High School is very different this ‘quadmester’

Published October 28, 2020

By Rasa Karges
SCS Student Reporter

HELLO, Maple Leaf readers, it’s Rasa from Simcoe Composite School back again, this time to share some insights as to what COVID-19 schooling looks like at Simcoe Composite School this year. After a six-month-long March Break, students were finally able to get back into our school, but not without a completely new set of rules and guidelines.

A normal school year would see students taking up to eight classes split over two semesters, the first semester starting in September and the second in February. Each semester ends with exams, and in June, we head out for summer vacation. The 2020-2021 school year, however, looks nothing of the sort…

In hopes of lowering the risk of COVID transmission, Grand Erie District School Board has taken great measures to reduce movement within our schools. So, instead of the usual semesters, students will complete 4 two-course quadmesters over the school year, with our two classes alternating each week until the start of a new quadmester.

Students are enrolled in what would normally have been our first period class for an all-day, Monday to Friday week, and the next week we switch to what would have been our second period class. For example, students are now spending an entire week taking math or physical education and then the next week switching to chemistry or music or something else.

The same changes are in place for any student that has chosen to stay at home and participate in online education only. This new process continues until each student has completed a total of 8 courses over 4 quadmesters. This “same class all day” lifestyle has had a huge impact on the well-being of students.

I myself find this schedule extremely mentally and physically draining, as we spend most days sitting for long periods of time, trying to consume vast amounts of information, and then – after spending an entire school day on that one subject – we come home and must finish homework for that class or study for an upcoming test! Although this can be difficult, I know that many students still prefer being back in school with their friends and teachers, everyone struggling together, rather than spending more time alone online, learning from their desks, couches, or kitchen counters.

In addition to schedule changes, many strict rules and guidelines have been put in place at Simcoe Composite in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Every student and teacher is required to wear a fully covering facemask at all times with the only exception being if you are outside and remain six-feet away from all other people (or if you are in the process of eating or drinking).

Students are assigned one of five designated school entrances and exits to use, as well as certain stairwells and bathrooms, depending on where their class is located. We must move single file and safely distanced whenever we leave class. The “normal” school day has also been modified to keep students as focused as possible, with one 10-minute break allowed in the morning, a 50-minute lunch break around 11:30, and another 10-minute break in the afternoon.

If the weather is nice, both of our breaks and lunchtime can be spent outside, allowing us to remove our masks (if we stay six feet apart!) and breathe in some fresh air. So far, we have been lucky to have only had a handful of rainy days that have kept us inside all day, during which students have eaten lunch at their desks, gone on their phones or chatted with friends in the classroom.

In many ways, high school this year runs similar to elementary school. While this does take away a lot of the freedom and fun of high school, some students are actually strengthening as a group, as we spend all day with the same classmates. However, this may not be the case for those who have no friends in their class or anyone taking a course at another grade level.

Aside from our unusual daily schedules, the pandemic has also really impacted the enjoyment of the more “normal” high school experiences people think of when they remember their high school days…

Missing out on youth-defining moments has probably been the worst thing about all of this: events such as our Welcome to Grade 9 Day for our newest Sabres; the first school dance of the year; fall sports such as tennis, football, cross-country, golf, Girls basketball and Boys volleyball; and the grand SCS Music program, which we are so well-known for, has also been stifled as no bands can practice or perform this year.

Last but certainly not least, losing a year in the grandstands on Young Canada Day at the Norfolk County Fair caused a devastating blow to school spirit as a whole. To miss out on these events, which bond the Sabre (and other school) communities together near the start of every school year, is very disappointing.

Thankfully our Students’ Council has still been able to meet, which allows for students’ voices to be heard during this difficult time. They can’t run “fun days” and BBQs and dances this year, but they’re still organizing Sabre Spirit Days and using the P.A. system to play music and keep us informed.

I am in Grade 11 this year but my younger sister, Lorelei, has just started high school. When I asked her what she had been most looking forward to about coming to Grade 9 at SCS, she answered, “Meeting new people and being a part of the SCS community, because I know how much other students have loved it.”

This has been a difficult beginning for our Grade 9s because they don’t have the same opportunities the rest of us had when we first started high school. Lorelei added, “I was looking forward to moving on from elementary school into a new school where I could have more opportunities, different experiences, and lots of new people to meet. But now, because of COVID, I feel that I am missing out.”

Despite all of this, there are some positives. Although we are not as social or together as we were before COVID-19, many of us have grown closer to our families and we are still able to see some of our friends. Our teachers – likely just as tired of teaching the same course day after day as students are of learning this way – have acknowledged how hard it is for everyone and they’re doing their best to make this quadmester as enjoyable and successful for us as possible. At least we’re still learning and earning credits, right?

I am sorry this column hasn’t been as upbeat as usual but I’m sure you can relate, since CovidLife has impacted all our lives in so many annoying ways. In the end, we are all in this together and will get through it one day at a time.

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