Falcons live ‘new normal’ everyday

After facing COVID-19 for nearly a year, case numbers are finally beginning to decline, although the initial onset of the pandemic is still taking a toll. Now, over a year ago, Friday, March 13, to be exact, was seemingly the last day of life as we knew it.

Perhaps one of the most affected groups was, and still is, students of all ages across the country. Almost immediately, students and teachers were thrown into a virtual world one can only compare with Groundhog Day, forever reliving the same type of day.

Everyone involved, including parents, were thrown into the grip of unknown technology, Zoom meetings and a feeling of shuttered isolation. And, when we reached June of last year, no one could have predicted what the future would bring.

As September neared and COVID-19 cases were still rising, it became clear that all public school students would start the year off virtually. In other words, all classes were required to be online, held through Zoom or Google Meet, leaving almost everyone still at home.

“At the beginning of online schooling, it was very difficult to learn and focus. Teachers tried to help make it normal, but it still was not the same,” senior Logan Bruehl said.

Both staff and students struggled with this switch. Almost overnight, or over the course of a month, instead of regular block scheduling, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) moved to a 4×4 schedule, meaning students’ classes would be split between two terms, or two semesters. Thus, teachers and students would find themselves in a collegiate setting; taking two sets of classes that consisted of three- four classes during the first semester, and the same for the next semester.

The upheaval made it especially hard on the teachers, forcing them to dial down their learning plans, to make sure everything was taught within the certain time span, and to move everything online.

There was a time earlier in the year, during Term 1, when VBCPS tried to get students back in the classroom, however, the case numbers rose vigorously as the holidays approached, shutting the first attempt at ‘normalcy’ completely down. Students then remained virtual until, at least the beginning of February. Many students and teachers during Term I never even met in person.

There has been a nationwide push over the past few months to get students physically back in the classroom; as of February, students were allowed back into schools for the rest of this school year. More scientific data began to emerge that schools were not super spreaders, along with newly developed COVID-19 vaccines. Although some are glad to be back, the environment is extremely different.

“I am happy to be back at school, but it is very different. We have to walk straight to class without any interaction, and unless we are eating, masks are on at all times,” sophomore Claire Moorehead said.

Students do not have much freedom anymore to do as they choose, including sports, clubs or to even decide where and with whom they will eat lunch. Many sports events, clubs and extracurricular activities were canceled altogether until recently, when rules were put in place to encourage safety during practices and meetings. Sports seasons were switched around, and only an allotted number of people are allowed to spectate.

Due to the massive changes and safety precautions, the school setting is far from what was once considered ‘normal’. In fact, many students who chose to be Option I students (return to school face-to-face) are now going back to Option 2 (fully virtual learning) because school looks so different.

According to many students who remained virtual, they chose to do so because ‘school was not really school’ and attending physically only means two days a week, depending on the first letter of one’s last name.

 

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