By Pritha Nag
It was almost 20 months ago when we were told to stay home for two weeks and do school through a calling app called Zoom. Since then, a lot has changed. A devastating pandemic wrecked families killing a reported 400,000 people in India, a vaccine was found for the pandemic, things reopened and then shut almost as fast as they first did. During April and May of this year, India experienced its deadly second wave, which peaked at a devastating 400,000 cases a day. But as the rains came to wash over India during Monsoon it almost felt as if it washed away that devastating second wave, and here we are now. Although Covid-19 is still as ever-present as before,
with the current low transmission rate present in most of India and Maharashtra, Mumbai (touchwood!) schools have been permitted to reopen, after a long 20-month gap. But what is a school like during a pandemic, and how much has changed in those long 20 months?
Living in 2021 calls for modern-day education, but along with that it also calls for modern-day restrictions. The restrictions that have almost made us question how we ever lived before them also come into play with school reopening. Each student must maintain a 3 feet distance from another student, and 6 feet with the teacher. One student per table or a maximum of two.
Although these restrictions do change up school a bit, being back in the building still makes the school feel even a bit like before. Every school is likely to take a different approach, but Ascend took the gradual easing into it type of approach. At first, it started with the lower grades coming to school once every week from 7:50 to 1:10, and then eventually the upper grades. And for the next two weeks before Diwali break grades 9 through 12 will be coming three times a week, and grades 6 through 8 twice a week and lower grades all coming once a week. Post Diwali Break grades 6 through 8 go thrice a week and grades 9 through 12 will go four times a week.
Coming to school during a pandemic calls for restrictions and requirements to follow. Although the building is the same, the people are the same, the classes are the same and the teachers are the same, the school is completely different than before. 3 feet is to be kept from students to students as a measure of social distancing and 6 feet for students to teachers. Although this means that you can’t hug your friends, and it’s a maximum of two at a table, it’s a price we’d all be willing to pay to just be back in the classroom! Masks are fully mandatory, and the only time you can take them off is when eating, and that too at a distance from all of your friends. Although the restrictions do change school a bit and it’s not fully the same, being back at school is something that we’ve all just been wanting to feel.
But do teachers and students share the same sentiments for school reopening? When chemistry and 11th-grade homeroom teacher Ms Zarna was asked what she thought of school reopening she said– “I’m very glad because students can have the whole learning experience of how the unit should be and how they should work collaboratively with each other. They’re also in contact with more people beyond just their friends during the online period, which I think is good.” Ms Zarna continued by saying she’s “very happy” to see most people back at school. When asked if the restrictions in place make a difference Ms Zarna answered with– “Yes, just for the simple fact that we have to wear masks, and a struggle I face is sometimes I’m just not audible from across the classroom because of my mask. The students can’t really be in contact with each other, but I think at the end of the day being back outweighs the restrictions.”
But how must it be to have joined school online for it to now start in person? When asking Ishaan Rajan, a new student in 9th grade what he thought about school reopening this is what he had to say– “I’m very happy to be able to meet everybody for the first time. Joining online was obviously a bit of a struggle socially, but meeting everyone and interacting has been really enjoyable.” But what do students who have been here since school was shut in March 2020 think of school reopening–“It’s been really fun, and it’s been really nice to get back and see everybody, and do the in-person learning that I’ve wanted to do ever since things shut down in March.” Said 11th grader Manavi Nag.
When 10th grade student Anya Daftary was asked what she thinks of school reopening– “The space of our school is just so different and unique and the real learning happens in that space, which obviously it was a bit difficult to adapt online. And even though it’s been two years now of online school, coming back to campus, it’s starting to feel normal.” Carrying on with that Anya thought that “The pace of learning and teaching is really different because of that switch from online to offline.” Anya thinks “It’s been a bit difficult for both teachers and students but just being in the campus with teachers and students and anybody for that matter just feels so nice.” Moving forward Anya felt like “The restriction make a difference per say, I think we are a pretty small school, so in school everyone abides by the restrictions and we’re really safe and careful about everything, and we know that just one case can shut everything down and everyone just knows how much this matters, so we don’t want to put that in jeopardy. I don’t think the restrictions really affect the learning or teaching, I think it’s more of a social thing, which we can all adapt to!”
From what the students and teacher we can see that going back to school and being back in the classroom is just what all of us have been wanting. Even with the restrictions in place, although they do make a difference we can see that just getting the chance to be back in school is worth it!
All in all, coming back to school and the feeling of normalcy is something most of us have been craving to feel. Being back on campus doesn’t just mean in-person classes, it means fun events, laughs with your friends, snack and lunch with your friends, meeting new people and experiencing something that should be so normal. Living in a time like the pandemic has been difficult and a weird experience, but a sense of going back to a new type of normal is something very necessary.