A Freshman’s Take on Starting High School During a Pandemic

Hannah Bezahler

With the Coronavirus spreading across the world, nearly 10% of the population infected, more than a million dead, and many out of jobs, the year 2020 has been unprecedented. While there are many substantial problems to be solved, small issues are taking over our world as well, such as reopening of schools and how this would impact the freshmen class entering high school. A new school with new people, new teachers, and new expectations is hard as it is, but through a pandemic it is even more difficult. After months of struggling to adjust, I have finally settled into my first year at Central. As it turns out, high school is not as scary as it seems in the movies. 

The 8th grade Class of 2020’s experience this past March ended abruptly, and we were faced with the new and unfamiliar world of high school post-quarantine. For most of my life, I dreaded the day I would reach Hunterdon Central. Its large campus size and student body seemed extremely intimidating. Despite the unfamiliar circumstances, the faculty and staff have worked extremely hard to welcome the new Freshman class. However, because of COVID, activities have been severely altered to fit recommendations and standards from health officials pertaining to virus safety. At the freshman orientation, for example, the tour was very brief and we were not able to map out the location of our classes or get a feel for the school’s overwhelming size.

I certainly did not expect to begin high school from my bedroom. Considering I am only in the building two days a week, finding my way around the school has remained difficult, even though we’re three months into the school year. The one-way hallways, an addition created this year to limit student contact, does not make it any easier. I cannot imagine what it will be like for an all virtual student when they are finally on campus, when myself and other students are still struggling to find our way around after nine weeks. 

The pandemic has allowed many people to come up with creative ways to stay in contact with family and friends, but making new connections has proven to be difficult this year. Part of the high school experience is getting to meet new people and form bonds through all kinds of activities. Middle school kept many of us separate and Central is supposed to be an opportunity for all of us to come together as one community. With each grade split in half and many students fully virtual, the “Central experience” has been lost. Having never interacted with people outside of my middle school, I don’t know anyone in some of my classes. Due to many safety precautions being put in place, there is almost no opportunity for engaging in conversations with classmates. After school social gatherings or events have mostly been canceled or altered as well, making options for meeting new friends extremely limited. The football games that were once a staple of student culture are now buried under strict protocols. Sports seasons have been cut short and club meetings are over Zoom. With everyone hidden behind their masks inside school and events being so different after hours, I’ve found it really difficult to make those connections with fellow students. 

News about the Coronavirus is constantly changing. From its peak back in the spring of 2020, to when many states saw a decline in cases during the summer; in November, infections are once again on the rise and some countries have even gone back into lock-down. There’s the ever-looming possibility of schools being shut down again, which would put us back into fully remote learning. As difficult as it’s been, this is a time to feel grateful that we did get to have these few precious months of school. Even though some sports seasons may have been put on pause or maybe have even ended early, we should feel lucky that anyone got to play at all. Times like these help us to see how we took our favorite activities for granted in past years. We should be thankful that clubs have found ways to get students involved and that Central has been able to host some online events. While our school may physically be divided right now, we are all attempting to adjust to this new normal and make the best of it whether you are, like me, a struggling freshman or a senior preparing for college.  But if one message should prevail, just know the pandemic will eventually end, and we will all be brought together once again.