As I sat in my car blasting the AC and “Perfect Day” (yes the theme song from Legally Blonde…it’s a great motivational song), I crossed items off of my mental checklist. Backpack, at least one pencil, schedule, coffee…mask. I stepped out into the blazing Mississippi sun sporting my leopard print fabric mask and joined my peers in a line outside of the main entrance. The last time that the majority of us were in this building, there wasn’t a raging virus that had cancelled sports, weddings, graduations, summer camps, you name it. We were eager high school students ready to enjoy our much needed spring break. The coronavirus was a foreign disease that wasn’t going to affect us at all.
“Next.” I stepped up to get my temperature taken and wondered if anyone had been sent home yet because theirs was too high. “You’re good.” I proceeded to get a stamp on my hand indicating that I was fever free and entered the school building. At first, it didn’t look any different than it had when I left in March. Large banners that welcomed visitors and students to Amory High School hung in the main hallway. Famous alumni jersey cases had been dusted and cleaned. It wasn’t until I turned the corner that I realized that this first day of school was going to be unlike any other. Teachers lined the hallways donning masks and encouraging students to spread at least six feet apart. Unlike in the past, students were not allowed to mingle and congregate with each other before the first bell rang. I made my way down the hallway and spoke to my former teachers and caught up with friends that I hadn’t seen in over five months. I anxiously sat down in my first period class and braced myself for what was going to be an eight hour long learning experience.
“Okay everyone stop what you’re doing and go get a wipe.” Everyone in my class collectively groaned as we got up one by one to get a disinfectant wipe to clean our desks. It was seventh period, meaning that we had ended all six of our other classes four minutes early to make sure that our areas were disinfected before the next class came in. Along with disinfecting our desks, we regularly used hand sanitizer, had our temperatures taken again before lunch, ate lunch in our classrooms six feet apart, and wore a mask at all times unless we were told otherwise.
This first day of school might be the longest day of school that I have ever been through (and as a junior in high school, I’ve been through a lot of days of school.) However, I’m grateful that we got to have a first day of school. I’m grateful that I got to see all of my friends even if we were constantly forgetting that we can no longer mouth things to each other in class. I’m grateful for my teachers and administrators that make sure our school days are as safe and effective as possible. So although school will very likely never look the same as it did in March, I think it’s going to bring us closer together and strengthen not only my school district, but public education as a whole as we navigate through the unknown waters of going to school during a pandemic.