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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: Nihaal, 15, Bellarmine College Preparatory, USA 

The pandemic has set our country into unprecedented times and has forced me to make unprecedented decisions. My life has been impacted by COVID-19 primarily through my social interactions and relationships with other people. I remember March 11, 2020, as I was preparing to get home and I got the email about a temporary stay-at-home order. I assumed it would be a maximum of a few weeks, but the virus started to spiral out of control, and a year later, my routine and activities have been transformed.

The biggest hit to my life is not going to school physically. Virtually attending school can be distracting, and the level of interaction needed to retain concepts is sometimes missing. But more importantly, my interactions with other people largely happened at school. I got to meet my friends and teachers daily and these relationships are now gone during quarantine.

Beyond just relationships, my extracurricular activities have also taken a hit, primarily Speech and Debate. Speech and Debate depends on a personal connection, and that disappears when it does not occur in person. Fortunately, it has not taken as much of a hit as sports since I have attended practices and tournaments online. But these types of hindrances for our lives have changed my life and school experience.

Though I am missing these events, I would not suggest returning to school in large gatherings. Having assemblies and sports games, as examples, would only delay the process of returning to our pre-pandemic lives. The way to deal with our situation is gradually and not taking moves that we will end up regretting. Similarly, I don’t think forcing everyone to take the vaccine is necessarily the way to go. Our country has had various problems when it comes to vaccine distribution and mandating vaccines wouldn’t fix that. However, it would be the right decision to require vaccines for all the people returning to these public areas, which include students and teachers that resume in-person. Though my life has been greatly impacted by the pandemic, any steps we take to address it have to be calculated and not impulsive. That’s the only way we can all return to a point where our relationships are restored, and our daily routines have somewhat reverted to normal.

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

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I have experienced major changes in my day-to-day life.  I have not attended “in person” classes yet, but I expect to start in April.  I was hoping that it would be mandatory to return to school for all students, so that I can see my friends.

However, that is not the case and attending school at this time is optional!  The restrictions/rules placed on in school attendance discourages me from returning to campus.  Last December, Cross Country started to have in person attendance, using pods, social distancing coupled with COVID-19 available.  This was great for both my physical health as well as my mental health.  I was excited to reconnect with my friends while staying 6 feet apart.  I believe that we should return to school to include gatherings for assemblies, mass, sports, and classes!

While wearing masks, staying 6 feet apart, and following the counties guidelines, I believe we can all go back to in person class.  I also agree with requiring all teachers, all on campus staff, and all students to get vaccinated as soon as it is available to them.  This will help us start to move past this pandemic while applying all the safety requirements.

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

Returning back to school for sports I did have some things I had to go through. Such as, having to take covid tests every two weeks, and having to wear a mask and take pre-cautions such as social distancing and anything required to prevent the spread of COVID. Which is very different from just showing up on campus ready to go without having to do anything. I did expect that we were going to go back to school in a time where we wouldn’t have to wear masks and social distance but knowing our current situation, I am grateful that we can even be on campus. SO, the changes right now are nothing similar to what I expected but it sure is great what we can do. WIFI at home can be a problem sometimes due to having multiple family members on their devices at the same time, but I always find a way around it. The sports I play have been affected heavily which is baseball. At the start of March, my baseball season was canceled, and I went a year without playing which made me really sad and disappointed. Although these past few weeks I have been able to practice which makes me happy of course. Online school sure has taken a toll on me and I’m not liking it. I do like that I am in the comfort of my home, but I want to go outside and talk to friends. It feels like sometimes we are reliving the same day over and over again having all these assignments every week and doing nothing but a routine. This is why I would like to back to school knowing how much my school life has been affected and my personal life as well.
I do think we should return to campus for gatherings and for sports but in a time like this, we have to do anything possible to prevent the spread. So, in a time like this, I believe it is best for us to stay home where it would be safe for all of us. To protect everyone and to keep the community safe. I would say yes to having to be required to take the vaccine taking the vaccine puts you in a place where your immune system fights back hard against COVID which puts your chances of getting infected lower. So having all staff and students take the vaccine puts the school almost in a COVID-free zone which is great for everybody.

