Students Look Ahead to the New School Year

graphic+by+Alexandra+Valencia

graphic by Alexandra Valencia

Juan Ramirez (JC) Delgadillo, web editor

Over the past three years, students and teachers have been impacted by COVID-19. Three years ago, education went online in the middle of March 2020, and most students continued remote learning for at least another six months, but even going into the 2021-2022 school year, there were debates about mask mandates and the safety of schools. The 2022-2023 school year is looking to be the first year since the pandemic in which students could return to normalcy.

 

As COVID-19 cases have lowered in Austin and variants are less severe, Austin Independent School District (AISD) has adapted their protocol for COVID-19. Since  the beginning of August, COVID-19 cases have steadily lowered by 16%, and the average COVID-19 related deaths have lowered to less than 1 fatality per day, according to the New York Times. Given lower cases, LASA Principal Stacia Crescenzi said AISD is not requiring masks, temperature checks, or contact tracing for the new year. School buses will also operate at the same capacity as they have in previous years without the need for students to wear masks, according to Crescenzi. LASA will keep informing students of a positive case though, and masks or desk shields are available, if students prefer.

 

Junior Lily Crain remembers feeling worried about when AISD lifted their mask mandate on March 7, 2022, due to her personal medical issues. However, Crain said she felt more safe going into the 2022-2023 fall semester.

 

“Being immunocompromised, I was a little worried that Covid[-19] would be spreading a lot once masks became optional,” Crain said, “but because there were a lot of people who still wore masks, it made me feel a lot safer.

 

Along with adjusting to mask policies, Junior Miguel Urrieta said the transition from virtual to in-person school  was difficult. He said there were a lot of things students had to relearn due to the discipline needed in a school environment that had previously been more flexible because of the pandemic.

 

“My school year was pretty hard because it was hard to transition from online to in-person.” Urrieta said. “In-person school was definitely much tougher because there was more discipline involved. I had to learn how to manage my time and learn to ask for help from my teachers and other students.”

 

Senior Aileen Chow agreed that the expectation for students entering in person last year was very stressful, especially entering as a junior. She felt that teachers quickly moved back into the way of teaching that had been done before the pandemic. 

 

“It was really difficult to come back to a year in person,” Chow said. “I haven’t seen my friends and actual people in so long and I had to get used to the difficult year of being a junior. When we got back, [ourteachers] expectations went back to normal and I definitely wasn’t used to it, especially with junior year having been really hard with all those AP classes.”

 

Chow is hoping that this upcoming semester will be easier because she will have adjusted to teachers’ expectations. Senior Kendra Vaz is looking forward to the semester because Vaz enjoyed how many classes last year restarted labs and other projects that were more interactive in person than in online classes.

 

“I liked that I got to do more hands-on activities for my ceramics and AP Chemistry class,” Vaz said, “compared to sophomore year where my chemistry classes removed all of the fun labs we were going to have.”

 

Many social events started again  last school year and continued their events like normal. Junior Sarah Gallart was very happy to be participating in clubs again.

 

“I participated in clubs like Choreo pop, Tea and Cards, and LPA.” Gallart said. “Participation in person is definitely better than online, since these clubs are more focused on community. I personally would feel very awkward talking to people over zoom, especially since it would entail having to talk to strangers online. Walking into a new room and experience is much more simple when in person as you can be more social naturally.”

 

Crain talked about how being in person improved the mental health of students. She felt that being online was a detriment to both her grades and her mental health which affected her greatly.

 

“My school year went a lot better than the online year.” Crain said. “I was able to improve my mental health which helped me have the motivation to take pride in my work and get my grades up as high as I could.”

 

Gallart feels that even though she took her freshman year online and had a muted sophomore year, she still had the preparation needed to start her junior year. She hopes that succeeding online will prove to be a benefit to her this upcoming year.

 

“Based on the commentary of my friends in grades above me, I fully expect junior year to be challenging.” Gallart said. “We have the SATs, college and scholarship applications, harder classes, and extracurriculars. Hopefully with the skills I’ve learned in freshman and sophomore year, I’ll be able to more easily manage the load of junior year. In a certain way I feel that I have an advantage as I was able to develop the skills of working from home and in school. On the other side, I do feel like I missed out on some important content, especially in freshman year where everything was cut down.”

 

The pandemic’s effects on students have lowered significantly this year allowing for a more normal school year.Crain is thrilled about returning to a normal school environment.  

 

“I feel optimistic that this year is gonna be the best one yet and not because I’m going to be a senior.” Crain said. “I feel like this school year is going to be almost at the normality that it was pre-COVID[-19].”