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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: Emmanuel, 16, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

To start off, Covid-19 has affected so many schools and students and as we are slowly going back to normalcy, we must take extra precautions to keep us and others safe. My coming back to school has been an interesting one. I was going to come back to school after break, but my parents didn’t let me because of my grandmother who is old and can catch the disease easily. I do not really have restrictions on who I can meet with outside of school, but I miss being in a school environment with all my fellow classmates. Like others, I constantly have some tech issues, either wifi not working or my surface crashes, but I have gotten used to tech issues and this pandemic has really taught me how to deal with issues and how to fix them.

Getting back on campus should be mandatory in the next school year as the vaccine is rolling out to more and more people every week and I think by then we should be back in class. I personally don’t think the vaccine should be mandatory because people do not like being forced into doing something they do not want to do. I think the vaccine should be optional. I think schools should reopen completely by next year, the only thing that might stay is the masks which isn’t really a issue, sports, mass, and assemblies should reopen.

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

COVID for me really has not been very rough. I have been lucky enough to not experience any losses, and through constant tests I have been able to go out and see friends on occasion. Even without in-person socializing, I have learned to use video calls and they really help.

Recently, I have decided to return to in person school. I have found it hard to be able to get up in the morning, which was something I would do regularly no more than a year ago. I switched groups to Ignatius, meaning I have a separate lunch period than everyone. That kind of sucks because it limits the time I have to socialize, and that was the main reason for returning to campus.

I think that once we start moving tiers as a county, then larger gatherings should really be considered. It has been hard on everyone at home with limited social lives. Something that comes with these large gatherings is for everyone to get the vaccine. Even if you are not scared of getting the virus, you can still spread it around to people that are high-risk. Teachers should get their vaccines, because they are dealing with multiple groups of people, and the risk is too great to not get the vaccine.

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

My “return to school” started much like the same way my “retreat from school” occurred back in March of 2020 – alone, on my school computer, and working for 6 hours a day without near any human interaction. However, with my original “retreat” from in-person school, I had isolated myself out of family fears that I may have caught the very virus forcing my “retreat” in the first place. However, my “return” to school came out of necessity for maintaining the norm of learning in place, a virtual workplace setting in which I am fortunate enough to maintain my education, at the cost of most in-person interaction besides members of my household. While this process was expected to occur considering COVID-19’s unwavering threat to spread and kill the vulnerable, I could not help but think of all the in-person robotics builds to work as team, the projects I could contribute on to the Maker-Lab to make a real-world impact on my community, and the overall connections I had lost at school to ensure a more rapid recovery.

Even within-person options to return to school in a hybrid learning model opening up towards the wintertime of this year, a solid section of students like myself end up staying in the virtual setting anyways to ensure the safety of those we interact with; my immune-suppressed sister and my working dad come to mind for those I protect in sacrificing my in-person instruction.

Besides the quality of my education in order to ensure the health and safety of those around me however, my virtual “return” to school came with other notable costs, one of which being the quality and reliability of internet determining whether or not I could actually receive said education. When natural forces like the recent wildfires and heavy winds caused power outages, not only were my classes unreachable at times, but actual instructors ended up having to teach from the mobile devices on their own accord to maintain consistency in classes.

The whole situation of the “return” to school did not match the memories of pre-pandemic learning that classmates and I have learned to cherish over the months but provides the starting foundation to an eventual return to a “better normal” with the reflections in our quarantined-interaction times. However, to reach the point where all students can “return” to school in full legitimacy, there must be incremental steps to reopen in line with the frequency of COVID-19 cases, to ensure the safety of students when possible.