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

Some changes that I have experiences in my return to school are my stress has gone down, I have been less bored, and I have begun to get into a better shape. My stress has gone down because I have been able to safely interact with my classmates and friends. Being able to talk to other people different than those I talk to everyday such as my family. It really decreases my levels of stress. Being able to go to school I have been way less bored.

During remote learning when I would get bored with class I would just kind of shut down and go on my phone and ignore the class or I would go up and do something. Now that I am in person I am more focused in my classes because I have to be. I have begun to get into better shape because I am one of those people that eat when they are bored. Now that I cannot eat in class and I get less chances to eat I can go back to being at a healthier diet.

I think that we as a school should open up more, but not make it mandatory. Give it as an option. So instead of offering the hyflex model to a small number of students. Open it up to the entire school. I also think Student if they do decide to opt into the hyflex then they have the option to go into school that day or stay home. For sports, being an athlete who plays on two teams regularly. I say that they should start opening up but allow students to safely play on the teams they want to. So, if they want to play club and high school they should be able too.

I think that yes students and teachers should have to take the vaccine when they have it available to them. This is because I think of this as the flu. There is no cure for the flu. We only have the vaccine. So if no one were to take the flu vaccine we would be in the same situation as we are with covid. So we need to make sure that enough people are getting the vaccine so that if it does pop up it will not become a pandemic.

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

The virus has affected everyone’s lives in some way or another. A hospitalized family member or an event that has been canceled. I feel like being a student right now is especially challenging. As we aged through elementary and middle school, all of us dreamed of the high school experience. Entering a fresh school, hundreds of kids filling the halls around you, and exploring to your heart’s desire. We all wanted what we thought it would be like, meeting a group of students all playing your favorite video game together or befriending every person you met. Now though… that hope has been shattered. The bleak morning where you wake up and are greeted by thirty names, each of them feeling like just that, a name. Seeing the teacher’s face as you watch him or her try to motivate you to turn on your cameras and keep you interested in class. It is so lonely, every day. Humans are social creatures; we crave attention from other people. Another is the endless amount of work. We cannot be in person, so more homework is assigned to make up for it. Seeing notification after notification of late assignments and projects due at 11:59 is damaging. The drive to learn is not there anymore, it is all just numbers and facts that are being crammed down our throats. The virus has taken so much from everyone, and we’re left hoping for the day it ends.

I do think that the end is in sight. Across the world, preventive measures have been taken by every government to limit the spread and secure the safety of the citizens. I firmly believe that we should not plan any social events before the vaccine has been distributed and proven effective across the country. I have seen so many attempts at getting back together, yet each of them was abruptly ended when one person got sick and jeopardized the health of the entire group. A very good teacher of mine isn’t planning on coming back to school for a while because her elderly parents, who she often takes care of, are at extreme risk. She agrees with me on the stop of any events, and no attempts should be made until health breaches will not be possible. All students and teacher should be required to be vaccinated as soon as it is available to them. We already do it with Hepatitis B, chickenpox, measles, and many others to prevent another from getting sick. If you are not willing to be vaccinated, you’re not allowed at school. If everyone would be patient and stop trying so hard to insert plans in the outbreak duration, we would all be able to return sooner.

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

Although I am not allowed to return to campus, I am glad that things are getting back to normal. My dad is patiently waiting for the vaccine to roll out and he will not let us go back to school otherwise. However, I await the day that my brother and I can return to school and get back into the norm of things. I have not experienced the on-campus experiences, but from what I see, I can tell that it is quite different. The seats are far apart, and I have not seen it but I believe that there are lanes for people to walk through instead of just walking every which way into a classroom. Although the other students are in class, they still must use their computers for most of the period so pretty much there is still no escape from electronics. Turning to my sports, my soccer team had stopped practice briefly because of the virus of course but also the weather was getting increasingly worse. But recently, they had said that we can start having games again and I am very excited. Practice got cancelled previously because my dad did not feel comfortable sending me off to play, but he allows me to now and practice and games are no longer what I dream about. I can play again and get off my lazy butt.

