Chaos, Quarantine, and a New Normal: The Year in Review


This school year has been like no other. After the last few months of the year were spent in opt-out learning, last  September came an opportunity that students felt was a way to get back as close to normal as possible – the chance to go back to physical school.

With the return to school came changes that would affect how we learned, interacted with friends, and stayed healthy. Everyone was affected, even those choosing to stay at home. And one question on all our minds remains the same: “When can we get back to the way things were?”

You cannot start off a review of the past year without talking about quarantine. Some found it relaxing, while others found it upsetting. Some people never got put into lockdown because of a coronavirus case, while others have had to stay isolated from school for multiple weeks. One such individual is Ms. Humphrey, an English teacher that has been sent home no less than five times because of a positive case.

“Uprooted is how I felt,” Humphrey explained, thinking back on the sudden changes she had to cope with whenever she was called out. “My schedule was upside down – every other week I was not in the building. It was extremely challenging to connect with the students that were still here.”

Aside from the sudden and often unexpected announcements sending students and staff home, other elements of the COVID response have woven their way into the daily student life. Lunch time is no longer the same – we were welcomed into a what is a normally social time with the addition of forward-facing, separated desks to eat at. Hallways, already chaotic and bustling, were outfitted

with one-way arrows that restricted the freedom of traffic and forced students to plan ahead for their route to class.

Along with the day to day activities that have been uprooted due to the pandemic, extracurricular activities have been heavily affected as well. Sporting events have now been limited to family only, and athletes often have to wear masks while playing. A sophomore athlete at Lewis Mills High School gave their input on mask regulations in athletic activities.

Jordan Anderson, a Varsity girls basketball player noted how, throughout the difficult winter season, they had to wear masks. Anderson said that she hated wearing the mask on court and she found it “uncomfortable and hard to breath.”

Another extracurricular that has been heavily affected by new COVID regulations is the school’s Theatre Program. Typically, when you think of a school production, you don’t think of the characters sporting face gear that covers their mouths. However, the pandemic has made it so that if the school still wants to put on a production, the cast must have some sort of protective face covering in order to procced.

Ms. Roll, an English teacher at Mills and the director of the Region 10 Players Production Program, informed us on how mask mandates have affected the productions and set.

According to Roll, in the school’s fall production, she had to make the mask a part of the characters and set the play in modern times. For “Cinderella” Roll said that she plans to use nude colored masks to “conceal them” or to have “many students vaccinated.”

But despite the drastic changes this year, when Lewis Mills principal Mr. Rau was asked about what the future may look like, he was overall optimistic. “My hope is everyone’s back, we have no remote learning, we have virtually no quarantines because the majority of students are vaccinated.” While these are of course merely hopes, it is undeniable that the school has made great progress since the beginning of the pandemic in March, and a gradual return to normal seems likely.

And while the future may seem full of uncertainties, it has been confirmed that next year will resemble the past in at least one way: the six period schedule. This year’s addition of the flex period will also be worked into the schedule, albeit a shortened version.

Although the A and B days will be left behind, not everything implemented during this unique year will be abandoned. Rau commented on the possibility of implementing Zoom into the next school year. He stated how the platform could be useful, “Even for things like open house or parent conferences or, you know, some events and meetings that we do. I think Zoom becomes more of a possibility.”

While we may be eager to look towards the future for comfort, it is impossible to not reflect on this year’s successes. The school has persisted through the turmoil of the pandemic, and no one’s efforts have gone unnoticed. Rau not only applauded the admirable efforts of the teachers throughout the year but also ventured to comment how “I cannot say how impressed I have been with the students and just making it work.”

The strides towards a return to normal made by the staff and student body alike have been diligent and all efforts towards maintaining the school’s extracurricular functions have been relatively successful. For Rau, the eagerness of students to keep participating in the school’s functions “just reinforced for me how important it is and how much students want to be involved.”

Overall, this year has brought about much change- some temporary, like the masks and social distancing hallway lines. Other changed will carry on past the pandemic, like the prospect of distanced learning on days away from school, and the popular flex block. This year has left many feeling as though they are walking through quicksand, dragging their feet, stumbling towards a prophesized finish line that is nowhere in sight. But a change is coming, and many hope that next year is back to normal- or at least as much as possible. Whatever the outcome is, the drastic anomaly that was this school year will be remembered- positively and negatively- for years to come.