Students finally return, but to a changed building

After having not been in school for exactly six months and a day due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some Baldwin students returned to school on Monday. But the building they came back to looks very different than the one they left. 

Following a week in which all students attended classes virtually, Group 1 hybrid students were in school today, while Group 2 and Remote students attended virtually. Group 1 will be back Tuesday, and then Group 2 will be in school on Thursday and Friday, with all students learning from home on Wednesdays.

Many of the Group 1 students said they were excited to be back, but they had mixed reactions to the changes put in place to ensure social distancing. One of the biggest changes is that all of the hallways and staircases have now been designated as one-way. 

Senior Bailey Harding said the one-way halls and stairs made it difficult and inconvenient to get to her classes, especially those in the science wing. 

“To get to AP Bio this morning, I had to go upstairs, back downstairs, and then back upstairs again, and ended up being late,” Harding said. “It’s going to take a while to get used to.”

I liked seeing all my friends in my classes again, but it’s sad that I can’t talk to them because we are so far apart.”

— Sara Banovic

Senior CJ Lucas agreed that the one-way halls were difficult. 

“It feels good to be back since it has been so long, but I wish we could just walk through the halls and stairways normally,” Lucas said.

For freshmen, the one-way halls and stairs made finding their way around a brand new building even more confusing.

“They definitely made my day 100 percent harder,” freshman Julia Graham said. “I got lost going to my second and sixth periods, but overall it was not as scary as I thought it would be.”

In the classrooms, meanwhile, students are being placed one person per table or every other desk.

Senior Sara Banovic said she wishes she could sit next to her classmates but understands the reasons why that would not be safe.

“I liked seeing all my friends in my classes again, but it’s sad that I can’t talk to them because we are so far apart,” Banovic said.

More big changes were found in the cafeteria. The tables that friends have sat at for years are gone, replaced by individual student classroom desks, all spaced six feet apart.

Additionally, students go to the desks first instead of immediately getting in the lunch line. They take the next available desk as they enter the cafe, the same way they are seated in the auditorium for an assembly, and teachers on duty release kids to the lunch line a few at a time for social distancing.

Students were not enthusiastic about the cafe changes, but said they understood why the changes were made.

“The new seating is strange, but I guess it makes sense,” senior Jacob Dulya said.

Another new change for this school year is the move from Google Classroom to Canvas. The learning curve that comes with that change has not been easy, some students said.

Sophomore Sarah Jesionowski said her classes were all right, but “I’m still learning Canvas so it is a bit confusing.” 

Sophomore Cindy Flaherty said the online work last week seemed to be tough for teachers as well.

“I’m finding it hard for them to teach me over the online school, but I’m sure I will come to like them.” 

Still, some elements of today were the same: It was the first day in the school building, with all of the emotions that usually come with that.

“I felt stressed and nervous but I’m happy to be back in person,” Jesionowski said.

Flaherty agreed.

“I feel relieved that I got to talk to my teachers and my peers,” she said. 

And after the dismissal bell rang, it was the end of the first day in the building.

“I feel relieved that I made it through, and I can now go home and relax,” Jesionowski said.