“As Long As I’m Able to Do it Safely”

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Yana Savitsky

Seniors can choose to join the hybrid learning model this week.

Kailey Albus, Editor-in-Chief

As of today, I’m planning on returning to LFHS in-person for the rest of the semester – as long as I’m able to do it safely. 

After a slew of board meetings over the summer, District 115 decided to give their students a choice: to stay at home for the first half of the year or opt for an e-hybrid plan that would allow us to attend physical classes for a fraction of the week. This decision wasn’t an easy one for the board, as the forceful influence of parents and community members must have weighed heavily on the committee’s shoulders.

Nevertheless, the District heard the demands that rang throughout Lake Forest. They gave us not only a choice but an opportunity – a chance to return a little bit of normalcy into our lives. 

Regardless of how I went about my decision, I was grateful for this very option to choose; as my co-Editor, Carley Walker, mentioned in her recent column, there are some students and teachers who should not be returning to the building. Whether their reasons are medical, emotional, or otherwise personal, being in an enclosed space for eight hours a day may serve a major threat to them or a portion of the student body. 

But going to school is not inherently egocentric – for some, it’s necessary for academic success. My at-home work environment is my bedroom, more specifically, the desk at which I do my hair and makeup every morning. This space is sacred: it’s where I go to relax, to primp, and to just spend time with myself. This comfortable ambiance has made it nearly impossible for me to focus; even when I do everything in my power to listen, something about relaxing in my chair next to a drawer that definitely needs cleaning is beyond distracting.

And I recognize my privilege in saying that. I know that many kids at LFHS live in more detrimental conditions that I do. For them, learning at home is hindered by the amount of discomfort they find in their space. They need to be at school; maybe lunch in the cafeteria is the best meal they could have throughout the entire day, and stepping foot into their English class is the only thing that might bring release. There are students itching to get out of their homes and back inside the ivy walls, and even for those who are content with their home environments, being at school simply stimulates the brain in a way that working from your bedroom can’t.

If anything, being in person is going to offer me an incentive to keep safety in my forefront both in and out of school.”

While our 2020 academic year may be completely void of “normal,” I know that something as simple as seeing a friendly face in the hall will widen my smile from under my mask. I’m certainly not planning on treating this opportunity as a long-awaited reunion with my classmates; given the expectation for rising cases in Illinois over the course of the winter, I’m planning on keeping my distance and appreciating the little exchanges I can salvage.  

Quite honestly, I miss my teachers more than my peers. After completing a majority of my college process blindly, I anticipate having hilarious conversations with them about my mistakes; I’m more than excited to hear the stories they save for after the Google Meets call; frankly, I’m just looking forward to a friendly, six-foot distanced wave in the hallway. 

I’m grateful for the teachers who have chosen to venture into the hybrid journey with me because I know how high the stakes are for them. Mr. Kollasch has a family of four at home, Mrs. Kyrias has a two-year-old son, Mr. Leyden just had twins with his wife – and they’re all enthusiastic about seeing the smiling faces of their students once again.

But unlike students, teachers did not have a full choice in the matter. Unfortunately, not all of their requests to remain at home were approved – not all teachers were able to have a say in their safety – and for that, I salute them even more. I know that those who are going back will prioritize caution in the classrooms, and I’ll accredit my feeling of comfort entirely to them – they deserve more recognition for this than they receive. Even for the teachers who were successfully granted permission to stay home, I salute them for finding innovative ways to brighten up my day behind the screen. While seeing their faces through a projector will remind me of the unfortunate distance between us, I’ll be equally reminded of how essential it is for them to stay distanced; when this is all over, their services will be needed more than ever.

If anything, being in person is going to offer me an incentive to keep safety at my forefront both in and out of school. While I know that I’ve been smart in seeing only small groups of trustworthy people, the idea of me stepping foot in another person’s house might make the student next to me more than uncomfortable. I haven’t handled things perfectly at times, but knowing that I’ll be interacting with people beyond my trusted circle offers a greater risk that I will be taken into account. Even with the safety precautions embedded into our daily system, I will be on high alert. 

Get this into your head right now: we don’t deserve anything… If we mess this up, that’s on us. ”

Because it’s not just about my safety; it’s about my classmates, my teachers, and anyone I come in contact with beyond this point.

I owe it to the people around me to mind my six feet in school. Compromising someone else’s space will not be an option, and I would loathe myself for being the reason they feared attending what little school they have left. I value my peers enough to swallow my pride.

This is an opportunity: an opportunity to listen, to learn, and to build trust. It’s not an opportunity to socialize, to catch up on everything that I missed from March. If I feel unsafe at any point, I will have no issue returning to full remote learning – safety comes first. 

Going in-person is a test of character and self-awareness, two traits that four years at LFHS have helped me develop. I’ve read aggressive comments from parents on social media about this very matter, saying that “our students deserve to go back”.

Get this into your head right now: we don’t deserve anything. We have been given a chance to re-establish ourselves in a less-isolated environment. If we mess this up, that’s on us. 

So, Lake Forest, I implore you not to mess this up. Please, whether you’re returning to school or not, take a moment to evaluate your actions and make safety your number one priority. No one is perfect, everyone is craving socialization, but if you do not trust the people you’re with, the places you’ve been, or the circumstances you’ve been placed in, take accountability for it. Get a test, self-isolate for two weeks, do your research and work to prevent the spread. COVID-19 affects more than just your healthy friends under the age of 60, and to negate that sentiment is just irresponsible.

While I’m excited to go back, I’m certainly wary given the Lake County Health Department’s recent warning; however, as long as I’m able to stay informed on the COVID-19 updates at LFHS, I’m willing to at least give it a try. There is nothing wrong with returning to school as long as you’re choosing to be self-aware. No matter your opinions on COVID-19, understand that your classmates and teachers may have a different stance on the pandemic we’re living through. Rules were put in place to keep this opportunity alive, so consider the repercussions you may face if you choose not to follow them. 

If circumstances change and my feeling of security becomes compromised, I will absolutely be returning home; but for now, I’m choosing to be aware. I’m choosing to put others before myself in a situation where some might find that impossible to do. I’m keeping my distance, I’m taking accountability, and I’m hoping for the best. 

For now, all we can do is be responsible and hope for the best.

Check out Editor-in-Chief Carley Walker’s column on why she’s choosing to stay home for the semester.