Students’ return to school comes with social change and new perspectives


Credit: Owen Davis

Senior Nolan Tribu (left) and senior Adam Ismaili-Alaoui (right) socialize on their lunch break in school. Ismaili works hard on an assignment while Tribu enjoys his lunch and chats.

Owen Davis, Staff Writer

During the late spring of the 2019-2020 school year, students received a ring on their home phones and notifications in their emails. The rapid spread of a new virus known as COVID-19 had caused schools to close, and the world to begin a quarantine and period of decreased social interaction.

Students in Kalamazoo have returned to school in-person after quarantine and a year of online learning. Many students report that their social lives changed and were reconstructed.

“I’ve been staying inside a lot,” sophomore Zachary Hiscock said. “I want to quarantine myself and not get people sick. By staying inside we can all stay safe and not get COVID.” 

Last school year, schools started the year in an online class format with the intention of transferring to in-person classes later in the year. 

A breakdown of the policies and laws in each state was done by EducationWeek and showed that some states have specific instructions on return-to-school policies; however, 68% of states left it up to the local systems to decide the rules for return-to-school. This left a lot of ambiguity in which schools did and did not return face-to-face last year.

Hiscock feels like staying inside formed a bit of a gap between him and his friends since he goes out less now than before lockdowns and quarantines were put in place. 

“In that year, we couldn’t make memories or do anything really. It was just a blank in time,” Hiscock reflected. 

KPS students were apart from each other for roughly 18 months when schools shut down due to COVID-19 and this had many effects on students.

While KPS remained online all year for the previous year, not all schools did this. Many schools went back in-person for some amount of time last year even if it was brief. While some students were able to return, others decided not to.

Darrian Chen is a senior at the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and Portage Central, where last school year was conducted on a hybrid model. For these students, school started online, and they were given the option to transfer to in-person classes once it was deemed safe.

I do not think staying online while some people went back in-person affected any friendships. A lot of friendships over quarantine were developed through some sort of social media or group chat,” said Chen. 

Chen mentioned that he believed his close friend groups stayed tight because even if they might have been separate, they could still keep in touch.

I feel like I’ve become more social since quarantine,” said Chen. “I feel like it has something to do with the fact that everyone has gone through one ordeal together. This helped me find a medium to talk with others.” 

Social situations as simple as lunch and focusing on classes and work have changed now. Online learning provided a different schedule and more flexibility for students for various things, meals included.

“Regulating a strict schedule is hard. I’m not talking about academics nor extracurriculars, but eating,” Chen continued. “During online learning, I would constantly neglect eating breakfast or lunch at regular times. Sometimes it would be breakfast at 6 a.m. then lunch at 4 p.m. This irregular schedule that I had throughout the year has made this year in-person pretty tough. I’ll start feeling hungry at random intervals during the day and then during my actual lunch time given to students, I wouldn’t be able to eat anything.” 

Chen felt like this made it hard to focus at times and keep up the morale during in-person classes.

Now, most students are back to school face-to-face again. They are once again able to see and interact with their peers and classmates.

Chen said, “I love being back at school in person. I’ve missed seeing people’s facial reactions and gestures that couldn’t have been seen online.”