The Trials and Tribulations of Navigating School in a Pandemic: Where the Return to Normal is Still Far from Normal


Students are glad to be back in person with their peers but masking and quarantines are making it far from a normal year.

On August 30th, 2021 the new school year began and for the first time since March 13, 2020 all students returned to the school buildings unless they opted for BCPS’ new virtual learning program. Some were excited to return; some anxious and unsure. But what all found was that school has morphed into something none of us knew as the normal we left behind.

From mask requirements, to wet wipes in every classroom, to the frequent quarantining notices, leading to students missing class frequently, it was apparent early in the year this would be yet another year the pandemic disrupted the typical school year we haven’t seen since the 2018-2019 school year.

To add to the harsh reminder that this school year would once again not be the typical year we hoped for, BCPS cancelled homecoming dances back at the beginning of the school year. Each year homecoming dances are a rite of passage high school kids look forward to but once again COVID-19 took more of our high school experience away.

Yet it was frustrating to students that the cancellation of dances didn’t make much sense when BCPS was piling so many students on busses due to the busing shortage. If students could sit so close together masked on a bus-why could they not be close together for a dance? If crowds could gather for sporting events, why couldn’t a crowd of students gather for a school dance? As high school students, sometimes the rules put in place seemed to contradict themselves.

To make an already different, challenging year more different and challenging, all BCPS staff and now starting with the winter season, student athletes, are required to provide proof of vaccination or bi-weekly testing for COVID-19. In an already polarized environment of what’s the right way to address virus spread concerns, this adds more controversary as some feel this is a right move in keeping everyone safe and others see it as unnecessary. Student athlete Amare M shares, “I feel like it’s kind of unfair because they’re either forcing us to take a test or take a vaccine. Many people don’t want to do this but at the same time it’s for our health.”

COVID-19 has raised a lot of controversy on both sides of the coin whether individuals are worried about the spread or the regulations put in place, and sometimes our schools have felt like the battle ground for those debates. The statewide mandate for masks in schools was put in place right before students returned for the 2021-2022 school year, yet the State Board of Education has met twice now already since, still debating on when schools should be allowed to lift the mask mandate.

Like everything of the past year and a half everyone feels differently about the requirements to wear masks in school. Kenwood student Chrissy feels more secure at school with the masking requirement in place. “It helps me feel safe and protected from Covid so I’m glad we have to wear masks in the building.” Others though like Lexi hope the mask mandate will be lifted soon. “I feel like I can’t get to know anyone at school because I don’t know what anyone looks like behind their mask!”

Teachers also feel differently. Some like Ms. K who understand the need for the masks, “As there are still those that are unvaccinated, especially younger people, it is necessary for vaccinated people to continue to wear masks. Vaccinated people can still get COVID and carry it to others. Being safer now can help others as we move forward,” she shares. But teachers like Ms. Glenn and Scott-Cerezo have found teaching and communicating with students really hard as wearing masks, “muffles their voices and didn’t realize how much I relied on reading lips and seeing people’s faces to understand what they’re saying,” shares Glenn.

Whether it’s the hiding behind masks and struggling to hear one another, the numerous days missed of school due to quarantining for close contacts or getting the virus ourselves,  and submitting to weekly COVID testing or being in the middle of the COVID-19 vaccine debate this school year has not been a return to normal for us. We’re still navigating a world different than the one we left on March 13, 2020.