On Feb. 16, for the first time in nearly a year, I walked into the Grady cafeteria. As I entered the building, I couldn’t help but wonder: Had I made the right decision by choosing to go back to school?
When Atlanta Public Schools was planning to reopen schools back in November, I had initially decided to stay home. After all, going to school only to sit and get on Zoom seemed pointless, especially given the rising Covid-19 cases at the time. Why would I wake up early and put myself in danger when I could stay in the comfort of my own home? APS did not end up reopening in November, and my opinion on the matter has changed since then.
In December, I began to notice that my focus was slipping. After so many months of virtual learning, I was barely managing to pay attention and get work done on time. When the survey came out for returning to school in February, I was more open to the idea. Although I was unsure about it, I chose to come in-person. I knew I could opt out if I changed my mind, so I figured I could wait and see how I felt when the time came to return.
Feb. 16 drew near, and the reality of going back to school began to sink in. As I weighed the pros and cons, my biggest concern was the safety of the teachers. In times when Covid-19 cases are high and new strains are beginning to appear, putting anyone in danger is the last thing I would want to do.
Most teachers did not have a choice about returning to school and were worried about the circumstances of in-person learning. This fear hit very close to home: my mom is a preschool teacher that has been in-person since August. Like many teachers at Grady, my mom was extremely anxious in the weeks leading up to the reopening of her school. Although it has been nerve-wracking, she has taught a class of 13 non-distanced 2-year-olds for months without any major outbreaks.
Given the fact that Grady would be at less than 18 percent capacity and distanced, I concluded that going back to school would not put anyone at significant risk. This also came with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcement that in-person learning was recommended if done safely. Still, I understood the concerns of teachers and decided that I would only stick with in-person instruction if I felt the school had properly handled CDC protocol. As of now, I can say that I believe Grady took adequate measures in ensuring the safety of students and staff.
After finishing my first day back at school, I felt more genuinely happy and accomplished than I had in a long time. One of the key factors in my choice to return to school was the mental health benefits of learning in-person. I was more focused than I had been in months, and talking to teachers and classmates heightened my mood throughout the day. For those considering returning to school next quarter, I was personally content with my decision and would recommend it, especially for those struggling at home.
That being said, it should be noted that my largest class had only 4 students; I am sure that number will increase as students become more desperate to return in the final quarter. Although I currently feel safe at Grady, I am unsure if that will change if more students choose to come back in-person.
For now, I’m happy with my choice to attend school in-person. I had no clue I had missed seeing my classmates and teachers so much.