Why I’m Staying Home


Carley Walker, Editor-in-Chief

I’m a senior who has romanticized my final year of high school since I was in the second grade, and I’ve decided to spend the rest of the first semester of my senior year online. 

It goes without saying that this was not how I envisioned my senior year to turn out. Ever since I was in elementary school and watched Disney Channel, I’ve had an idea of how high school would pan out.

Sadly, those shows were not the perfect representation of what high school is like – including the magic elements, breaking into song, and unique fashion sense of the Disney shows. But, I always presumed I would have the bare minimum of being inside the school building for high school. I presumed I’d always be surrounded by my friends and teachers, have the ability to go to football games, be able go to prom,  and participate in senior traditions. 

Every student expects to get that bare minimum of being in the school building throughout the duration of their high school career. However, the bare minimum clearly was not met this year due to the COVID-19, pandemic which has caused many public schools in the United States to transition to remote learning since March 12. 

For the second half of my junior year, I stayed remote. Like many of my peers, I hated remote learning. For my senior year, all I wanted was to go back to school. I didn’t care what going back to school would look like: hybrid, in person, half days, or one day a week. I truly did not care, because I just wanted to have a senior year that was as close to normal as possible. 

Over the summer, I watched the Board of Education meetings via Youtube. I was on the edge of my seat watching those meetings. I watched two of the live streams in its entirety with the hope that the decision would allow me to go back to school in the fall. So, when the Board decided we would have a hybrid plan for the fall, I was relieved. 

That was, however, until I watched another board meeting live stream. In the live stream, the LFHS staff gave their input regarding hybrid learning. I never really thought about what the teachers felt; I presumed they’d want to go back into the building like all of the students wanted. However, many teachers, including some of my favorite teachers since freshman year, shared their input about how they wanted to stay at home for their own safety. 

Some teachers expressed how they didn’t want to risk going back to school because of their preexisting health conditions. Many teachers felt it was safer not only for themselves but for everyone in our community to just stay remote. 

I felt selfish. I realized there was more on the table than just what I wanted. The world wasn’t solely centered around me and my desires. There were many other factors to consider.

Since I heard many of the teachers’ points of view, I’ve been teetering back and forth on whether I truly want to go back to school with the hybrid model. 

In the end, I chose to stay fully remote for multiple reasons. The main overarching reason being the big “what if.”

If I went back to school, I would be exposed to others who unknowingly had been in contact with the coronavirus, and I may get the virus. 

Despite District 115’s multiple precautions, there is no doubt that COVID-19 is present within our communities. In fact, in just the past week, the US has set the world record with over 100,000 new COVID cases over the course of a single day on Oct.30. In Illinois, as of Nov 5, there has been a record high of COVID-19 cases since June 4 with over 9,935 new cases reported in the past 24 hours with 97 additional fatalities.  

Governor J.B. Pritzker is considering further restrictions. Illinois has already transitioned back to Phase 3, with no more indoor seating allowed. Additionally, the Lake County Health Department has recommended schools to transition back to fully remote learning. 

Even with LFHS’ safety precautions, it is inevitable that a student or staff member will contract the virus if they haven’t already. Already, schools in our community and neighboring towns have had cases of COVID at the elementary school level, including Everett Elementary, where the students remain in their classrooms throughout the day with little to no mobility. At LFHS, we have passing periods and high levels of mobility throughout the day, and then after school, many of us socialize. 

Essentially, the LFHS community is at higher risk of contracting COVID because of our intertwined social networks and easy path to spreading COVID across the grades and to staff and faculty members. 

Because what would happen if I went to school and contacted the coronavirus?”

The new regulations in Illinois, the spike in cases, along with flu season quickly approaching has caused me to be sure in myself that I have made the right decision for myself to stay remote for the semester. 

The easy transmission of the coronavirus between people, along with the State of Illinois potentially transitioning back to Phase 3, has caused those “what ifs” to intensify in the back of my brain. 

Because what would happen if I went to school and contacted the coronavirus?

I am a healthy teenager and I would most likely quickly recover if I got the coronavirus. However, I would be putting my family at risk. I have a 60-year-old mother who is at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus. If my mother got the virus because of me, I would not be able to forgive myself since the virus would most likely take a toll on her.

I would risk giving the virus to my coworkers and having the place I work at shutdown for two weeks. I work at a smoothie shop in Highland Park called Bright Bowls. If it were to shut down because I got the virus, it would take a huge financial toll on the small, local business. Not only this, but if I unknowingly had the virus, there is a chance I could spread it to customers and cause COVID cases to skyrocket within the community from a domino effect. 

If I got the virus, I would be putting my rowing team at risk. Our spring season already was cut short due to quarantine. Since we have been allowed back on the water in the summer, we have not taken a single day for granted and just want to stay out on the water for as long as we can. If I got the virus, my teammates and myself would have to quarantine. We would not be able to race and may not be able to go back out onto the water until the spring giving that the winter season is quickly approaching. 

On the other hand, I do understand why many of my peers are choosing to go back to school following the hybrid plan. I understand that many students need to be in a classroom to feel motivated to do schoolwork and truly learn. Remote learning is by no means something I enjoy doing, but I personally believe the current hybrid plan is not a plan that will benefit me. 

With half of my teachers staying remote, including the teacher for the hardest class I have, I didn’t find it imperative that I needed to return to the school building. Additionally, I believe that the separation and isolation of being inside the school building may only increase my anxiety. Even though this school year is strange as it is, I do not want my final memories in the LFHS building to be associated with anxiety and discomfort. 

Years from now, I want to tell my children and grandchildren that I was a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. ”

While this senior year is in no way how I planned it to be, I am trying to make the most of it. What is going on in the world right now for the most part is out of my control, but I want to do my part and try to lessen the spread of the virus. Years from now, I want to tell my children and grandchildren that I was a part of the solution and not a part of the problem. 

I must state that I am not in complete isolation. I admit I am guilty of this. I have been actively working at my job along with attending rowing practice six days a week. I maintain my distance, of course, and use facemasks as well. Right now, I am aware that I am being exposed to many different people: from work to rowing. Because of this, I have realized that staying remote will be the best option for myself and others around me. If I went to school, my exposure to people will increase ten-fold and will increase my chance of contracting the virus and giving it to my loved ones. 

So, I decided what was most important to me: in-person learning, rowing, work, or my family. I decided to choose the last three factors. That meant I risked losing my senior year, but so be it if that means I’m preventing the spread of the virus in some way, shape, or form. I implore for other students and staff members to choose what factors are the most important in their lives right now when they consider whether or not going back to school is the safest option for them. If they want to go back to school because in person learning is their top priority, that is perfectly valid. Choose to do what is best for your own mental health as well as considering what is the safest for your physical health. 

In the coming months, weeks, or days, my opinion on staying remote may change. I may want to go back to school by Tuesday after seeing how seniors transitioned back to school. Given that everything in our world is uncertain right now, my opinions are pretty uncertain as well. 

Given my classmates will return to school next week, and many will wonder why myself and other seniors decided to stay remote for their final year of high school, I decided to answer them. My answer is simple and plain: while I have romanticized and valued my senior year since elementary school, I have other values in my life that I do not want to risk losing because of the big COVID-19 “what if.” 

Check out Editor-in-Chief Kailey Albus’ column on why she’s choosing to return to school this semester.