What I believe should happen in my state is that we should not gather for large events. Although I think that we should be allowed to play our games like soccer and football and basketball, I do not think that there should be large gatherings. Kids should be able to start to play again and start to put things back into what was the normal. I think that assemblies and mass can wait since we have waited already for this long because they are not necessary. Sports are necessary to not only one’s physical health, but for our mental health as well. I do believe that educators should be required to take the vaccine because they are teaching and caring for children and children are top priority. Frontline workers are essential and so our children must be protected via vaccinating teachers first. If not first, they should be very close to top priority.

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

After almost a year of staying at home and social distancing, I have really grown as a person and especially as a student. Returning to school online has really made me appreciate what school does for us on a social level, and because of that a lot of the problems that come with online school really stick out to me. For starters, sports were a big part of school and I love playing basketball and the community our sports programs have. A lot of that experience is gone now because of COVID-19, and not just sports, but going back to school in general.

Going back to school through the hybrid system is really restricting and feels more like being online than actually being at school. Staying in a quarter full classroom with the rest of the class projected on a screen just sounds like online school on a bigger screen. Not to mention the teacher isn’t even class half of the periods, which really makes it feel online because the whole point of going to school should be because you are learning with your teacher in person. Which, in my opinion, is why all teachers should be required to vaccinate if your school is planning to reopen or is open already.

The whole point of trying to be in the classroom is to have that interaction with the teacher in the most human way possible. It’s not to be on campus again because let’s face it, half of your friends aren’t even in the same group as you and you have assigned seating at lunch anyway. And that is what a lot of people don’t get it because I went to school and sat there with a moderator watching me while the teacher is projected on the screen, it’s really just online school with a person watching me. And you could argue that there are some teachers that are in person and to that I say, do you like inconvenience? No, nobody likes inconvenience, and that’s exactly what it is. Going to an actual class with an actual teacher that can give you an in-person lesson in math or science can be really helpful and is why a lot of kids who learn better that way go. But then the next 3 classes they have are with a teacher projected on a screen giving a virtual lesson and makes you wonder whether driving to school at eight in the morning was even worth it. This can make school feel like an inconvenience to students more than it already is to them.

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

Picture description: To begin my photo tries to depict the wins, losses, and chaos that the return to school and pandemic have brought to daily life. The outer image is a laptop, this laptop symbolizes my choice to stay virtual while others have begun to return to school. In the top left there is a window with the Bellarmine insignia that depicts my view of looking in at school from the outside. Others have returned to school and I do have some FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), during class I feel as if I am looking in at Bellarmine from the outside. The tornado over the words social life, depicts the chaos that the pandemic has brought to that aspect of our lives. Social life has still not recovered even though we have returned to school. The focus and fun graphs on the slide depict the downfall of both aspects during the pandemic. Virtual school has lowered my ability to focus since there are so many distractions present during the day. The fun aspect has diminished because of not being at school and the lack of social interactions.
The sports and craziness graphs depict the growth of those two things. Sports have begun since the cases have decreased and that is a positive step in the right direction. Craziness has increased because of the length we have been in quarantine and isolation. Overall, my image makes an effort to depict, the light at the end of the tunnel as well as the darkness that is behind us.
The return to school has brought many challenges to me. I have opted to remain virtual in my schooling because I do not yet feel comfortable to returning in person. I also believe that all the aspects that make virtual learning bad have been implemented to in person learning, such as the removing of lunch and socialization as a whole. Overall, the lack of interaction with others and the pandemic raging on are the dominant factors in why I chose to remain virtual. One thing I am extremely grateful to have returned to is lacrosse. My lacrosse season was cancelled after just three games in March of 2020. The opportunity to return to the game I love has removed lots of stress and has given me an outlet to get back to normal. I believe that we should not return to mass gatherings, however, I believe that returning to sports with no spectators is okay. I think that in many situations our mental health is more important than our physical health. The pandemic is a tough balance between mental and physical well-being and sports is a vehicle we can use to be healthy both physically and mentally. I believe that all teachers and students should be required to take the vaccine. I trust the science that backs the vaccine, I do acknowledge there are some risks, however, I believe the benefits outweigh them.