarantine. I chose to draw Lightbulbs since they represent technology, or modern society, and having them sketched also emphasizes that these modern systems no longer fit in to current circumstances shown through the change in school and work experiences. However, Irony is also shown in the background since sketches and blankness also shows a sense of incompleteness, implying that the current circumstances are just temporary indicating a sense of hope. The foot further emphasizes this idea as the foot position is in the middle of walking past the fallen lightbulbs. The light reflecting on the foot indicate that there may be a better lightbulb. To clarify, the foot indicates that we can start to adapt to our new circumstances and start resuming our old activities in a new light.

Returning to School: Joshua, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

My experience of returning to school is probably similar to most people. I have not yet return to the physical campus yet because of safety of my health and the people who are in my ‘bubble’. This situation is probably like most people around the world and even at my school. Them and/or their parents feel like it is just quite not safe enough for them to return. My return to school in the fall was exactly the same as it was in the beginning of the spring during the last semester. Everyone was still meeting virtually, there will still assignments to do, and we continued to learn even through all of the challenges.

The fall semester started quite differently because of all the fires in California, the heat wave, and all of the power outages occurring. Another change that I noticed was that teachers seemed much more prepared. They were eager to continue to teach us new material even through the remote situation.

With this new spring semester, I have also noticed some big changes. Firstly, there are a couple of students back in the classroom in every class. I now get to see the classroom that I was supposed to sit in and the new classmates I was supposed to meet during the fall. Another change that I noticed was the balance for teachers. Teachers now have to adjust to having some online and some in the classroom. I feel like all the teachers here have adjusted very well and manages the split very nicely. All of these new situations and problems that everyone, including me, have been facing is similar to what I was expecting. I was already expecting for sports to return slowly back and for other activities to be returning to campus. I also was expecting the continuing of WIFI and home problems for everyone, which includes me. There really hasn’t be any changes to my schooling/learning experiences, even since Spring 2020.

After some time of reflection, I have a couple of ideas and beliefs of return to school and everyone’s health and safety. To beginning I feel like it would be unsafe and unwise to return to school and have large gatherings. Not everyone is vaccinated yet and if we have a large gathering (such as an all-school mass or an assembly) people can bring the virus with them and infect others, bringing it home to their families. This can cause a major spread making the school shut down again and having everyone return to remote instruction again. This a cause major shifts in emotions as well as bringing our counties virus cases rise again. It is still just too risky to have a large gathering.

Next, I wanted to touch base on vaccinations in particular to teachers and administration. I feel like it should be required that all teachers and administrations to get the vaccine. Teachers and staff are risking their health and their safety to return to campus to teach us. If someone brings the virus onto camps, it can get that whole class sick (including the teacher). The teacher would then bring it home to their families and these teachers may be taking care of someone who is high risk. If teachers were required to get the vaccine, they would be able to keep them and their families safe from the virus. I feel like teachers and administration are just as important as the elderly and the healthcare professionals. Teachers have to figure out lesson plans, teach us, and even grade work while still trying to help with their family members who are also remote. They have such an important role and impact to all of our lives, making it important to keep them safe. Without teachers in our lives, we would not know our left from our right or the right from the wrong. I am very grateful for every teacher I have been taught by all throughout of my life and to me it is important to keep them all safe because that is what they do for us, they keep us safe. This is a little bit more about my ‘return to campus and my thinking’s of the vaccine and gatherings.

Returning to School: Liam, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

Some changes that I have experienced in my “return to school” is that many students are not allowed to interact much with each other. During lunch, the students are only allowed to grab their lunch and sit at least 6 feet apart from each other. Sports-wise, my practices are shortened in by two days and there are a severely limited number of students that can practice with each other at a time.

Personally, I do not care whether we can fully come back to school. Although I would like it if we came back to school fully as I miss the interaction and I am finding it increasingly hard to learn on online school. However, my mental state is that I am fully prepared to spend the rest of my high school years online. I believe that if we do fully come back to school that everyone should be required to take the vaccine as to prevent another world-wide pandemic.