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Here are more 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: Lorenzo, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

My experience with the COVID-19 pandemic has been very up and down. There are definitely highs and lows during the pandemic, but I like to always stay positive and look for the light at the end of the tunnel. It has been difficult trying to keep my head up, but I always keep in mind that faith that we are going to get out of this pandemic. Recently, there has been a “return to school” situation known as the high flex program. Although I want to go back to school, my parents and I do not think it’s a good decision to go back to school because we are living with my grandma who is high risk. My life has been fairly the same since we have started the pandemic. I cannot really talk about how going to school is like because I am still going to school online.

Should we return to school with larger gatherings possible for assemblies, mass, and sports? — I think we should be able to return to school with gatherings such as assemblies, mass, and sports. Were at a point where we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and pandemic is soon to end. I think we should be able to have larger gatherings, but not too large to a point where there are too many people. Things such as assemblies and masses are vital to keeping our tradition and is important for the school. Having mass as a community would definitely be a great thing for everyone. For sports, I think we should be able to play sports and have games. Athletes who have been working for a very long time have been wanting to have a season and for it just to be taken away from them.

Should all teachers and students be REQUIRED to take the vaccine when it is available to them? –  Yes, I think that all teachers and students should be required to take the vaccine. Since teachers and students are expected to be in close proximity to each other in the classroom, I think it is important to take all the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus. Having the vaccine is a big part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

Having mass as a community would definitely be a great thing for everyone. For sports, I think we should be able to play sports and have games. Athletes who have been working for a very long time have been wanting to have a season and for it just to be taken away from them.

Should all teachers and students be REQUIRED to take the vaccine when it is available to them? –  Yes, I think that all teachers and students should be required to take the vaccine. Since teachers and students are expected to be in close proximity to each other in the classroom, I think it is important to take all the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus. Having the vaccine is a big part of stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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

I do not believe that we should return to school with large gatherings no matter the reason. As the world-wide death toll for Covid-19 surpasses two and a half million people, we are reminded of just how deadly this virus really is. I believe that until the majority of the American population gets fully vaccinated, we should not return to school with large gatherings, because we will be at the risk of spreading the disease to unvaccinated people. I believe that any event can wait a few weeks or even a few months to attend. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

I believe that teachers should be required to take the vaccine. A teacher’s job is to educate children; teaching children to get vaccinated (while it may seem obvious) is a very helpful life lesson that could even save a life. It is a teachers duty to teach children the importance of vaccines (and do so by taking the vaccine), and protect the children (again, do so by taking the vaccine). All in all, there could be no foreseeable negative side effects to taking this vaccine, so I believe that teachers should take the vaccine.

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

The of the changes in my return to school is I have to wear a mask at all times except when I eat lunch. Another change is that I have to stay 6 feet apart from everyone at all times. Another change was that we only have about half the students at our school at a time. All of these changes I was expecting. I was hoping some of these wouldn’t be necessary because they are inconvenient but for the sake of our health, I understand the decision to do this. Some problems I personally have had with online school is with Microsoft teams. for 2-3 weeks my classes wouldn’t show up and I had to be invited by all my teachers. I’ve also experienced some occasional WIFI problems. Luckily my sport hasn’t really been affected too much. I play tennis so which is a very non-contact sport so we are still allowed to play we can just only go out in groups of 16-18.

I think to be safe, We should probably follow the rules that have been in our state and throughout the country. So, just go in smaller groups, I don’t think more than half of a school should go to school at once. I think when people do go to school they should have to wear masks and do their best to stay 6 feet apart at all times. In addition to this, for assembles and mass, I think it would be wise to have half of the people that are at school to be at an assembly or mass than the other half later in the day. So there is no more than 25 percent of the school together at once. For sports, I think sports like golf, cross country, track, tennis, swimming and maybe soccer should all be allowed to practice. These are all pretty non-contact sports and for soccer you could just do dribbling, passing, and shooting drills. But just not play scrimmages or games. For these sports I think people should go in pods each pod with half the team. I also believe teachers and students should be required to take the vaccine when it is available because everyone needs to do their part to end the virus and get back to normal. However, this should only be required if you want to come to school because some people may have issues with the cost of it, the shot(phobia), and maybe they might be anti-vaccine.

