A New Hope

Students, teachers consider post-pandemic world

It’s been two years since freshman Izzy Rentschler got to see their grandparents, but as the pandemic concern fades, Rentschler might finally see their family.
“I miss seeing my grandma who lives in Mexico,” they said. “I haven’t been able to see her since COVID started because she is older, high risk and it’s very hard to get her here due to the (COVID travel) mandates. I’m hoping that covid starts to get better, especially over the summer, so that I get to see her again.”
Like Rentschler, chemistry teacher Elizabeth Catt said she, too, hasn’t seen extended family for some time. Catt said she has two children under the age of 5 and one who is too young to wear a mask, so traveling and visiting loved ones has been difficult for her family.
“I am looking forward to when my kids will be able to be vaccinated, especially as my oldest will be going to preschool in the fall,” Catt said. “This will be a big sigh of relief for my family and will let us more safely visit with older family members who are at higher risk for infection.”
Rentschler and Catt aren’t alone. Since March 2020, many people have lost hope for little things in their lives like travel and seeing loved ones. However, now that the mask mandates are starting to abate and communities are coming together in person again, people are finally gaining back the trust and confidence within themselves and one another needed for the future.
Biology teacher Kira Hansen said she has high hopes for the future of her students within her classroom and she said that she hopes that students become more comfortable engaging with one another as the pandemic settles down.
“I think that students need to connect with others,” she said. “So much was lost last year including social connections with other students and between students and teachers. I hope that all students will understand the process of protecting ourselves from a virus and learn from our shared experience. I feel that students have lost the ability to talk to anyone and be able to work in groups collaboratively. It seems as though people are having trouble with face-to-face interactions. I am not sure if that can be blamed all on COVID, but I am definitely seeing the effects on this year’s students,” she said.
As this school went mask-optional in late February, Catt said there has been an added hope throughout the school about the future.
Catt said, “I think that the mask-optional policy has, thankfully, been working out at CHS by giving individuals the choice to do what they most feel comfortable in terms of masking while not seeing an increase in infection.”
Senior Julia Fernandes said she agrees and said as a senior, she is hanging on to this bit of hope that the success of the new policy has shown.
“I just hope that everyone can stay healthy and COVID becomes more manageable and preventable with time. I look forward to having a graduation and prom to close out my high school career,” she said.
But even with the positive hope for the future, for some, these changes to the new normal still bring people a little bit of fear. Rentschler said even though they are ready for a bit of a change, the past two years and the way things were handled makes them worried for the future.
“I think that people are desperate to go back to normal when life will never really go fully back to normal and most of us will be impacted by the pandemic permanently in some way,” they said. “It is a little bit disappointing how America has handled or even is (currently) handling COVID compared to other countries and that we are so far behind most of them. It really impacts my hopes for the future and how we will handle future struggles, whether they are similar to a pandemic or not.”
Hansen said she agrees that mistakes were made during the pandemic.
“As with any major experience in one’s life, we all need to learn from mistakes,” she said. I hope that people continue to listen to scientists and the facts rather than misinformation, especially when life of death is on the line.”
Fernandes said she hopes this is a learning experience for all and that people continue to think about others and not just themselves.
She said, “I believe we will slowly progress into a new normal where it is a social norm to wear masks when you’re sick out of respect for other people and we will be more gentle because of all the collective trauma this pandemic has caused us. We are slowly working towards a better, more thoughtful and caring world. I believe things happen for a reason so maybe we needed to go through this pandemic to evolve as people and improve our interpersonal understanding of the world.”
Catt said she hopes this virus isn’t here for the long run and that the chaos could hopefully turn into something people are a little more used to.
She said, “I don’t think it will ever go away completely. My hope is that it will eventually turn out to be like the flu, something that we have to deal with and can be vaccinated for but not something as major as it has been up to this point.”