RANDOLPH, NJ— The week of March 8 started off just like any other week at Randolph High School. We students attended classes, learning new lessons and collaborating in a physical classroom setting. We interacted with our teachers and socialized with our classmates, attended club meetings and ate lunch with our friends.  

Yet on Friday March 13, due to safety concerns from COVID-19, the state government determined that all New Jersey public schools, including RHS, should close for what was then a time span of two weeks.

What came as no surprise was the excitement that many of us students shared when we first received this news. Although we knew we would still have to “attend” classes online, for the most part, we could not wait to stay home and work according to our own schedules.

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Many of us shared a common consensus regarding our opinions about high school. As some of us continuously felt exhausted and stressed throughout the day, it was rare when we did not hear other students say the words, “I just want to go home” or “I hate school.” It was a challenge for students to remain alert and retain new information, especially early in the morning. That was a big reason why we often appeared grumpy in class.

However, as the closure was extended from two weeks to a month to six weeks through, as of last Monday, the end of school, the negative feelings many high schoolers used to have toward school have changed, and in a positive way.

Ever since the beginning of the school closure, students and staff have remained quarantined in their homes and followed many other restrictions. While our teachers had to quickly adapt to the challenges of remote instruction, so did we students. This unexpected change was and still is challenging, causing many students to reminisce about their past few months at RHS, when the physical campus was still open.

“I walked out of the building and thought nothing of it, not realizing that might be the last time I would ever be a student there again,” said senior Rachel Some, echoing the feelings of many other students. “This pandemic gave me a new appreciation for all the things I never imagined I’d miss so much; I miss sitting in the classroom, listening to my teachers’ instructions, going out for open lunch with my friends, having after-school practice, and just seeing my classmates that I’ve grown up with for the past 13 years. Now, sadly, we might never get to all be together in one place again.”

Being confined to one’s home for more than a month has given students like me a lot of extra time to think. During the closure, many of us have become more appreciative of our education in a classroom environment. We have noticed that working from home does not afford us the same opportunities as physically being in school. Needless to say we were beyond sad to learn this week that we would not be returning to RHS for the rest of the academic year.

In the hope of continuing to get a solid education even during closure, many students have embraced the challenges of remote learning, and we realize that teachers are trying to push past its perceived limits. However, while remote instruction still enables students to learn new material, we can’t possibly get the same kind of education that we would have received if we were in the building, learning and socializing face-to-face.

Not only does being in a physical school setting allow students to have meaningful discussions with our teachers, it allows us to see our friends every day. School is a place where we can socially interact with one another, and we are in desperate need of that sense of community more than ever before.

The school closure has significantly impacted the way in which we students view our daily lives, and we now see our education in a new light. Instead of counting down the days until the school year is over, students who have at least one year left of high school are now counting down the days until we can return to RHS.

Although COVID-19 has given rise to many tragic occurrences within our country, through the hardships that we have faced, we students have also learned some serious life lessons about what is most important

As the pandemic lingers, it is our role to continue to discover what is most important to us and work to build a more positive attitude toward things we have always taken for granted in the past.

 Editor's Note: Cayla Israel is a student participating in a journalism program at RHS.