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

The start of the pandemic has changed many lives, including mine. The start of the pandemic had little to no effect on my life because I saw it as a break from school, but as time went by, I realized that COVID had impacted me in many ways. After months since the start of the pandemic, schools are offering students to return to school and learn in-person. Our school decided to begin a pilot program where certain classes can return to school, and I automatically said yes.

The return to school was very difficult due to the process of getting on campus and all the restrictions. Also, only half of the class can return to campus on certain days, but since many students chose to stay remote, only 4 or 5 students would show up to in-person class. I did not expect this and thought a lot more people would want to return to school, but I found the in-person classes difficult to adjust to due to some of my other classes being online.

I decided to stay remote due to it being more convenient, but it became boring because we cannot interact with our peers. As I stay remote through this school year, I have become stressed out and burned out because of all the work we have been given and the little time we must complete assignments. My daily routine of joining class, then doing homework has become boring and made me lose motivation to participate in school.
As the end of the school year awaits, I have been trying to find the motivation to maintain my grades and participate more in school. Many questions have arisen since the vaccine was introduced, should students return to school with large gatherings, or should all teachers and students be required to take the vaccine? I believe schools should not return with large gatherings until the number of COVID cases has decreased exponentially and until the governor allows it. If the cases decrease and the governor allows it, I believe the student or the student’s parents can decide if they want to return to school. When the vaccine becomes available to all, I believe the teachers and students should not be required to take the vaccine and it should be their choice, but as the vaccine proves to be helpful, it should become required or be similar to the flu shot. When COVID begins to decrease and slowly disappear, students should come back to campus and take the vaccine when it is proven effective. As of now, it is important that we all stay safe and follow COVID guidelines, so the world can slowly become normal.

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

My return to school this fall was the definitely the most challenging period of my life so far. During the first semester, I took Ceramics II, which I used to express my thoughts and feelings through my work. The above piece was my most personal piece I created. It is inspired by the game “Among Us” which grew to popularity during the pandemic. I frequently played it to pass time. The first element one is drawn to is the dead body. This body has been brutally

murdered by the character in blue. The blue character accusatorily points at red, who is reaching to press the emergency button on the brain. This scene represents the attack of depression on my mind and feelings during the return to school. I consider the body to be conscious self, the blue character to be the external factors and pressure which caused my depression, and the red character to be my form of defense mechanisms. The most pressuring factors of my depression were school, my parents, and the expectations for me to be able to handle and manage myself during the isolation of a pandemic. My defense mechanisms were listening to music, talking to friends, and playing games or passing time with other things I had fun doing. Often, my parents blame my defense mechanisms as the cause of my problems or belittle them as a waste of my time, which is why the blue character points at red. However, these defense mechanisms were ultimately what kept me going ensured I got through it all. The button represents the healing of my mind, which blue unknowingly hinders red from reaching.

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

I haven’t gotten the chance to go back to school yet, but I do feel like going back to campus and staying home both have their pros and cons. Ever since I’ve been learning remotely, I’ve been able to focus on myself more. Staying at home comes with a lot of perks like, not having to wake up as early, no transportation, and learning in the comfort of your home. Although I do enjoy these perks, learning from home also has its inconveniences.
Personally, I don’t have that many tech issues which inhibit my learning, but I have seen some cases of classmates who cannot join due to tech failure. I also believe that doing work on paper will always be better. Doing worksheets online is kind of bothersome, especially when technology is not working properly. I had an instance of this when my surface pen refused to work, and I ended up writing with my index finger which was very slow.

I do not have any problems with being social while remote. This is partially due to me being an introvert and interacting with friends through online means. Overall, my experience with Covid-19 has been relatively fine. The pros and cons of remote learning as opposed to in person learning cancels out each other. I would not mind going back but staying at home is fine too. If we all do return to school, I suggest that we don’t gather in large groups or assemblies.

To my knowledge, teenagers are the last in line for Covid vaccines which inhibits large gatherings. Students and faculty should continue practicing Covid policies, going further from this would be very greedy and detrimental. It is important to take this process slow, we cannot afford to mess up at the finish line. When the time arrives, all students and faculty should be required to get the Covid vaccination. America cannot afford to sit around and discuss if the vaccination is necessary. Tests have proven that the effectiveness of the vaccine against Covid is working very well. We have been waiting a long year for the vaccine to be made, it would not make sense to prolong it more.

