By Blake Massoni
With the unpredictability of the pandemic, this school year has been a very “play it by ear” year. So many unknowns have left the Byram Hills community questioning what will happen next. Will students return to the building for their final semester of the school year- in some cases, their final semester of high school?
I think we can all agree that the first quarter was a huge success for our district. Not only were the majority of students back in school, but we were able to remain COVID-safe while still seeing a portion of our classmates. Everything went exactly as planned: the new schedule was a huge success, and the new cleaning protocols made everyone feel extremely safe to be in the building together again. It was almost as if we were gaining a bit of our normalcy back, or at least we thought we were.
Once we hit the month of November and beyond, the light at the end of the COVID tunnel started to get darker and darker. Our community had a rise in cases and the decrease in outdoor temperatures started to restrict us more and more. With both of those factors coming into play, more students were popping up in the meet instead of the classroom each week. In-person classes soon downsized from as large as sixteen students to as few as none. By the time the second quarter hit, the building became very desolate. Now that we are wrapping up our first semester with warmer temperatures on the way, will more students be attending school in-person?
Throughout the remote learning process, one central problem that students have struggled with is grasping the concepts in their classes. Sophomore Katie Degeorges shared, “In-person schooling is not a choice for me. Even though my mom will not allow me to go fully remote, I wouldn’t want to because I know myself as a student, and I know how distracted I would get at home. Even with my friends being all remote, I never let it affect my decision of how I learn.” One huge issue with learning through the screen is the countless number of surrounding distractions. Whether it’s a phone, another homework assignment, or even a television screen, students find themselves constantly getting distracted. Senior Michael Varsames says that he will most likely be rejoining his teachers and fellow classmates in the building next semester because his “attention span is at an all time low due to COVID and” he needs “to get it back up.”
Aside from the academic aspect to school, many students miss the normalcy of just seeing their friends everyday, or are longing to have classes with people they don’t normally interact with outside of school, in the senior’s case, just for one last time. Many students meet some of their best friends through random table pairings or class rosters, and truly miss how united we all were in the building. Senior Jared Ilan feels that during last year’s long quarantine, when he “wasn’t able to attend school and see my friends, it really made me appreciate the time we had and were able to spend interacting with people when learning in person.”
With so many students longing for their school year, and in some cases their senior year that they have been robbed of, I have hope that their desire for normalcy will drive them back into the building when temperatures start to increase. Most students are excited to get back into the mix of their lives again, and are willingly to do absolutely anything they can do to try and return to their lifestyle pre-COVID. I always say that you never really appreciate or value something until it’s really gone. I think we can all agree that this might be the one year that the majority of students are actually tired of their break and excited to head back into the classrooms.