As places start to reopen, TJ has finally been able to reopen its doors to students.
February 2nd marked the first day where TJ students were able to go back into the building after a year of it being closed. This first day may have been seen as scary and worrisome, but it was a success for most who attended. With the implementation of one-way hallways, required masks, and spaced-out desks, everyone in the building felt safe and was excited to be back. Smiles could be seen behind everyone’s mask and the energy found in the building was purely remarkable. Life is slowly starting to make its way back to being normal.
The new process of entering the building ensures a higher chance of stopping the spread of COVID. Before students can enter the building, they must scan a barcode and fill out a health questionnaire on their phones. If the student has no symptoms or has not been in contact with anyone with the virus, they are permitted to go inside. Gabriella DeMaria, a junior at TJ, helped describe the new process, “The new process isn’t much different and it’s pretty quick. We just have to check in with a couple questions on our phone asking about symptoms, and we have to get our temperature taken.” As students enter the building, they first see the newly renovated lobby. Past the lobby is the new one-way hallway system. The system is set up so that major hallways, like the Math and English hallways, can only be reached by taking stairwells. It may seem tedious to have to go all the way around in order to get to certain classrooms, but it ensures everyone’s safety in the long run.
Classrooms have also seen massive improvements in order to keep everyone safe. Carlie Frydman, a returning teacher in the science department at TJ, shared her experience back in person. “Inside classrooms, desks are spread further apart and a lot of sanitation is happening both between classes and at the end of the school day. Teachers are also not able to circulate and help our students at their desks; we are at our podiums, often behind a screen.” Spaced-out desks have been implemented to keep everyone six feet apart. On top of that, students can use the protective screens that are made available to them while inside classrooms. Teachers are spaced out from their students, with most having protective screens in front of them as well. All teachers choose to wear two masks in order to decrease the chance of receiving as well as spreading the virus. Teachers are also required to sanitize each desk students occupied for their next class.
Despite all these safety precautions, the learning aspect of in-person learning is still mainly online. Students stay at their desks with their computers in front of them and their headphones on. The decision to go back to in-person might seem questionable if the curriculum is the same, but the environment of being back is so unique. Shane Junkermeier, a junior at TJ, commented, “It was super energetic; everyone was super happy to be back, including me. It was nice. People were excited, and you can tell it’s been a while since they’ve seen one another, socializing but responsibly.”
Although going back to school is fun, taking the good with the bad is important. Going back can help a lot with mental health, but objectively speaking there is still a lot of risk involved. All it takes is one positive case to make students and staff quarantine and possibly contract the virus. When it comes to in-person learning, prioritizing need over want is essential to keeping everyone safe. Currently, no one is allowed to sign up for in-person learning who has not signed up already, but those who are going now can decide to stop whenever they want to. Junkermeier added, “I would definitely recommend it to people who need help in school.” Going back to school should not just be for socializing, but for actual learning. There are many students who suffer academically due to online classes. Whether it be for learning disabilities or other issues at home, students’ academics are taking a hit.
Most virtual learning environments are surrounded by distractions or even at-home issues. It is difficult to concentrate on a class and assignments while being locked up in the same area all day. Spencer Baldwin, a junior at TJ who is staying remote, stated, “I would do in-person if I could. Academics-wise I would be in a better spot and be able to fully focus on my work.” The main purpose of in-person learning is to help students academically while staying safe from COVID-19. The environment of the building is purely remarkable, but waiting a bit longer and staying safe will make it even better in the future. For now, staying remote and allowing students who need help to go in-person is the best option.