Nevis junior Megan Lindow knew she would be in a 50 percent online learning environment this fall taking college classes. Before COVID-19, those classes would have been in the school media center. Instead, she is in a high school classroom all day with a maximum of 20 students, and instructors coming to them.

She said the first day of school feels like a reunion as friends who haven’t seen each other over the summer reconnect.

“We had our year cut short in March and then over the summer there were so many restrictions,” she said. “Some parents weren’t letting their kids see other kids and we couldn’t go to the movies with our friends because the movie theater was closed. Now we’re back together. You just want to go up and hug your friends, but this year you can’t. That’s the hardest piece for me, not being able to give high fives and hugs. That’s true for a lot of people I think. I almost went up and hugged someone but then I stopped myself.”

Spending all day in the same room is also a big change. “That’s not very common for juniors and seniors because we usually move between rooms two to four times a day,” she said. “It feels like being back in elementary school.”

Once band classes start, Lindow will leave her homeroom to attend those classes twice a week. Their music teacher will be on Zoom with a paid supervisor in the band room and students practicing in smaller groups to comply with social-distancing guidelines.

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“We also have a special cover for our instruments to keep our air in, like a face mask for your instrument,” she said. “I’ve seen pictures of them and they look goofy.”

Another big change is timed bathroom breaks. “Our bathroom breaks being scheduled, that was a huge thing,” she said. “They might let you go a couple of minutes early, but the main thing is they don’t want kids meeting up with kids from other classrooms in the restroom. And we only have five minutes.”

Lunch is different, too. “We go with our class, get our food and eat in our homerooms,” she said. “We sit at our desks and can’t pull up a chair and sit by a friend.”

Lindow said having no lockers this year to avoid students gathering in the hallways is a challenge for those who have to move between classes. “Some of my friends who do that say they have so many books they can’t even fit them in their bag,” she said. “It’s hard for them to get from class to class every other hour. In the winter, they will have jackets to carry, too.”

Staying connected

Lindow said she and her friends have found ways to stay in touch over the summer and those are continuing this fall.

“We do video chatting and texting and Facetiming more,” she said. “We’re not isolated, we’re just physically distanced. Lots of my friends know it (COVID-19) is a problem in other places and don’t want it to be a problem here. They’re wearing masks in public, doing simple things to slow down the spread because as soon as the numbers go up us highschoolers are going hybrid and none of us want that. It’s been way too long since we’ve been in the building and even the kids who don’t like school missed it. They missed the feeling of being together. That’s a big incentive for my age group. They don’t want things to shut down again.”

She said an outdoor basketball court that was recently installed where the old tennis courts are located behind the school is a popular place. “We can’t get in gyms right now to practice,” she said. “It’s a really nice court and kids from other schools are using it, too.”

Lindow also works in the school age care program and said she made the decision not to go to large gatherings to help protect the younger students. “I hang out with my family unit, my friend unit, my classroom unit and that’s about it,” she said.

She said not being able to see friends as often makes moments with them more special. “Even just seeing them in the hallway, it’s just reassuring to know they are there,” she said.

Keeping traditions alive

Homecoming is something students look forward to each fall, and the Nevis student council has been working on ways to make it fun even though everyone can’t gather in Tiger Arena as they did in the past.

“We have plans to do a pep fest with our candidates and attendants in the gym socially distanced,” she said. “We’ll live stream that back to the classroom. Everyone will be watching it together, just in different rooms. Taking homecoming away or making it super different would be hard on us. We’re keeping the same themes like dress up days and other activities and trying to keep it as normal as we can.”

Lindow said the student council will be trying new things to engage students this year. “We don’t have our sports, our regular extracurricular activities, nothing like that,” she said. “We are brainstorming how to engage students without being able to do things together in person.”