Courtesy of the CDC
296 days. It’s been almost a year since Gov. Laura Kelly’s announcement completely changed students’ definition of school.
According to Miege administration, even with these uncertain times, the community has come together and adapted to “the new normal.”
“We have had to ask the students to be away from school, and it’s devastating,” Principal Maureen Engen said. “Who would have ever thought somebody was in tears because they can’t be in school? We have never seen that.”
The administrators have worked overtime to make this school year run as smoothly as possible. According to Engen, the goal is for as many students to be in-person as possible. However, some students stay home to protect themselves or family members that are high-risk.
“That puts a completely different stress on any person, you carry a different purpose — you’re trying to protect somebody,” Engen said. “It’s a different situation for anybody.”
Decisions like these, along with the overall stress of the pandemic, have had an apparent effect on students’ mental well-being, especially for online learners, according to junior Lola Wrigley.
“You really have to hold yourself accountable and find a way to stay motivated to work instead of taking a nap as soon as you log off of Zoom,” Wrigley said. “It’s hard to find the balance between your mental health and the responsibility of school.”
All students face challenges one way or another. The guidance department said it has taken extra steps to make sure resources are available for every student.
“We’re seeing some students who are feeling a little anxious, are feeling a little stressed out because of that uncertainty,” guidance counselor Dan Meara said. “We’re seeing students who can use some help. And that’s part of what we do here in the guidance office is that we try to help students with whatever they’re dealing with.”
Students and administration have not been alone in fighting the obstacles that COVID-19 creates. Teachers have joined in helping students have a safe school year even with the circumstances.
“There has to be a real shout out to the positivity of our staff,” Engen said. “At Bishop Miege, we have teachers who don’t form pockets of dissension and complaints. Instead, they’re talking about how can we do this better, because they want to meet student needs.”
Math teacher Taryn Frank said she has tried to stay positive and make this school year like any other year, while she still acknowledges the setbacks she faces in the classroom.
“I feel like everyone is not as close,” Frank said. “I don’t get to know my students as well, because we’re not all in and all together. It’s hard when we have to be half online or some students have to quarantine.”
Extracurricular activities also look different this year. Head varsity football coach Jon Holmes had to make some adjustments this season to make sure the team stayed safe.
“We think our kids understand what we’ve got to do on a daily basis,” Holmes said. “It hasn’t gotten any easier, but we’ve definitely been able to maintain it this whole year.”
Adapting to change is something that the team has had to deal with to have a season, since activities such as football have an important role in keeping a sense of normalcy.
“Without activity some of these guys may be lost,” Holmes said. “I think it’s hard enough going to school right now, so being there, trying to keep things as normal as we could was important.”
The fine arts department has also had challenges. Choir director Robin Christie has had to make changes to meet safety requirements while maintaining an organized schedule.
“I am trying to still push for excellence and yet give the students the emotional connection and support they need,” Christie said. “The Concert Chorale sang ‘Blackbird’ this fall. The lyrics, ‘Take these broken wings and learn to fly’, really speak to us this year.”
Instead of a live concert for a crowd of family and friends, this year the choir filmed its fall concert and shared it. Singers wore their dress clothes along with a special singing mask as they sang several feet apart.
“This moment in our lives, the difficult times, will define us and determine our character,” Christie said. “Do we rise to the challenge or complain and give up, choosing the easy way out? I would hope everyone sees the music department has risen to the challenge and became stronger for it.”
The entire school has had to be stronger throughout this unpredictable time. Administration has implemented strategies to keep students safe and organized.
“We’ve made adjustments,” assistant principal Joe Schramp said. “Our one-way halls, we socially distance during lunch, we go outside as much as possible for lunch, constantly wiping down the desks or using hand sanitizer, encouraging that.”
Students have had to follow all these regulations to help keep Miege safe. According to sophomore Janella Corpin, the school has adapted well.
“I think Miege has done a pretty good job when it comes to precautions to keep the school open,” Corpin said. “Hearing how other schools are going I’d say we are doing pretty well, especially when it comes to wearing masks and staying socially distant.”
No one knows for sure how long these precautions will be in place. According to administration, the upcoming plan for school is reevaluated every day depending on what is best for students. Engen said she believes that the best thing for the community to do is trust in God.
“The hope is that we have all seen God’s hand in this somewhere,” Engen said. “We just think that God is leading us, he has to be. God is right ahead of us, and we have to follow.”