Gatherings of large amounts of students should eventually return to the realm of possibility, however social distancing rules and standard COVID-19 procedures should remain in mind. Something like the Class of 2020’s graduation was able to still take place with the right outdoor procedures in-mind, providing a meaningful celebration of accomplishment even in the face of COVID-19’s adversity. Outdoor sports events with low amounts of physical contact could also see a reasonable return on a school wide level for something like tennis or cross country if social distancing is possible. Overall, the return to gatherings of school spirit should make their returns to normalcy in increments of restrictions to not open the flood gates for the spread of disease. Part of what will assist in the incremental return of these gatherings however is widespread vaccinations among the population to reduce the spread and effects of COVID-19, which is why I support a requirement for students and staff to eventually be vaccinated when possible and physically able to do so. While getting vaccinated remains a choice on the greater level of society out of fears of government overreach, a requirement or in-person individuals learning at school would help reduce the spread of disease further so that incremental restrictions maybe lifted sooner so that more may return. With the large group of students like me who have yet to make their true “return” to instruction on school campus, we know that re-opening schools is not an all or nothing ordeal. However, a vaccine requirement would greatly assist in speeding up the process so that eventually all may make their true “return” to school.

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

I recently have returned to school physically. It has been really different than I expected. There are about six kids in each class and it feels very empty. I feel like it is kind of boring because you can interact with your friends like before the pandemic.

Also, there are certain days you can attend school physically, so some days you are home and some days you will actually be at school. Sports have also been changed. I am in cross country and they are requiring you to wear a mask while running.

I do not think we should return to school with large gatherings such as assemblies and mass because we can do them online. But I think sports should have a little more freedom. Some kids are sitting down all day with online school and opening sports gives them something to do. Yes, I think that if there is an available vaccine for the teachers, they should take it. The teachers are constantly being surrounded by students, so they are very vulnerable. We need the teachers to be safe, because if they are out, then who would fully teach us students the right information?

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

My return to school has been very odd. From going to online school every day to now coming in person to classes half of the time, it has been a sudden change. In person school is just not the same. Teachers still teach online to the class, so I sit there in person, but not being too from person to person. We stay 6 feet away and are safe the whole time, so me and my friends barely have any time to talk and hang out and just be normal kids.

I couldn’t be hoping for more, I knew this was all that could happen, it just makes me wonder when all of this will end. We were told just two weeks now its been a whole year, and I still have no clue when we will be back to what we had. Everything outside of school has also been worse, we haven’t had sports or anything else, it’s all over Zoom now. In person school, even though it is limited, is better than nothing so at the end of the day, it’s not that bad.

Should we return with larger gatherings? The answer is more complicated than just a yes or no. It all comes down to the safety of these events. If everyone is being safe and has masks and is distancing, then sure, a gathering would be fine. But we all know that probably isn’t going to happen, we cannot trust everyone in a large gathering to stay away and keep on masks, so we probably should not. Although a sports game is fun, is it worth the death of a loved one? No, it is not, and the risks are too great with such a fatal disease.

Should teachers be required to take the vaccine? Yes. If a teacher doesn’t want to take a vaccine, they should not be teaching. It is unsafe for them to teach 20-30 students if they can get covid and give it to others. If a teacher does not believe in vaccines, they should not even be a teacher. It sets a terrible example for the students to not believe science and literal fact, and teachers see many people each day. When teachers can vaccines, they should all be getting one, anything else is wrong.

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

During this quarantine, I have vowed not to return to school before COVID-19 vaccines are completely distributed. For me, staying at home has its upsides and downsides. For instance, it allows me to have more time for homework, spending time with family and friends, and reduces travel time. The downside of this is that there is a heavy toll on mental health, physical health, and bad scheduling. Bad WIFI, my surface not working, and power outages during the pandemic has made school a little more challenging when it comes to joining classes and sometimes learning material.

To be honest, I expected life to be this way coming into the pandemic, but it is still kind of hard to resume a normal school life and managing a healthy schedule. Before quarantine, my physical health was at an all-time high. Now, I have gained 30 pounds and lost my six pack since last year due to lack of swim practice and not working out much. I expected myself to use quarantine to work out even more, but laziness has taken over and even when I do work out the same amount as I used to, my body refuses to accept the changes. I am still grateful for the opportunity to practice in a pool and even to have a garage gym.

