A COVID-Induced Ultimatum

In late January, West students were met with a difficult decision between two very different options on how to finish out the 2021 school year. Here is an update on how that plan has rolled out.


Ava Burchell, Staff Writer

All students had to choose between returning to school full-time, with social distancing and masks, of course; or finish out the year virtually.   

When my mom laid out my two options for how to complete my senior year, I couldn’t believe that the district was making us choose between the two drastically different options.  After a few days of reflection on the pros and cons of each option, I decided that the in-person option was the best way for me to finish my senior year.  I missed the people, especially those who I was not close friends with, and therefore didn’t make conscious efforts to speak to outside of school.  I am happy with my decision to return in-person full-time, and although the circumstances are unprecedented, the 9 days I have spent at school so far have been some of the best times of my life.  I believe that because I chose to physically go to school for the end of my West experience, I will leave with fond memories (mostly from the social side) that I wouldn’t have been able to have if I had stayed home.   

Of course, this is just my perspective, and many West students have strong feelings about the ultimatum and options we were presented with.  Most of the students who have returned in-person have positive opinions about it.  Trisha George, a junior, said, “Coming back from being all-virtual, it’s great to be more engaged with my classes again.”  Brett Pinnelli, a junior, agrees.  He explained that “full time helps me focus, and it’s nice to get some social time in as well and see friends.”  Being in school holds students accountable for their participation and attention, whereas at home, teachers cannot necessarily tell if students are participating, or even paying attention.  The social aspect of in-person is a recurring favorite among returning students.  Mikayla Havers, a senior, exclaims, “I like being in person!  It’s so nice to actually see people and interact with them.”  Skylar McFadden, a senior, agrees. “It’s nice being in real life for social interaction.”   

Of course, the drastic change to returning full-time in-person has brought hardships upon students.  Charlotte Weiss, a junior, acknowledges that “it was a hard adjustment, but I’m happy to be able to see my friends again.”  Emmi Simon, a senior, agrees that socializing is far better in-person, but it is harder to get good grades: “Full-time in-person is curing my mental health, but my grades are going down.”  Chloe McKelvey, a junior, comments that “in-person is scary but fun.”  Is the increase in socialization worth the health risks?  No one knows for sure, yet.   

Some students were put-off by the two drastically different choices with no middle ground.  Liam Price, a senior, said, “I wish they allowed us the leniency to switch.  I hate that it’s the rest of the year.”  Arielle Podoksik, a senior, also wishes for a different option: “I love being at home, but I wish we could switch back and forth like before.”  It seems that having to make a concrete decision on how to finish the year was a hard decision for a lot of students.   

Online students have expressed mixed emotions about their situation.  Kiersten Cote, a senior, said, “I like all-online.”  Emma James, a senior, also enjoys working online. “I like online because I’m more organized and can use my own computer.”  On the other hand, students like Mihika Shah, a senior, do not enjoy the option, but accept why they chose it.  She said that “being fully online is depressing because I know it’s for a good cause, but I’m losing my senior year.”   

This school year has been one of the most abnormal to date, and students are finding varying degrees of success in this modified version of West.  As much as we all wish to return to normalcy, West students still care about the health and safety of their peers, and are making the decisions they think will best keep themselves and others safe, happy and healthy.