Life with COVID-19: being back at school

While+maintaining+COVID-19+guidlines%2C+students+adapt+to+new+learning+settings%2C+including+the+reduced-capacity+LMC.

Noah Burrell

While maintaining COVID-19 guidlines, students adapt to new learning settings, including the reduced-capacity LMC.

Lily Ha, Staff Writer

This piece was also published in The Echo Magazine 24.1.

When Neuqua Valley High School released its decision in the summer of 2021 to go fully in-person for the 2021-2022 school year, the feeling of excitement to bond with teachers and peers was met with nervousness on the bumpy road to adjusting to school with COVID-19.

Having to consider socially connecting with friends and teachers and academically adjusting to a different set-up than last year, while not ignoring the caution of being safe during this time, has been challenging for many.

However, it seems that the first quarter has gone on without significant bumps. Regardless of COVID-19, sports and extracurricular activities have started; students and teachers have been doing great in wearing their masks during nearly all of the entire school period. The pep rally was received positively, and many of the students enjoyed their year back by celebrating with friends at Homecoming.

But what do students at Neuqua Valley High School think of the first quarter so far?

“I think I’m getting to know a lot more people, which is pretty good. I’m a lot more focused in school now than I was in remote learning; it was pretty easy to get distracted online, but now I’m on task and I know what I need to do. Last year, there weren’t that many opportunities to do extracurriculars, like there were extracurriculars, but it was very restricted on what we could do. But now because we’re in person, there’s like a lot more you can do, and I’m pretty excited to see what the school has to offer,” Aditi Cherukuri, a sophomore, said.

Cherukuri added, “I think the biggest struggle is [that] last year, because like when we were online I was a freshman… I’m a sophomore now. So I’m moving to a new school, you might not see some of your old friends from middle school, and it’s kind of hard to make new friends when you’re online on Zoom.”

Most students at Neuqua Valley are adjusted to the in-person classes; although some peers struggle with school in a COVID-19 learning environment. By now, a majority are comfortable in their classrooms and moving from classroom to classroom.

Among them is junior Ethan Lopez. He admits, “Academically, I feel like subjects are more difficult in person because teachers were a bit more lenient last year. We had more time to do things because there just wasn’t much going on, so now it’s trying to balance everything and manage your time wisely.”

Many students agree that the adjustment back to in-person learning is challenging. But this is not the only difficulty at Neuqua Valley. Another is wearing masks during all classes. Fortunately, most believe that Neuqua is working very well towards making sure masks are on for the safety of its members.

“I’d say, for the most part, the school is doing a good job. I’d say in some places like in the hallways, there are people who are being strict about that,” Cherukuri said. “It’s hard to kind of enforce that because you can’t eat while having a mask on. For example, I do sophomore swim and nobody wears masks in the pool area. This makes sense because you can’t swim with a mask on, but I guess it makes me a little bit concerned because COVID can spread easily during those times when nobody’s wearing masks.”

Lopez agreed, “yeah, I think they are. I think they’ve done a fantastic job with the resources that they’ve been given and the cards that they’ve been dealt. We’re still technically in a pandemic, and I think they’ve done a very good job of reintroducing people into an in-person learning system.”

A vast majority of Neuqua’s members seemed to be taking wearing masks seriously by covering their nose and mouth. “I think they’re generally doing a good job. I think the enforcement is going well and I would say 98 percent of kids are doing well to keep it over their mouth and nose.”

The opening of in-person extracurriculars is an addition that students are excited for. Events like the Children’s Show and music concerts opened, alongiside many clubs. Students were alongiside many clubs. Students were also able to play and attend sporting events, like the popular football games.

Many students new to Neuqua are also excited to experience high school events somewhat normally for the first time. “I think it’s like actually being, not just homecoming, but getting to experience all the events and everything because we completely missed out on that last year,” said Madison Cereno, a sophomore at Neuqua.

Like most of Neuqua, she is “very excited to be included in all those activities.”

The transition fully back will not be an easy road. Like now, there will be struggles for teachers, parents, and especially students. But one thing is for certain: Neuqua Valley High School is finally back in session, and the kids here are looking forward to a variety of opportunities and experiences that an in-person education has to offer, regardless of the looming threat of COVID-19.