Times during the COVID-19 pandemic have been stressful, chaotic and fearful, according to some Mercer Island High School (MIHS) students. However, they say they’ve also mentally grown while learning to face challenges and trying to overcome them over the past two years.
They’ve gone from remote and hybrid learning when the pandemic hit and back to in-person learning last fall. At one point this year, the school had 96 confirmed COVID cases.
During the uptick in Omicron variant cases, a previous Reporter article noted that Mercer Island School District Superintendent Donna Colosky said that for students’ safety and prioritization of in-person learning, the district will reinforce proper wearing of face coverings, proper ventilation flow, maintaining physical distancing as much as possible, and staying home if students and staffers are symptomatic or feeling unwell.
The Reporter reached out to MIHS seniors to share their thoughts about these still uncertain times and how they’ve been handling their school experience.
What’s it been like attending school during the pandemic?
Julia Brondello: It’s been extremely difficult since everyone has such a wide range of opinions on how the pandemic should be handled. This variety in opinions has caused some people to be very happy attending school in the different forms while others have been very upset. Despite health concerns, changing learning platforms has been very challenging and has added greater stress into an already stressful environment.
Hayaat “Rose” Siddiqui: It’s been hard. It’s been hard because there is a constant fear that we face every day for ourselves and our family.
Kayla Levin: It has been extremely difficult to connect with students of different grades. Very stressful and overwhelming due to having to change and alter things on a quick turn-around.
What are some of the challenges? Do you feel safe at school?
Brondello: As mentioned previously, one of the biggest challenges of the pandemic at school has been the variety of opinions that people have had on the issue. This raises tensions in classes as well as around the lunch table since you never know what another person’s point of view might be unless you ask them straight up, which can be awkward and uncomfortable. I personally feel safe at school.
Siddiqui: No, I don’t feel safe because of the continuous (uptick) of COVID cases. Challenges are getting sick and fitting back into in-person schooling, which is very draining.
Levin: The International Entrepreneurship class had to pivot our entire business onto an online platform in order to continue participating in the central focus of our class, which is to sell products to the students of MIHS. I do not feel safe when kids who are waiting on COVID test results are roaming the halls before the nurse calls them in for the result.
How do you overcome those challenges to try and make the best of the situation?
Brondello: During the pandemic, the best way that I have overcome these challenges is by keeping a strong relationship with my family. They are people who I am comfortable talking with and can relay my true feelings to. I have been so grateful for their support throughout this chaotic time.
Siddiqui: Personally, I just try my best to keep going and persevere as best I can. I try to not be too hard on myself and just do my best.
Levin: I have helped to pivot the International Entrepreneurship class to an online setting. Through my work in the leadership class, I have worked to build a COVID-safe prom for students. It takes a lot of pushback and perseverance on the students’ part.
Have you become a stronger person through this?
Brondello: I have definitely become a stronger person through this. I have become more adaptive, as well as more confident in my views. During this time, I have developed a stronger ability to express my feelings and stand up for what I believe in.
Siddiqui: No and yes. I feel that it has weakened some of my skills and honestly I preferred online schooling. I do feel that it has made me open to what’s happening in the world instead of my bubble.
Levin: I have become more of a self-starter and goal-oriented person through the pandemic. I have learned through online school that you are the only one who can motivate you to do something, so you have to be in control of your life!