By Jason Chung
Last year, when offered the choice between staying at home or going to school, I chose to stay at home like many of my peers. The limitations were considerably more stringent, and the school was nearly empty due to the bulk of the students opting to stay at home. Morning courses had one to two students, and each classroom had a maximum of five students per class throughout the day. And as the months got colder and it got harder to wake up in the mornings, several students chose to stay at home and attend their lectures from the comfort of their beds out of sheer laziness.
Looking back at it, I wasted an entire year.
An email blast was sent to us in early August, a month before school. We were all going back to school—but with restrictions.
I appreciate the safety precautions they were taking to ensure their students were safe, but due to contact tracing, our free periods turned to study halls, and our lunches were limited to one person per lunch table indoors. Seats were separated 3 ft from each other. The new buildings in our schools - the “STEM buildings” - were taken away from us to enforce 3ft social distancing. What I expected to be a typical year turned out to be yet another covid limited year.
But I wasn’t going to let that stop me. With this year being my very last in this school, I had to make it count. Sure, there were still restrictions, but we had space to make this year make up for the previous year’s missed opportunities with less strict protocols. I went to school with a new positive mindset to start fresh. From football games to class pep rallies, I made it a point to sign up for all my school offers. I wanted to get as much of my high school experience and show the last of my high school spirit before I left this school forever.
Something still didn’t feel right.
While teachers and staff worked hard to bring normalcy back to our lives, working per the CDC and government guidelines made it hard to revive the school. It’s ambiguous what might become of the rest of the year. Prom, senior experience, senior assassin, senior pranks, and doing things that make senior year so special are all on the line. Still, we can't afford to have another senior class miss out on senior events that allow kids to bond one final time before heading off to college and, for most of us, leaving the district, in which many of us grew up, forever.
It's that exact kind of a grey area between a typical high school experience and a restrictive, covid high school year that makes this year extra tricky. The unknown factor. We were promised a concert performance, we were promised a senior trip, we were promised a prom, but the ambiguity of whether by then the guidelines will change, or we’ll have to adapt to a not-so-normal end of senior year is suspenseful. We only had one normal full year of high school, freshman year, when we were the lower classmen, without any “rights.” And now, after what seems to have merged into one mega covid year, we are seniors, preparing for college, and preparing to leave the school we only got to experience one full year in.
While it's saddening that we are leaving high school, it would be even more upsetting to go without having these last moments with classmates and peers. Our last chance to bond to old friends, celebrate with new friends, and cry goodbye to people I may never see again. I at least hope that the upcoming seniors will have a covid free year.
Although our senior future is uncertain, we have more to look forward to, with college opening more opportunities. I dream of the perfect college experience with everyday classroom environments. To hope to return back to classes without the muffled voices of classmates, lunches and free periods together. To be able to make friends, not through a screen, but lunches together and clubs. And to hopefully return to the world where I can see the smiles and mouths of my classmates.