Emma Liscinsky, 17, Grade 12, South Burlington High School

Before the first day

TOP (The Other Paper): How are you feeling about heading back tomorrow?

Liscinsky: I’m feeling pretty good. I’m not sure what to expect. I mean, everything’s going to look so different and just even the social aspect I think will be really different. I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m definitely not as excited as I have been in the past.

TOP: Is it kind of nerve wracking to be going back during COVID or do you feel comfortable with the way things are set up?

Liscinsky: It definitely is nerve wracking. Just cause there’s a lot of unexpectedness. I don’t know what to expect so I think being close with a bunch of people is kind of scary. But I’m taking the right cautionary steps to stay safe so that’s reassuring.

TOP: How will it work tomorrow? Will you still switch from class to class like normal or do you stay in one place?

Liscinsky: We switch from classroom to classroom. I think some classrooms are outside. South Burlington got rid of all the furniture, so students have to carry around a chair, so we’ll be carrying around our chair from class to class and that’s how it’ll be during the day.

TOP: Are you ready for the chair workout?

Liscinsky: Not at all.

TOP: I’m wondering, with the chairs, do you take it home with you at the end of the day?

Liscinsky: We have to take it home, which some kids have already forgotten theirs today.

After the first day

TOP: How was the first day? What was it like when you got there?

Liscinsky: It was weird. When we got there, they didn’t allow people in the doors, until 10:05. Class, for me, started at 10:10. Everybody waited outside 6 feet apart. And then we walked in, got our chairs. They’re taken, and then had to go straight to class or normally we would all be socializing in the lobby or go get breakfast, so that was different.

TOP: How did it feel to not have that social time?

Liscinsky: It was really weird and almost uncomfortable. Even in classes I have a few of my really close friends that I have been seeing, and having them helped me set up my chair, teachers were like ‘Nope. You have to be far apart,’ even though outside of school we’re seeing each other. Inside school we’re not allowed to be close.

TOP: Can you give us a rundown of the day?

Liscinsky: After the health screening we go right to class and then sit down in your chair and wait for everybody. There’s not really any bathroom time. If you have to go, you go during class or only one person is allowed out of the classroom at lunch. After that we switch classes but super-fast. Don’t go where you don’t need to go; just go right to the other class. Then it was lunch, so I got to leave, luckily. There’s no snacking during class. We’re allowed to drink our water during class, but it seems as if it’s more frowned upon.

TOP: How many people were in your classes?

Liscinsky: In one of my classes I think there are probably 12 people and then in another, I was one of four. It was super small.

TOP: What would your classes normally be like? Did you like the smaller class sizes?

Liscinsky: Probably 20 to 25 [students]. So, going from that to four people was really different. It just made the class feel a lot more personal. It was different because you don’t have as many friends in the class so you are kind of with three other people who you might not be as close with. But it was nice with the teacher because you feel like you actually have more of a relationship with them.

TOP: What’s it like having classes outside? Did it change your learning experience?

Liscinsky: Yes, definitely. It was a lot harder to focus because there’s just so much going on. People were playing on the turf and there were a lot of people outside so there’s a lot to look at and distract me. Then on top of that it was pretty cold.

TOP: Are you worried about how that’ll play out over the semester, or do you think that you’re going to just learn and adjust?

Liscinsky: I am hoping I’ll adjust, but I’m not sure. I think it’s definitely going to take a while, especially not being in school for so long.

TOP: What were the COVID-19 precautions like?

Liscinsky: In the morning my parents had to fill out a questionnaire about if I’ve traveled out of state and if I have any symptoms of anything. If any of that was like, ‘Yeah, I’ve been out of state or Yeah, I have a cough,’ then I wouldn’t be allowed in school. If I get accepted to be in school, then I just get my temperature taken.

TOP: What was it like wearing a mask all day?

Liscinsky: I wasn’t used to wearing it for so long. It was uncomfortable but, I mean, I knew it was necessary, so I had to just go with it. But I was really not used to it. Luckily, I had my break in between so I could go home and fully breathe without it which was nice. If I had a full day morning to end, I think it would be a lot harder. When we had class outside, we were allowed to take our masks off because we’re outside and still putting six feet apart so that was also nice.

TOP: What’d you do for lunch today?

Liscinsky: I came home and had my mom make me soup. I was so cold after being outside. Juniors and seniors normally are allowed off campus for lunch. I think they want more people off campus because then there’s less people crowding in the cafeteria.

TOP: A lot of things were different today. What things were the same, compared to a normal first day of school?

Liscinsky: I guess the way the classes went: Teachers still taught, basically the same. We still kind of got to sit as we normally would, just a little bit father and less comfy chairs. But there wasn’t too much that was different.

TOP: With your new chairs, do you have a writing surface to work on or do you just kind of work off your lap?

Liscinsky: We work off our lap. So that felt uncomfortable, and then slouching in the chair and carrying it around. I got home at lunch and I was like, “My shoulders hurt so bad.” That’s also going to take some getting used to.

TOP: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of the day?

Liscinsky: My favorite part was probably just being in class and seeing people again. Although I had one class with three other people, it was still just nice to see everybody again. Then my least favorite part was not seeing everybody because walking into the halls, there are probably like 10 people in the hallway at once. So that was just really different.

TOP: What were some of the things you saw, heard, smelled and felt during the day?

Liscinsky: There was hand sanitizer everywhere that everybody was using so there was definitely a hand sanitizer smell. Then it just looked really empty. There weren’t many people in the hallways and classrooms were empty.

TOP: How were your teachers? Were you happy with them?

Liscinsky: Yeah, I’m pretty happy with them. They’re all super nice.

TOP: It’s only day one, but what are your thoughts about this year? How do you think it’ll go?

Liscinsky: I think we’re doing really well with masks and distancing. I didn’t see too many people not following those rules. I’m hoping by the spring things will be back to normal because the spring is definitely the best time of the school year.

TOP: It’s a totally different year with its own unique challenges, I’m wondering what you’re most looking forward to?

Liscinsky: Definitely just getting back into the habit of things and making this my new normal. As of now everything just seems so different. I’m just looking forward to hopefully, getting used to this.

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