After a summer filled with ever-changing reopening plans, I finally returned to Heritage High School in Littleton to begin my senior year on Aug. 24.
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New safety measures include limiting students to two in-person days a week, mandatory face masks, one-way hallways and stairwells, disinfecting all desks, socially-distanced classrooms, prepackaged lunches and more.
Efforts to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus have made the school safer, but have also created the loneliest school environment I've ever experienced.
Although necessary to help prevent students and faculty from getting ill, the new limitations feel incredibly isolating. In several of my classes, students couldn't talk to each other at all. No group work and no possibility of conversations meant no way of connecting with each other.
The classes with group work were awkward and clunky. Students had to shout and repeat themselves in order to be heard, it was loud inside the classroom, and it was impossible to carry on conversations from six feet apart.
Classes ended with hand sanitizer and wiping down desks. We had to stand for the last few minutes of class so the sanitizer had time to work before another student sat in our desks.
When class finally ended, the hallways felt as crowded as ever, but were more difficult to navigate with arrows and teachers yelling which direction we were allowed to travel in.
Between masks, signs covering every wall reminding us to social distance, and hand sanitizer everywhere, thoughts of the virus were hard to escape. Every moment I was in school left me wondering if reopening was really worth it.
It was wonderful to see other people again, and to get out of the house. But combining an already confusing in-person schedule with three days of overwhelming online classes left me more worn out than any normal school week I've ever experienced.
Some classes were fun, some were boring, and some felt almost normal during my two days of in-person class. But with the added stress and looming threats of coronavirus, I can't say I felt like it was worthwhile.
Every cough and mask adjustment felt threatening, making sure you and your supplies were sanitized was exhausting, and every joke about school shutting down again amplified the stress. Being in the building means constantly being on guard.
I wish I could have a normal senior year, with Homecoming and Prom and football games and clubs and everything fun that's supposed to come with being in school. But coronavirus has stripped school down to the bare-bones academics.
We won't have a normal year, and I can't say I feel like it's worth pursuing.
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