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I write this on Sept. 2, in the middle of my third week of school as a senior at Evanston Township High School.
What I thought would be a month full of hugging and reconnecting with friends, getting assigned seats, and eating with a big group in the cafeteria is now confined to a small screen in my room. No drives to school, no smiling at people in the hallways, no studying in the library before a test. My senior year, the one I’ve been looking forward to for so long, now feels hardly tangible.
Sure, I was disappointed to hear we would be all online for the start of school — who wasn’t? But my experience over the summer as a student representative for the Fall Reopening Task Force at ETHS helped me understand why being entirely online was the only way for our school to open this fall. Over the summer, the task force held weekly Zoom meetings to discuss the school’s plans for reopening. Administrators, teachers, and students participated and shared their thoughts on a host of back-to-school initiatives. Dr. Marcus Campbell, our school’s assistant superintendent, led the task force with confidence, integrity, and perseverance. While many of us felt anxious about what was to come, Dr. Campbell kept his composure amidst the chaos, eventually leading us to the consensus that we should commit to enhanced e-learning for the 2020-2021 school year.
The times we’re now living through have made the media and the news constantly available to us. Alerts on our phones, the radio, our TV’s at home — you name it. Over this past summer, the barrage of information about COVID-19 seemed inescapable, as did the rising rates of infection. The reality was unavoidable — COVID-19 wasn’t stopping, and it terrified me to think about going back to school in the way we had before the pandemic. To be back in our large building, circulating among more than 4,000 students and staff — it just seemed that, no matter how hard you might try, contracting a virus this aggressive would be inevitable in such an unpredictable environment. It was about halfway through the summer when I realized nothing was getting any better. Cases were still climbing, people were still dying, and if ETHS were to fully reopen in the fall, the health and safety of every student, teacher, and staff member would be compromised.
So yes, I am sad not to be getting the senior year I always dreamed of. I am sad to know I most likely won’t get a prom or a live graduation ceremony at Welsh-Ryan Arena. But when I see what is happening in other schools that have chosen to reopen, threatening the safety of their students and staff, I feel proud to be at ETHS. I am proud to know that our administrators made the right decision. I am proud that the Evanston community has chosen to be responsible while we tackle this virus head on. Most of all, I am proud of our collective determination to get through this together.