COVID regulations relax as seniors strive to enjoy one more “normal” year of high school


Photo by Yearbook Staff

Seniors cheer at the first football game of the season in a return to normalcy during the 2022-23 school year.

By Kalia DePaz, Reporter

West Chicago Community High School seniors met with new COVID rules and regulations as they transitioned back to in-person school last month.

This year showed a dramatic decrease in COVID cases, the threat perhaps diminishing. West Chicago Community High School nurse Cathy Collins compared 2022 numbers to the same time period last year, revealing that the most cases she had gotten in just one week of last year is currently equal to the total number of cases at the time of publication, forty.

COVID positive cases are also treated very differently now. 

“If you’re COVID positive, you just have to be out for five days. And then when you return to school, from days six through twenty, you have to wear a mask. That’s it. I don’t contact trace anymore, nothing,” said Collins. 

But the “end” of worrying about COVID does not mean the end of maintaining cleanliness, or of protecting oneself from germs, though, Collins explained. 

“If everybody washed their hands for thirty seconds with soap and water, a lot of illnesses would go away,” said Collins. Her biggest advice to stay healthy during this upcoming flu season is to: “…hydrate, [get] enough rest and eat properly and also exercise. But hand washing is the biggest thing.”

Further conversation with Collins revealed that most parents, staff and students had no problem with the relaxed guidelines now that COVID cases are no longer at their peak. The only concern parents have raised is that after someone had quarantined at home for the disease, they cannot necessarily be forced to wear a mask once they return to school, even if it is part of the guidelines.

Luckily, COVID symptoms are less severe than they have been, Collins maintained. 

For many, COVID equates to missed opportunities. Seniors reported that high school turned out to be far from what anybody could have expected, leaving a lot of people feeling like they took the short-lived “normal” high school experience for granted. 

These upperclassmen have, arguably, been hit the hardest by the pandemic and its aftermath, forced to transition between vastly different school years throughout their high school careers.

(Photo by Yearbook Staff)

A majority of students at West Chicago Community High School, like those pictured in den time, no longer mask. (Photo by Yearbook Staff)

As most seniors remember, more than halfway through the 2019-20 school year, students left for an extended spring break, and did not return until the following year until hybrid learning was launched in the second semester (some students remained remote at that time). This change produced a number of issues, including decreased student attendance, canceled sports and activities, and a loss of a sense of community within the school. 

Vanessa Munoz, senior, had a tough time during remote learning because of her lack of internet, a struggle shared between many students, making it extremely hard to learn and stay on top of work. 

Senior Mykayla Snodgrass felt as though the pandemic changed her, citing having to go through the big change of nearly complete isolation at home to the loud, chaotic environment of school. It becomes hard for a student to socialize when they have become so accustomed to talking to a screen, not to mention the fact that a lot of students did not participate during remote learning. This may lead to students not knowing how to ask for help, or share their opinions in class because it is not something they are used to doing. 

“I know for a fact that I missed out on a lot of high school experiences because of the pandemic. Once COVID hit, I definitely became more introverted and a little bit shy. I lost friends so when we came back to school I really wasn’t involved, I quit cheer and I wasn’t super excited for anything to do with school,” said Snodgrass. 

Sports and clubs, activities that rely on communication and teamwork, could not simply switch to Zoom meetings or videos on Google Classroom in the heart of the pandemic. After-school activities, usually key resources to aid in students getting to socialize with one another, as well as learning the values of leadership and teamwork, were often not available.

Current senior Salette Alfaro also remembers that she “wanted to join more student-led clubs like Student Council. But because of COVID, most of them were canceled.”  

The remote learning experience was not a completely negative experience for some students, however. Snodgrass remembers that she would spend school days doing homework with her best friend.

“I could be in a store or hanging out with my friends while I was still in class. I always hung out with my best friend every single day when we were remote. I remember jumping on the trampoline with my best friend just laughing in the middle of my AP World History class,” said Snodgrass. 

Pep Club is one of the senior extracurricular activities that returned for the 2022-23 school year. (Photo by Yearbook Staff)

While some students and staff believe the pandemic drove the school apart, others suggest remote learning pushed West Chicago to become a tighter-knit community once students came back to the building. Community-building has been a driving force this year, with the addition of the new SEL-based “den time” and the push for increased participation in Homecoming activities.

The pandemic may have left lasting imprints on many people’s lives, but the fact of the matter is, a number of people are tired of COVID. Tired of hearing about it, and tired of being afraid of it. Whether these latest changes are for better or for worse, they are ready to move on.