The Teenage Bucketlist: Go to School in a Pandemic

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Courtesy of Gahsoon

High School Student struggles to focus during Virtual Learning.

Samantha Mediodia

Apprehensive. Brutal. Excruciating. Mind-Numbing. Baffling. In an alternate reality in which students are forced to stare at bright screens for six consecutive hours and a five-minute break is considered a “privilege,” these five words personally selected by the student body of Wilcox High School effortlessly transform into the premier way to describe such experience. 

 

The Unforeseen Vacation of Unfortunates  

With the sudden emergence of COVID-19 in early March 2020, students were enthralled by the notification of a well-deserved break from their studies, celebrating with early morning escapes and late-night adventures. Only a few days later, former president Donald Trump declared COVID-19  a national emergency, following the official Pandemic Proclamation from the World Health Organization. Flash forward to 2021, the globe stands one month from its one year anniversary with the devastating disease, and unfortunately, it has been an abusive relationship.

 

To Return, or Not to Return

While adults have encountered separate complications with their jobs, students from preschool to college have suffered a detrimental bullet to their existence: changes to their physical appearance, mental health, and a newfound identification as a belittled phantom of their own souls. With overwhelming thoughts and an abundance of assignments, students are forced to catechize their intellect and their struggles are aggressively shoved down their throat, begging the question, “Would it be better to return to in-person instruction?” In an informal poll quizzing the precise stance of 300 local students, results highlighted a harsh viewpoint of distance learning by 77% of participants, leaving the greater favored option as an immediate return to campus. 

The real answer? It depends. In light of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan that both allows and encourages younger students to return to regular learning starting early February, Wilcox Chargers are left curious of what’s to come for them. In an interview with Wilcox principal Kristin Gonzalez, she outlines the Santa Clara Unified School District’s plan and explains that as older pupils, students will be given the opportunity to return to the Wilcox campus under one condition: priority of attendance goes towards those with a greater necessity. She explains, “With how the current county’s guidelines are laid out, it wouldn’t be safe to bring back everyone.” At the moment, administrators are calculating a safe capacity of both staff and students to allow back, with the generalized number ranging from 10 to 12 students per classroom, focusing on those with a significant decline in grades, as well as those facing educational or environmental disadvantages. In regards to sports, Athletic Director Paul Rosa states all sports are still up in the air with no current cancellations but may face shortened seasons.

 

Tomorrow: Today’s Dream

Pursuing the threads of a one-on-one interview with Ms. Gonzalez, she reveals her only concern in reopening the campus: the adherence to precautions and protocols. Gonzalez leans on her fellow advisors to construct a cogent plan of action that modifies Wilcox’s previously open campus for the better.

Envision entering the front gates of the grounds: seeing once-familiar faces hidden by masks, with hand sanitizers decorating every possible surface and teachers and admins now similar to determined soldiers protecting their base, mitigating the crowd and enforcing the Six Feet Apart rule. Hallways and stairwells alike are specifically outlined to be one way, empty of students fiddling in their lockers. As for P.E., students are spaced with respect to social distancing. Setting foot into classrooms, pupils will be met with their teachers, their safety assured by the frequent COVID tests they will be required to take. Additionally, they will come to face a distance thermometer; though all attendees are expected to self-assess before arriving at Wilcox, then walk in to find a comparatively empty space filled with desks that stand six feet apart, bordered by plastic shields.

 

Students are Blue, Grades are Askew, but What Would You Do?

Despite both teachers and administrators prepared to train students to follow the protocols, beloved Charger educators have their individual sentiments nevertheless, some even with contrasting judgment. Ms. Gonzalez is torn between options, describing how she prefers distance learning for the given safety, yet in-person learning for social necessities. Mirroring the same perspective, Wilcox Stage Company head Claire Robson explains, “I have greatly adapted my curriculum to an online format and things are working better than expected!” Despite missing producing shows and seeing her Theatre students interact in person, she is saddened by the restrictions that would occur upon future return. 

In contrast, P.E. Teacher and Head Football Coach Paul Rosa explains his preference for in-person learning due to the mental and physical benefits for kids, despite ongoing cohort workouts for select sports. He argues, “School is the safest place these kids can be active. We are kidding ourselves if we think everyone is just staying home all day and not getting together.”

While the return of 2,000 students seems impossible given the current predicament, Wilcox administration is ready and prepared to reopen campus when given the green light by the District and of course, looks forward to the day they are able to welcome back all students with open arms.