As I got in my car and drove to school today, I braced myself for the changes that I knew were coming. Like most students today, I was nervous, but I was also excited. After almost six months of being out of school, this morning, August 24th, 2020, we returned.
While some students tuned into class virtually today, I will be attending this year, my final year of high school, in the traditional format. As I arrived at school and went about my day today, the bits of normalcy that still remain was like a breath of fresh air. There are many changes, and I doubt that this school year will ever be the same, but the fact that I was able to come back has made it all worth it. Everything we’re enduring is worth it, no matter how vastly different our lives are.
Throughout the day, I documented the changes and differences at our school caused by COVID-19. This is what Cypress Creek looks like with during Coronavirus Pandemic:
Regardless of if you arrive and leave school by a parent driving you, driving yourself, or riding a bus, all three have had changes to their procedures. Starting with the car loop, parent drop-off isn’t all that different; it mostly varies in picking students up at the end of the day. Parents now will text Cypress Creek’s Google voice number when they arrive to pick up their child. The student will then leave the Cafeteria (the new waiting place for students being picked up) and exit through the black gates.
As for student drivers, we are asked to not loiter in the parking lot, which was previously a popular hangout spot before classes started. Now, we must go straight to class, and no students are allowed to hang out in the hallways at any point during the day.
“A sign of the times” as some may say, masks are now required in school at all times. Our Cypress Creek signs and posters have even been modified so that our Coyote is wearing a mask too! There are three exceptions to the mask policy…
The three exceptions to this rule are:
1) During lunch, while you are eating and drinking
2) If your teacher grants you a mask break, where you are given permission to step outside the classroom while maintaining social distance and not moving, and remove your mask temporarily for a breather
3) When participating in a sport that the coach gives you permission to take off your mask
When going from class to class, at least six feet of social distancing must be maintained between both students and staff at all times. The halls have also been redirected so that you must stay to the right when passing to classes, and doors are marked as either “Enter Only” or “Exit Only”.
Lunchtime now looks different in a few ways. First and foremost, students’ eating area has expanded drastically. No longer limited to the Cafeteria and the tables outside of it, students can also eat in assigned seats via a teacher’s classroom, the gym, or the courtyard. For those remaining at the tables in the Cafeteria, it is two to a table inside, and up to three outside, with the seats off-limits, adorned in yellow tape. The lines have changed as well: there are now only four lines (with stickers marking social distancing spots on the floor), and all serving the exact same thing. This sadly means our beloved A la Carte and, my personal favorite, salad bar line, are now gone.
It was in the classroom that I experienced the most drastic changes. From the moment I stepped through the door of my first-period classroom, things were different. Due to contact tracking, a procedure put into place in case someone were to get COVID-19, we have assigned seating in every class. The max number of students allowed to sit per table is two, and tables are spread as far apart as possible. Additionally, students can only use their own supplies (goodbye class staplers and tape dispensers), and at the end of each class period, we are responsible for wiping down our tables with germicide. In rooms that have two doors, one is now strictly “Exit Only” and the other “Entrance Only”, similar to the hallways. Though perhaps even stranger than these new rules such as wearing masks and not being allowed to hug and touch one another, is the fact that in all but one of my classes, half of the students were zooming in. It felt very strange for some of us to be together, while others were simply one of many electronic squares. Friends I’ve sat in class with for years, now miles away.
Everything about our new school routine is an adjustment. But at the end of the day, I could never truly put into words how grateful I am that I get to go through those adjustments in person. It is something that has always been important to me, and I thank every staff member, in not only our school but the district as a whole, for putting forth the effort that made it possible for me to walk through those black gates today, my last first day of high school. I thank you all for sacrificing your time, and as some feel, safety so that I can have my Senior year.
So yes, many things are different. My typical high school day is perhaps forever gone. But one thing that is not gone; that is even stronger than ever; is the Coyote Nation that I have loved since I became part of it four years ago.