What Was the Return to School Like for Those Who Didn’t Return?


Nationwide, feelings of anxiety and isolation amongst teens are understandably skyrocketing.

For much of the FHS community, April 12 was their first time back together in a relatively-full classroom in over a year. From a student’s perspective, the day went off without a hitch (well … except for those bottleneck stairways where coronavirus will certainly be spreading like wildfire).

Classrooms have begun to feel like classrooms again. (Amanda Wylie)

All jokes aside, the return was relatively successful. It almost felt like “real school” again, with students talking to each other in the halls and teachers asking their pupils to “turn and talk” (there’s something one never would have thought they’d miss).

But what about the people who didn’t return on April 12? Put simply, many were not expecting the overwhelming sense of loneliness that seeing their peers back together through a screen would provoke.

“It was more isolating than I expected because it was harder to collaborate with in-person students,” says junior Anika Patchala.

It was more isolating than I expected.”

— Anika Patchala

She wishes that the school had been more open in sharing what percentage of students were coming back in-person vs. staying home.

Annie Sullivan Middle School was more forthcoming with return to school data, but that still didn’t make things easier for 7th grader Katie Wylie. When she found out that she was one of only five students choosing to remain remote out of the 86 on her team, she started to regret her decision.

“It was definitely lonely. I actually felt kind of sad. I’m hoping that will fade over time … today was only the first day.”

The lunch room used to be the locus of student anxiety, but seems to be a lot less so now that tables have been traded in for distanced desks. School lunches are now free for all students. (Sophia Francisco)

This anecdotal evidence seems to be representative of teens’ experiences throughout the nation. According to a national poll conducted by Michigan Medicine, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys have experienced new or worsening anxiety prompted by feelings of isolation during the pandemic.

Many of us took an important step towards remedying these feelings on Monday. In the meantime, we must be conscious of how our friends who are still at home may be feeling. Remember, if we are diligent, we will soon be in the home stretch of the coronavirus pandemic. Hopefully we will all be back together soon.