Return to School @ Almond Campus

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Ava Palo, Staff Writer

On January 19th, District 121 officially transitioned into a hybrid schedule. Meaning that for the first time since March 13th (312 days), students were going to be in-attendance. The idea of going to school, in-person, was not attainable for months. We did a whole semester and a half of instruction staring at a screen. That in and of itself is mind-boggling to me. Like many students, I had my reservations about attending in-person. But for my own knowledge and yours too, I went to school. Let me walk you through on what it was actually like on campus.

I walked into the Almond campus with my phone in hand. In order to enter the building, I had to self-certify that I was COVID-19 symptom free and present the form to a security guard. I sanitized my hands and got my temperature checked (I passed, phew). I pulled out my map of the building and started my way to my zero period. The map was not really necessary as at least three teachers stopped me and asked if I needed help finding my class. As I wandered my way through the arch of Almond, I noticed how empty it was. If roughly 2000 students attend school at the Almond campus, then at 25% capacity there would be about 500 students in the building. On top of that, not everyone opted to return. Social distancing was a breeze, as the hallways are massive and you could easily keep 6+ feet of distance between people.

I was one of three students in my zero period. Three! What’s weird about in-person classes is most teachers have you join the Meet anyways in order to see what they’re presenting. So you basically learn the way you do at home, but in school. I appreciated the ability to stretch my legs on the walk between periods. Normally I’d just be walking from my room to the kitchen. In my first period class, I was the only student. Which was nice, because I got to actually talk to my teacher. That’s what I probably missed the most, forming connections with teachers. After first period, I had study hall, which was set up in the cafeteria. I really liked the layout. I got my own table, six feet away from my neighbor, giving me plenty of space to spread out my notes and homework. The first day actually went pretty quick, considering I was there for a little under four hours.

The next day, I had lunch first, so I got to stay home a little longer. I love the ability to have lunch at 11:00, instead of 10:15. The early lunches are definitely a downside of the new schedule. One of my teachers opted out of returning to school, so I had to go to the gym in order to attend class. The atmosphere made me feel like I was taking a standardized test. The gym was littered with six foot folding tables, all facing the same way. It was a little freaky, but I appreciated the extra space. I left after my second day having mixed feelings about returning to school. I noted the safety measures the school put in place, but I still had some concerns.

Here’s a list organizing my final thoughts:

Things Warren did well:

  • Sanitizers. Everywhere. There were automatic dispensers in the main sections of the hallways, and were very easy to use as I walked up and down the hallways to class.
  • Mask enforcement. I did not see a single nose. Not one! Everyone was wearing masks the proper way. I am interested, however, if this will remain true as more students enter the building at a time.
  • The number of students in the building. It was very easy to social distance due to the number of students allowed in compared to the size of the building.

Some concerns I still have:

  • Social health. There is no talking about hot gossip in this current model. Students are placed well over six feet apart, so there are no private conversations. Combined with little to no social interaction during Meets, it definitely doesn’t help anyone to make friends. 
  • Students who travel. We’ve all seen people posting on social media from places they shouldn’t be. For whatever reason, there are students who are travelling out-of-state and to COVID hotspots like California, Florida and Arizona. On the self-certification form there is a question regarding international travel, but not domestic. I am still not sure if I feel comfortable sharing a classroom with someone who just spent a week in California and travelled by plane.

All in all, I’m glad I went. It gave me a sense of normalcy that I have been craving since spring break. I don’t think I’ll be returning next time, however, for a few reasons. 1) I still don’t feel entirely safe. It could be me being overly cautious, however. COVID-19 has really messed up my concept of what’s safe and what’s not.  2) Having to remember which days I go, and which days I don’t. As well as messing with my daily schedule. It’s hard to get into a routine when things change every week. 3) There’s really no reason for me to go. I learn just fine from my bedroom, so why potentially put myself at risk? Although, I would recommend going if you need the structure that in-person school provides.