Mon. Jul 26th, 2021

Amidst excitement and concern, we are headed back to brick and mortar school. There are many questions that still need to be answered – and so many unknowns – but, ready or not…

By Justyna Jaroma

The commencement of the 2020-21 school year is just around the corner and it is guaranteed to be a year like no other. With the Coronavirus still circulating and cases rising day by day, Notre Dame must prepare for a safe return. Mr. DesLauriers, our principal, sent out an extensive email on August 20th explaining the basic layout of the new academic schedule and safety protocols. I am beyond excited to be at physical school and interact with my peers after seven months, although I do have a few concerns (and I’m sure I’m not the only one).

Since the BC Ministry of Education permits cohorts of up to 120 high school students, grade levels will be placed under differing timetables. As a result of this, the Notre Dame Administration implemented a Quadmester learning system, which allows the study of two academic courses per 10 week-semester. 

As a senior student, I am in a position to take this new structure as a learning curve. The majority of my peers and I plan on attending post-secondary schools, where the learning is arranged into two semesters, ultimately giving senior students a taste of what it will be like focusing on a few subjects in shorter amounts of time. We will be able to experience systematic learning with larger loads of school material amidst quicker deadlines. 

accomplishment ceremony education graduation
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In addition, the class time has risen from the usual 80-minute blocks to 2.5 hours. Being an impatient and fidgety person, sitting in one seat for 80 minutes already drove me crazy. This new schedule will likely be exhausting and therefore distracting. We are now given between 35 and 40 classes to cover a whole course that would usually be completed over 10 months. 

This is a drastic change to the schedule and new to Notre Dame, yet due to the current circumstances, I believe that this is a smart alternative. Additionally, each Wednesday will be a (Flex Day), meaning students are to join briefer zoom calls and/or participate in extra help opportunities from home. I am very satisfied with this adaptation, as it gives students time to rest and catch up on assignments from home. This was something that went on during the online school sessions of the last school year and was extremely beneficial to both teachers and students. Of course, the main purpose of these flex days is to allow the janitors ample time to deep clean the school. 

Amongst the excitement of going back to school and finally seeing each other after many months apart, we still have many questions: what kind of safety protocols or measures will be applied when someone contracts Covid-19? what will social life at school look like? how long until there’s an outbreak, and we move to online again? what will happen to extracurricular activities, teams and clubs? and finally, will bullying increase or decrease? 

photo of man getting his temperature by a thermal scanner
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

As noted in the email, each student will receive a forehead temperature check before entering the building and must also complete an online check-in form once a week. Students must arrive in a face mask and will be able to remove them once notified. Masks will be mandatory in open spaces such as hallways and washrooms, as well as rooms of multi-class interaction. 

September calls for the beginning of the annual flu season. Inevitably, if a student or staff member were to have a fever, cough, or trouble breathing, they would have to report these symptoms to the office. Ultimately, the symptoms would have to be announced to students in their learning group, leading to collective panic. As a result, many parents would wish for their children to remain at home in order to prevent possible contraction. 

Still, more questions arise. For example, how many cases are enough to fully transfer students from in-class sessions to an online school setting? Will Notre Dame wait for the ruling and suggestion of the BC Education Ministry, or is there a number that will determine whether or not live school sessions proceed? If an online return is necessary, will Zoom calls last 2 hours 30 minutes as well? 

Notre Dame provides many extracurricular opportunities each school year; whether it be sports teams, academic and artistic clubs, or volunteering organizations, there’s something for almost everyone. Since the shift to distance learning, many events were cancelled and these groups were put to a temporary halt. September is the time that teams, clubs, and organizations gather and call for fresh members, but how will this work? I’m sure that each leader will have a form of communication with participants, although what will happen to the events that they prepare for? Which clubs will be fully capable of respecting a new protocol — outside of The Observer — as they tend to include different grade levels? Academic clubs may proceed online, yet are we to assume that there will be no sports teams this year? Will the choir sing in public anytime soon?

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An important thought to be aware of in this back to school scenario is the re-emergence of bullying. After all the time apart, have we grown out of the practice of making racist remarks in relation to the Coronavirus? If someone contracts the virus, will they be made fun of and how will they respond? The hope is that bullies will return in a better light, and better educated after 7 months, and realize their faults from the past.

