COVID-19’s Impact on Illinois’s School Environments

COVID-19’s Impact on Illinois’s School Environments

Illinois public schools collectively shut-down due to a mandatory two-week long quarantine following the discovery of a new and deadly virus in foreign countries. The impact of the arrival of the Coronavirus had on Geneva High School was great. Students and staff members were forced into adaptation, which included removing some of the school’s most popular events and activities, such as the student-loved Personal Learning Choices (PLC).

It was the year 2020, mid-April, and principals all over the state of Illinois came over the intercom speaking in a serious tone. Principals explained to their students that school would temporarily shut-down due to a mandatory two-week quarantine after speculation that the new and mysterious virus, first detected in China, had spread to the United States.

Most students embraced the two-week ‘break’ from school and jumped at the opportunity to indulge in an early start to their long awaited and upcoming summer break. However, as time passed, students realized that the Corona virus was not a joking matter as social media and misinformed new outlets made it out to be.

And as cases of COVID-19 detected within the United States increased, fear within its residents increased as well.

Now, nearly a year and 4 months later, Illinois schools are open for five-day school weeks with the full capacity of their buildings. COVID-19 has impacted the normal environment here at the school and earning opportunities that were important to students prior to COVID-19 are not available to students now. One of these learning opportunities was PLC.

“Our regular routines were blown apart last year,” Geneva High School Activities Director and Student Council Advisor Mrs. Cole said. “I think we all missed our traditions.”

When COVID-19 first hit Geneva High School, everything changed. The routines that most students, staff members, and even parents thrived on, were obliterated. Although students and staff members learned to adapt to new routines to keep Illinois residents safe and healthy, the first time COVID-19 dragged us through the mud would not be the last.

With the discovery of new variants of the COVID-19 strain, routines might yet again change for students and staff members at Geneva High School. New mask mandates signed into law by the governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, suggest that even more safety and health precautions might take place within Illinois public schools in the near future.

“I remember reading an article at the end of last school year about how change in routine is the largest source of stress for humans,” Mrs. Cole said. “Before reading that, I hadn’t really put it into those exact words, but I found it comforting to understand the source of everyone’s stress.”

Many of Geneva High School’s students and staff members were distraught with last year’s absence of events, activities, traditions, and routines such as PLC, but have found a new hope in the upbringing of this school year.

“This year is off to a much smoother start,” Mrs. Cole said. “I am very, very encouraged by how enthusiastic students seem this year- so much participation in extracurricular events and activities.”

Every Thursday, students at GHS had the chance to participate in Personal Learning Choices. PLC periods would run from 7:40-8:25 and students had a variety of opportunities and activities to work with peers, make up tests and quizzes, PE makeups, or even sleep in and get to school before the first period which started at 8:30 on PLC days. But in addition to these, different grades also had specific mandatory PLC sessions.

“The most important aspect of PLC was really about catching up on school,” Senior Natalia Bork said. “Whether that be studying, homework, projects, etc. It was valuable time. When students didn’t have a mandatory PLC session in the mornings, they had that free time to work together and catch up on late work.”

With PLC being gone and COVID-19 disrupting the last school year, tests that should have been taken last year by Juniors were moved to this school year. Now Seniors have to use the time they have in Gym class to make up these tests.

This has changed the environment for gym classes at GHS.

“It could’ve helped us with our current issue with science testing in gym,” Bork said. “It takes away from our active time and is frustrating especially since some seniors have no idea what the questions are about since some of us aren’t taking a science class this year.”

Whether GHS brings back PLC or not is still a question.

“I highly doubt we’ll have PLC in the near future seeing the way things are going at this point,” Bork said. “We can always remain hopeful though.”