Jennifer Mahon, left, and Hanna Starkie, two Grade 12 students at Chemainus Secondary School, are getting used to the changes the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing. (Photo submitted)

High school student reflects on back to school on behalf of classmates

Many changes to normal routines but Chemainus Secondary staff has done its homework

Back to school for 2020-21 has been nothing like the past due to the Coronavirus.

With access to the schools denied to outsiders except under special circumstances, the Courier asked Grade 12 Chemainus Secondary School student Hanna Starkie to coordinate an assessment of the situation with a few friends and classmates to get their opinions of back to school and how the first day went.

Following is Starkie’s report, written on behalf of herself and a group of senior students:

“Back to school is always a time where most students are a bit nervous and this year it’s a whole new process which is quite scary for a lot of us! I think the staff did a really great job of letting us know what to prepare for, but it’s still hard to accept so much change. Although there are some nerves, there is also a lot of excitement to see friends and teachers that we haven’t been with since March. Most students have said that they are excited and happy about ‘back to school’ a lot more than in previous years because we’ve missed the socialization so much.

When I walked into the field Friday morning to gather with my Learning Group, it felt so great to see so many familiar faces and chat with everyone. As it’s my senior year, I want to make the most out of it and try to have the best ‘normal’ school year possible. I think that it will work out well because of the small size of our school. We are all separated by grade into cohorts of students called ‘Learning Groups’ of up to 120 students who we are able to interact with throughout the first quarter with minimal social distancing.

This is a bit hard with high school especially for senior students because we share a lot of classes, but we are lucky to have small enough classes that all of us Grade 11s and 12s can be together as one learning group and still stay under the maximum of 120 students. This is awesome because it allows us to still have elective classes like foods, art, P.E., etc. Also, because of the learning group situation, us 2021 grads are allowed to all be together (grad class of about 50 students) which means we can still meet to plan grad things like fundraisers, walk-up, capstone projects, and prom in the spring. My friends and I were most worried about not getting to do normal grad things that we’ve looked forward to for so long, and it will have to be a bit different, but I think we can make the best of our year!

When we are around other students that are not part of our group, such as walking in the halls or talking with other teachers or students, we have to wear masks and follow social distancing rules. I didn’t exactly know how it would be. I had thought some kids may be stubborn about the rules and not want to cooperate, but the school seemed to run very smoothly. All of the students were very considerate and understood we all need to do certain things to keep everyone safe.

Some of the changes made are hand sanitizer stations in all classes and at every entrance to the school which we’re required to use when we enter and exit, as well as additional hand-washing stations that were put in the halls. The halls are separated into two lanes like a road for better distancing and flow, doors are locked during class so nobody can enter the school, each learning group has its own bathroom and entrance/exit to use, and we are not using lockers in order to avoid crowding in the halls. I think most of us were a bit relieved knowing all they are doing to keep everyone healthy. I do understand why people may not agree with the choice for schools to be opening up again, but I just hope they realize how careful everything has been planned out! It really is necessary for us to be learning in person with a teacher. Online school is definitely not for everyone.”

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Entrance to Chemainus Secondary School is restricted to parents. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Hanna Starkie. (Photo submitted)

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