Return to school, reopening: a breath of fresh air

Ella DeSilvaBeal is thrilled that things are safely opening up again after the pandemic.Photo: Ella DeSilvaBeal

During the seemingly endless year-long stretch of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which many worked or attended school from home, wore masks, and reduced contact with family and friends, many started to feel reopening was an impossibility.

However, with extremely high rates of vaccination in Massachusetts, reopening has begun. On May 10, 2021 businesses were allowed to open at 50% capacity and shortly afterward, masks were currently no longer required at sports games and practices.

 Then, on May 29, 2021 Massachusetts reopened businesses to full capacity while lifting the mask mandate for those who are fully vaccinated. Almost everyone is eager to get back to normal, but some are still skeptical of the safety behind the rushed opening.

Some ARHS students have been in school since May 3, the majority of whom are vaccinated or on their way to being vaxxed. ARHS freshman Sage Fiander is thrilled. “I was excited to go back and see my friends as well as other people,” she said.

ARHS junior Emily Grybko was also positive about the shift. She said she enjoys being in person because it helps with “being more focused in class.” 

“I feel like I’m learning more now, and also seeing other people is nice,” she said.

Being in person has caused new challenges in the way classes are run. For example, everyone needs to be distanced, and the in-person students can’t see the online students unless they are being projected to the class. Meanwhile, those at home have a hard time hearing those talking in the class. But the majority of students I talked to were still happy to be back and these changes didn’t detract from their experience much at all.

“In the past, I spent a lot of time working on seating arrangements in classes, from tables to connecting rows,” said English department head Sara Barber-Just. “However, despite the fact  that kids are spaced apart old-school-style, and facing me, things are still going great. Everyone is just glad to be together. And I’m still giving the kids at home lots of love too!” 

As of June 1 in Massachusetts nearly 4 million people had been administered the Covid vaccine and about 3 million had been fully vaccinated. One of them is ARHS senior Ella DeSilvaBeal.  “I think that since all students are able to get the vaccine now, general reopening seems less daunting,” she said. “I still believe that some members of our student body haven’t been as careful as others.” 

ARHS senior Annalise Peterson also shared similar concerns. “Part of me is really excited and relieved to see people, and that’s the more significant part,” she said. “There’s also definitely a part of me that feels a little overwhelmed by the dramaticness of it.” 

ARHS senior Jolie Lepere was proud of the state of Massachusetts. “I think our state is doing well,” she said. “We have a pretty high rate of vaccination and people seem to be pretty good about following masking guidelines and such around here.” 

While the worries about reopening are unavoidable it was good to see a large number of students were mostly hopeful and excited regarding life returning to normal. With the number of people getting vaccinated, the general consensus was that reopening feels safer and safer each day.

For students who had been playing sports during the pandemic, when the masks came off May 10, they had mixed feelings. ARHS freshman Sage Fiander said that despite the loosening of mask regulations she is still being cautious. “I have kept wearing my mask because I’m not fully vaccinated,” she said. “I really don’t want to get sick.” 

ARHS freshman Julian Camera expressed how he was grateful he didn’t have to wear a mask at practice. “It’s a little weird [to take off my mask after so long]. It feels like I’m missing something,” he said. “But it’s nice to be able to fully breathe again.”

Many ARHS students also expressed gratitude for a growth in summer opportunities like jobs, camps, and vacations.

“My family can go on vacation for the first time in a year (Covid-safely) and be able to have fun again,” said DeSilvaBeal.