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

Never did the idea of being in a global pandemic cross my mind because I had never heard anything about such a thing. But Covid-19 has really changed my life and altered my activities, especially going back to school. I explicitly remember my freshman year in March 2020 when my English teacher told the class to be calm that nothing was going to happen, and that school would not be cancelled because the virus was just affecting the elderly and not the youth. By the end of that week, we received notice that Bellarmine was closing as a precaution and that we were going to learn online, something I’ve never experienced before. Up to this date I myself continue at home because the virus is still out there although it is nice to see other individuals participate in the Hyflex program. But I have to admit that these “changes” I had to go were certainly challenging because online learning is not easy.

At first it was really weird not seeing anyone in person, the closest I got to seeing others was through a screen but it’s just not the same as being in class with friends, classmates, and teachers in person. Another major change I underwent was getting used to sitting in front of a screen all day because although it does not seem as too big of a deal it become tiring overtime and my eyes had to adjust. These are just a couple of changes but there are others such as connectivity issues that made online learning difficult because I had to find the best place in my house where I had the best internet connection so that the call would not drop and as we all probably know its stressful.

In addition, Covid-19 has also affected other aspects of “returning to school” because my group Compañeros had a lot planned for us to do such as organizing events and volunteering but we are now limited due to all the restrictions in place which saddens me. But I still have the hope that sooner rather than later the vaccine will begin to become available to more people and once again have the opportunity to completely return to school.
I also think we should return back to school with large gatherings only and only if the necessary precautions are followed and in place, the usual 6 ft apart and masks. We cannot let this virus redefine the way how we live our lives, eventually everything will go back to normal. To achieve this, we have to do our part by getting once again into the norm of large gathering in masses, schools, and sports among other events. In addition, I do not think that the vaccine should be required because everyone’s wishes must be respected but it certainly should be recommended. It is totally up to the teachers as to the students whether or not they feel comfortable with receiving the vaccine. If they decide that they do want the vaccine, then they should totally go ahead and do so. As a result, we can get a sense of normality back in the nick of time, but it is totally up to them.

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

Like many other students around the U.S, my days have been very typical of a student under the COVID-19 lockdown. When the lockdown first began, I was already preparing for a spring soccer season, training every day, attending school, studying, doing my extra-curricular, and overall struggling to juggle sports and school. I remember that day vividly, my dad received an email from the school than me. The email stated the school would be postponing class the next day. That one day became two weeks off, then a month, then a year. Now, here we are in March when the first pandemic began.
Reflecting on that year, I realize many things but one you should always be grateful for what you have, no matter if your rich or poor, young or old, it can be gone in just seconds. Every day I always dreaded school like taking that one test for that one class, waking up early to catch the train. But I realize now that is life, it always keeps moving and never stops. At first, I saw the school shut down as a period to rest, catch up on my Netflix shows, and train for soccer. This break ended up becoming eight months and suddenly I got bored of all of it. My old habits abruptly do not satisfy me anymore. All these things I’ve been doing since I was eleven suddenly becoming boring? This habit of just getting out of bed, logging onto a computer for eight hours was beginning to wear me down.

Finally, this year, my school is reintroducing a “return to school” plan. My first response, finally a time I can get to interact with friends. The very first thing I did was call up friends, who decided to not return. Now, with my best friends gone, what was the point of going back to school? However, these interactions even if it is not listening to the busy sound of the halls, feet running, the smell of breakfast burritos, these slight interactions with fellow classmates were better than none.

The following has often occurred from schools, parents, and teachers. Should we return to school? The simple answer yes, the hard answer maybe no. If you truly think you are in danger, safety is your number one concern, you are living with a family member that is more susceptible to covid, stay home. If you are eager to return to school, to enjoy sports, finally meeting with your teachers, then you must return to school. Many teachers have already taken the vaccine so believing in science, schools are safer than they have ever been in the last twelve months. If there anything that has mentally harmed high school students, it was the ceasing of all sports.
A big part of American high school sports. The Friday night lights, basketball games, etc. Without sports, high school would be nothing. Sports breeds a culture of school spirit, fun, and memories. However, this pandemic has lead me to realize sports are not everything. It is not going to last forever and it can only take you so far in life. During the lockdown, developing new skills, hobbies has helped me a lot cope with the isolation.