Warriors Conquering First Semester—Mask & All

by Kevin Salazar

We all are still wearing masks as we head into the second half of this second quarter of the first semester of the school year…

However, at least we are all back.

A year ago, there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of our world, our country, and our schools. Some of that uncertainty may not have found permanent answers or solutions…

But we’re back.

Despite the chaos and disorder that began in March, 2020, when district schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a miracle vaccine helped us to resume normalcy, although with some hesitation and anxiety.

“I missed [being back in classrooms in] school,” said Alex Rodriguez, a junior. “I missed socializing and the feeling of being here and actually sitting in a classroom with a teacher educating us in person and not on a tiny screen online.”

Another junior, Leo Duarte, said, “Now that I’m back this year, I honestly don’t know how I ever survived last year on-line. I know that our teachers were frustrated about the technology, and I know that they really tried their hardest to teach us, but so many of us students feel like we were short-changed the education that we would normally receive in the classroom.”

Duarte added, “This is probably why all of us juniors feel behind and why we’re told by our teachers how much we have to learn to play ‘catch-up’.”

Natalia Arteaga, a junior, said, “I feel like my anxiety was diminished this school year. I’m learning more this school year than on-line instruction. I couldn’t imagine learning anatomy on-line!”

As we marched through this first quarter with determination and tenacity, most students were relieved that policies and standards for athletic sports have improved, even though players are still required to wear masks while practicing and playing.

Junior Victoria Cazares, a fervid basketball player, stated, “Last year we had to follow a lot of rules we were not used to. The mask was new, and for many of us, it was uncomfortable. Now, it’s normal, and we’ve adjusted to wearing them. We are resilient—we face challenges and overcome them, just like when we play sports.”

Many teachers shared their struggles to teach online. They missed teaching students in-person; returning to their classrooms was like being back home.

“I love being back!” English teacher Ms. Caroline Fioramanti said. “At first, teaching back in the classroom was tough—especially enforcing mask-wearing. However, I’m used to it now, and I believe that our students are, too. Wearing masks and getting the vaccine are symbols of caring for ourselves and for the community.”

Our administrative team is also happy to govern a school with students and teachers in person. Ms. Kathryn Gunnels, assistant principal, said that she is relieved that we are getting back on track.

“Sure, it [returning in person] is challenging,” Gunnels said, referring to the safety mandates that have been implemented this year. “However, I’m okay with these mandates. I feel comfortable and a little safer wearing masks.”

She paused and said, “I think a lot of people feel like I do—that you never know how good something is until it’s gone—and having students, faculty, staff and administration is definitely a good thing.”

Most students, teachers and administrators feel confident that we can endure the school year—and even make it thrive at times.

“I don’t think many of us could have survived another year on-line,” said senior Lisa Morales-Bonillas. “I feel sorry especially for the Class of 2020 who never had the chance to graduate on time with a formal ceremony. I hope that doesn’t happen to us. We’re all a little nervous about what’s going to happen next semester—if COVID-19 cases will escalate or decrease.”

She paused and added, “For now, everything is cool. I suppose we all just need to live from day to day and not get overwhelmed about the future. Everybody just needs to get vaccinated and to social distance as much as possible. That’s the only way we’re going to wipe out this [COVID-19] pandemic.”

Morales-Bonillas continued, “Those who don’t get vaccinated should realize how they are not only jeopardizing their own health but also risking others’ health. I think next year, the district should mandate vaccinations for all students who want to be learn in-person. For those who don’t or refuse to be vaccinated, they should learn on-line and stay away from others who are trying to get back to normal.”

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