SCRIBES: Going to school during a global pandemic

by Christine Stornelli, St.Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School

A lot of changes have happened since March 2020. It was hard to anticipate what Fall of 2020 was going to look like when the pandemic started. Students and teachers often had to “play it by ear” as we adjusted to a new way of learning.

As September approached, adaptations were made to assist students and teachers who do not feel comfortable with face-to-face learning, as well as for students who do not learn quite so well in an online environment.

Students at St.Thomas Aquinas were not given lockers this year to minimize contact in the hallways. There are designated entrances and exits to the building. Students are required to scan a QR code on their phone when leaving the classroom for washroom breaks as part of a “check-in/check-out” system. Hall monitors ensure students walk in the right directions and don’t wander the hallways.

For lunch, students remain in their classrooms – the cafeteria, as well as the water fountains and vending machines, are out of service to reduce contact.

Perhaps most importantly, students and teachers must wear masks inside of the school in addition to wearing them on busses.

Grade 12 student, Lauren W. says school is easier this fall compared to last. “I like having one class a week because it is a lot easier to focus on assignments and tests and there is a lot more time to do homework for that class.”

Students who decided to take the online route this year will argue that it is the more convenient option. Masks and uniforms are not mandatory for distance learning. There is zero contact between students, eliminating the need for safety precautions like QR codes and hall monitors. “I find that when we are doing asynchronous learning I am more productive doing work than I was while in class,” said Michael V. “It is a lot easier to ask my teachers questions after class because they are always online. If I were at school, I would just wait until the next day to ask my question.”

It is hard to predict what the remainder of the school year will look like but it is best for students and teachers to continue working together to keep everyone safe.