On Monday, March 9th, 2020, probably no student woke up thinking this will be the last week I go to Avonworth High School and not have to wear a mask. That Monday seemed normal, everyone just going about their mostly regular daily high school routines. By that Wednesday, students started to talk about the new virus that was spreading in other parts of the country, and maybe even some even began to think about how it may potentially affect us. By Thursday, March 12, 2020, colleges such as Slippery Rock began to issue a two-week closure, and North Allegheny soon followed shortly after. On Friday, March 13th, 2020, students began to eagerly wait for an “extended” spring break, still not giving the virus any peak of worry. There were new hand sanitizers already throughout the school and we had attended a school assembly about hand-washing right at the start of March 2020. That might have seemed enough at the time. Instead…we all know how this played out. Everyone left the high school for the rest of 2019 and then all throughout 2019-2020 we came to school in Group A or B for most of the year. Some students stayed virtual the whole year. Numbers of deaths and cases were constantly on all families’ tv screens, even just flicking through channels, hearing the words ‘Corona Virus’ ‘masks’ or ‘social distancing’ on nearly every news channel had become a new norm for us. The seriousness of the virus cannot go overlooked.
This past August 2021, it wasn’t hard to see that new cliques formed within the school walls that couldn’t have existed outside of the COVID pandemic — the maskers and the anti-maskers. Though this may be something not many people gave much thought to, being there was already debate over this topic all over the world, having to mask at school revealed an overarching separation between groups of students in the school. The anti-maskers would roam the halls with masks under their chins, or even with it completely off. Maskers, quite frankly, just stay masked up. There can be many reasons why students fit into these groups. Maybe anti-maskers disagreed with the reasoning, or they wanted to stand up to authority, or they just didn’t want to have the discomfort of wearing it. Maskers seemed to be relatively self-explanatory – to keep themselves and others safe. Despite the majority of all students understanding that the virus is dangerous, there had still been this sort of group separation that I haven’t seen at Avonworth in all my years here. I am sure everyone has been itching to not have to wear masks anymore, but I think it is important we acknowledge this sort of rare half and half cliques that have occurred over the past year.
This brings us to today, March 8, 2022, just about two years from the start of pandemic impacting our daily school lives. I walked into school today to see faces I haven’t seen in years. It was an odd, but relieving feeling. It is hard to explain how it felt, almost like the first day of school by the giddy atmosphere. To be able to see facial expressions again, and to hear people more clearly instead of having to say “WHAT?” every five seconds in a conversation. My friends and I had talked about the freeing feelings it had given us, and even laughed about how we will have to control our facial expressions in class when we disapprove of something or don’t understand.
I find it shocking how I have never seen nearly all of the underclassman’s whole faces before, due to being virtual all last year. The lunchrooms were full just like the good ol’ days, with six students allowed to sit at each table, and no more students having to eat in the gyms.
These last two years will definitely be memorable and a bit chaotic, but a time that I am sure none of us will forget. I learned to value day-to-day interactions more, and just how much different they seem when they are maskless.
I hope masks stay in the past, as do the majority of people, and I am eager for this last mask-free quarter.