Students Return to School Buildings Full Time

Students Return to School Buildings Full Time

Jacqueline Kim, Managing Editor

Entering the school building instills a sense of nostalgia within me, one that is both familiar and strange. Students fill the hallways, talking excitedly with friends or speeding to their next period classes. Within classrooms, desks are filled by students, and teachers stand lecturing by the SmartBoards. Above all, there is the sense of intimacy and welcome that was absent all of last school year and the abruptly ended year before. Computer screens no longer divide classrooms and desk shields no longer blockade students within the spans of their own desks. Instead, the building feels normal. Yes, the long awaited normalcy has finally arrived.

This month, Tenafly schools returned to fully in-person schedules. Following Governor Murphy’s statement that all New Jersey schools would return fully in person in the fall, the Tenafly schools have brought all students and staff back into the district’s seven buildings to follow through with normal year schedules. At the high school, days now extend until 3:11 p.m., including lunch periods between morning and afternoon classes. Although students are still required to wear masks within school, we have returned to near normal programming.

I, myself, am returning to school after a virtually virtual sophomore year. After having my freshman year abruptly cut short, and then enduring my sophomore year Zoom class after Zoom class, I’ve finally returned to the physical classrooms for my junior year. Although I attended in-person school for the first full week of my sophomore year, I only now feel fully in school as we are now finally without the need for desk shields, excessive concern for Covid, and shortened school schedules. Walking through hallways and attending classes now, it feels as if the last year of struggle never even happened, apart from the renewed sense of gratitude I feel now. 

Although, at first, back in March of 2020, the prospects of having two weeks off of school sounded like some sort of undeserved miracle, I think we’ve all come to miss school, especially as it resumed several months through Zoom. Despite the advantages of being able to sleep in, eat through classes, and breeze through periods with the touch of a mousepad, it simply wasn’t the same. Returning to school now, I’m able to appreciate many of the little things I’d taken for granted before. Simply walking through the hallways and seeing familiar faces, visiting my locker, being able to sit at a desk––these are all small excitements that add to the experience of high school.

In addition to this, being in school really does engender the feeling of being in school. I can hardly recount my sophomore year and what I’ve learned, but being in the building has returned to me a sense of busyness and productivity, virtues that had been lost in the translation of a virtual computer screen. And while this may not apply to all, I’ve found an incredible appreciation for learning, as we’ve been deprived of the authentic “classroom-experience” for too long. Despite the struggles that are sure to come along with my junior year, I feel an overwhelming amount of hope and excitement for the year to come.

As for the freshmen and sophomores alike, this year has become like their first “true” experience in high school––eight hour days, lunch periods, and full hallways and classrooms. “The main difference for me is that one day of school feels like an entire year of my life,” Grace Chung (’24) said. “Don’t get me wrong, I love school but it’s only been the first week and it feels like April.” The longer days and longer periods have indeed felt protracted, especially after getting used to a year of shorter half-days. Yes, the return to normality is sure to come with a period of discomfort and adjustment, but it comes, too, with its own share of upsides as well. Lunch has become a welcome break between long morning and afternoon classes, and a great opportunity for students to and talk with friends, a social period that was absent the year prior. “I think I’ve experienced a lot of new things this year, like lunch, and I love seeing everyone happy, eating together,” Chung said.

For the seniors, this year seems on track to be a real senior year. Although this cannot entirely compare to a pre-Covid year, seniors have still been given the chance of enjoying their final hurrah of high school. “I love being back in school with everyone, and I think it makes school way more enjoyable,” Lucy Harper (’22) said. The make-shift school year we experienced last year cannot nearly compare to the experience of a true, “normal” year, and returning full time has returned a greater sense of excitement. “As for having things back to normal with a full schedule again, it’s been a little bit more tiring than I expected, but it’s completely worth it,” Harper said. “I love being a senior and while there is stress with college applications I’ve definitely learned to cherish every moment in high school because you never know when it could all disappear, so I’m having a great time!”

Teachers, too, are dealing with the challenge of readjusting to full days and longer class periods. “Being back in person is a welcome step towards normalcy [and the] ability to keep students more engaged makes for a better learning environment,” said finance teacher Mr. Hiler. “The full day is, admittedly, a little rough! We were all spoiled by a shorter day the past couple years. But we will get used to it once again, I’m sure!” Many teachers look forward to the prospects of the coming year and a return to more authentic learning. “With the hybrid model hopefully behind us, I am excited to be back in the classroom with all of my students and to be conducting classes in the way that I have done for so many other years before COVID,” said math teacher Mr. Moreng. “The students also seem grateful to be back in person… Without a doubt, it has been a crazy year and 4 month of teaching.”

While this school year will be unlike any other, we must continue to appreciate our blessings. This return to normalcy has definitely been an experience filled with gratitude as I come to recognize how valuable these four years in high school have been and will be. Despite my initial misgivings regarding the idea of returning full-time, I’ve come to love attending my classes and returning to a definite schedule. Above all, I’ve found a great deal of comfort in grasping a fistful of “a normal life,” one that—for the last year and a half—I’ve only been able to reminisce about through pictures and memories.