As a grade 12 student, I am a little devastated. Everyone dreams of a perfect senior year filled with football games, school dances, and senior pranks. It is the year our parents tell us was the ‘best year’ of their lives. We want to experience the hierarchy of being in grade 12: revered by the younger grades, and more leeway afforded and respect given from teachers as past graduates have. It’s sad to say, but we will most likely be stripped of many exciting moments throughout the year like the Camp Evans retreat, dressing up for Halloween, and the Christmas Concert.

Surely, there is no one to blame, and it’s easy to be disappointed; however, it is my hope that we will receive safe, fun alternatives so that seniors can somehow enjoy our final year.

21 thoughts on “Welcome Back! Are You Ready?”
  1. Thank you Justyna Jaroma for writing this article. I found this article helpful because you explained how the school year will look. If we do end up going back to online school, do you think will the zoom calls will be 2 hours? I hope there not as I do not like them being 2 hours as I don’t like being in a class room or sitting for that long. Great article.

  2. I am excited to go back and it’s good that we are made to
    Wear masks so we can help social distance.

  3. Hi, I am ready to go back to school this year but I am also wondering what school will be like and if we will eventually have to go back to online school. I am hoping that we are able to play school sports this year because that is one of the best parts of school.

  4. I am excited to go back to school and see all of my friends and socialize again. I really hope we can play sports again and watch football games cause those are the best parts of high school. Although school will look and feel a little different this year, it will still be memorable.

  5. This well-written article gave a new insight to the new school year. Justyna reassured all concerns I had for going back to school. Justyna also added her personal concerns and although we all have the same fear from the Coronavirus, it feels encouringing to know that someone else feel the same way I do.

  6. Hi, I am ready and looking forward to learning in school because quarantine has been shutting me out from being social and my brain hasn’t been learning much. It’s good that there are safety protocols

  7. I think this article is very well done and you explained the rules and guidelines clearly. I am excited to be back at school and I am curious about how the rest of the school year will go.

  8. I am ready to go to school again and I like that everyone has to clean their hands all the time and wear a mask indoors. It is great to be outside and study in school than being stuck in online schooling. I have been thinking that how would the clubs in Notre Dame function as before?

  9. This Is a good article, it gave me an understanding to what will be happening this year. I’m excited to be back here and I hope we don’t need to go back to online school.

    1. This article is very well written. It makes us realize that although it won’t be the same as last year, we can still make the best out of it and hope for the best. I hope we stay in physical school because online school is less effective. I also hope we get the opportunity to continue sports, and watch the football games.

  10. i like how informative justyna made this article i am now educated about the precautions we must take during school to make it safe for everyone.

  11. Thankyou Justyna Jaroma for giving me a good idea of what this school year will look like. I am very excited to be back and I wonder what the rest of the school year will look like!

  12. This article was very helpful and straight forward. Although there is a lot to be determined, Justyna Jaroma did a great job of informing us students of the safety protocols and a little bit into what this year will look like.

  13. This article gave me a better understanding of how the school year will be work for us. Coming back to the school after not being able to see anyone face to face other than my family will take some adjusting but seeing that they are enforcing masks in the halls and and hand-sanitizer outside every class makes me feel like I’m in a safe environment.

    1. This article is very well written! You explained how school will work this year and I am excited to see how it goes. I am very happy to be back and see my friends. I hope there is sports because they make school so much fun.

  14. The school year will be very different for sure but I appreciate the fact that we still get to go to school and learn during the pandemic. It will feel good to finally come back to school after the many months of online learning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us.

  15. Thank you Justyna for painting a clear picture in my mind of the upcoming school year. I also have some of the same questions. What’s going to happen if we have online classes? How long will they be? Looking past these concerns, I’m glad to be back at school.

  16. I’m excited to go back to school although it is going to be very different due to the pandemic we are in. I do like that we have to wear masks, social distance, and sanitize our hands to be safe although I think we have a chance of returning home to do online school. If this happens, how will it work? How long will classes be?

  17. This article did a great job of explaining the school year! I am very excited to be back, talking to friends, and seeing familiar faces. I love how in this article you were never down because although we are cut back from a lot of activities you made it sound like we will make the best out of this school year which I love.

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