Concerning my relationships with friends and family, I would say I have a smaller but closer friend group and a closer relationship with all my family than I used to. For example, I discovered that I am an amazing chef and baker, and I was able to find a new passion for professional biking due to me spending more time with my family. With my friends, I discovered many new games and even met my girlfriend, who liked me since middle school, but I never acknowledged her. Although my friends, family, and I may have arguments with each other time to time due to mental health, we learned how to communicate better, understand each other, and be there for each other during this pandemic.

Many debates have been held in California regarding returning to school as well as whether vaccinations should be mandatory. In my opinion, schools should stray away from large gatherings, assemblies, masses, and sports but rather do it in cohorts with good management. Sports such as track, cross country, biking, and swimming are fine because they are mostly in motion sports, outside, and do not require any contact if social distancing is portrayed and activities are held within reason. Classes should be managed to roughly two or three people per classroom such as how Bellarmine College Preparatory is doing. Lastly, I feel that assemblies should not be held unless it is government issues being addressed.

While America is the land of the free and protects the right of free choice, I feel like vaccines should be mandatory for everyone’s safety. I feel that COVID vaccines should be mandatory because America is the role model for every other country and because of people’s stupid decisions, COVID-19 cases spiked in the U.S.A but fortunately have been declining. Having vaccines available in America means that people can hopefully move past this pandemic faster. Although some may argue that the COVID-19 vaccination will give them a mental illness, that is scientifically impossible, and the side effects are not that drastic. I think that having the most vulnerable and affected groups receive the vaccine first then moving onto other groups is an effective way of slowly beating the pandemic, ensuring everyone’s safety, and maintaining social distancing. Through this pandemic, there are a lot of negatives and concerns, but we as a country must focus on the positives as well as keeping safety a priority to get through this harsh time.

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

Covid-19 has affected everyone at a universal level. But most importantly it has affected my education and the way I interact. One of the extreme changes is of course not physically being able to be present and how I socialize within the community. Some of the changes that I was expecting for the incoming year was to be involved as much as possible, make friends, and have incredible moments in class and school activities. But unfortunately, that wasn’t possible. Although the virtual experience isn’t the worst. It still won’t live up to the “high school experience” With much thought, I believe students should not necessarily be going to school right now. And I believe schools are being hasty and moving too fast for the idea of going back to normality.

With the idea of going back, also brings up the idea of getting the vaccine. Should it be mandatory? Well, honestly I don’t think it shouldn’t. As many people have some doubts on it. Which will make the public uncomfortable. Instead of making it mandatory. One should be informed and knowledgeable of the vaccine. Then and only then should the idea of being vaccinated be taken under consideration.

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

Since Covid started, I thought it would be a temporary thing like about a month or two, but it is ending up almost a whole year without stepping on my school’s campus. During COVID I had some problems with my internet all the time especially when there is an important lecture or I am presenting a project to the class, and it gets me irritated all the time. In addition, I am having trouble to fall asleep early, and I cannot close my eyes and sleep anymore due to a screen at my face for 10 hours straight (homework), so my solution was to do exercise every day so I can be more productive in class and sleep well.

When I had the opportunity to be back on campus, I took it, but I do not like the strict rules they put on anything, which I do understand them now in their own perspective with covid safety protocols. Some things I would like to have back again on campus were masses and sports. In masses we do not touch anyone, and everything would be six feet apart, bread and wine are optional to bring and share. For sports, I think the school should continue for what is doing but I want weightlifting to be back in the gym with safety protocols.

In my opinion I do not think it is time yet to re-open large mass, gathering, and sports because I think that too many people would be there, and it is a high risk for someone to come out positive and affect the society even more. We should just extend a little more for more sports to re-open than having all sports to be open. I do like sports a lot, but right now it’s not the right time and we all need to have patience because it seems we have thousands in our area that contain the virus. Teachers have the right to get the covid vaccine because it can be a way out of quarantine and be with the small number of students in the room. I do not see who is preventing the teachers form getting the covid vaccine, and if they are, why? Therefore, they should have the option to take the vaccine and go back to school with all three shots taken or they can stay home safe and continue to teach online.