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‘I’m missing part of the high school experience’: A month into classes, Orangeville students are settling into the COVID-19 normal

Safety procedures like masks and social distancing are in place to stop the virus, and extracurricular activities are non-existent.

Classes are both virtual and in-person, semesters are now quadmesters, and gone are the days of four courses over six hours.

While every student is feeling this, those nearing the end of their secondary education feel the impact the most.

“I feel like I’m missing part of the high school experience,” said Katie Greenley, a Grade 11 student at Westside. “It’s strange. That’s the best word I can use to describe it.”

Despite everything though, Greenley feels the overall experience has been pretty good.

“It’s definitely much better than I anticipated,” she said.

Each semester’s four courses have been split in half, each getting a full five weeks dedicated solely to that subject, with two courses alternating back and forth each quadmester.

In Greenley’s case, that means five days a week of history, then five days a week of math.

“The courses have been condensed so much,” she explained. “It’s kind of nice not having to balance all the courses, but it is a lot of work.”

One of the biggest challenges this has created is the info-dumping.

“I feel like they’re doing the best job that they can, but it really is a lot,” she said. “It’s two and a half hours straight of one subject. At times it can be difficult to make sure you don’t lose focus.”

The info-dumping creates the largest challenge for math and science students. With so much content, they learn three days a week, have one day for reviews, and a test every Friday.

“You’re learning a month’s worth of math in three days,” she said. “But there’s nothing that can be done about this. The teachers are doing the best they can to try and help us. It’s just a lot.”

She credits teachers as being a large part of what makes the situation less daunting.

In the spring, educators were thrown into remote teaching and accessible only via email. Now they have access to options like Google Meet and other chat programs allowing them to connect with students in real time.

“I can’t imagine how challenging it is to teach a course right now, trying to get in all this material,” said Greenley. “They’ve been so wonderful.”

The in-school portion of learning also has a different feel to it, thanks to the safety protocols. Where classes would normally be filled with friends chatting and group projects, rooms are often quiet.

“We’re socially distanced and we have masks on, so classes are silent most of the times,” explained Greenley. “We’re not getting that social aspect of school. You get to school, learn, and go home.”

These protocols have affected other areas of school as well, even trumping some previous safety measures such as one of everyone’s favourites—fire drills.
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