It’s 7:57 on a Monday morning, and Brett Willis and his friends are walking up the sidewalk to the high school.
Brett forgot his mask. He throws his water bottle into the courtyard and stomps away, while his friends make their way through the line of fellow students waiting to get their temperatures checked before they can enter.
“It made me really mad because I had to go back out to my car,” Brett says.
This is just a “new normal” day at Iola High School during the coronavirus pandemic, which has brought several changes in terms of safety and hygiene to prevent its spread.
After the temp check, students then form a single file while maintaining 6 feet of distance from each other, as they make their way up a stairway now designated as the “up” stairs. A multitude of students seem to have forgotten that it is an up-only staircase, and frantically look around to see if anyone saw them coming down the stairs.
The day drones on.
Teacher Emily Sigg moves her art classes out on the lawn. Teachers can have their classes in their classrooms, or they can hold them outside when the weather cooperates, allowing for masks to be taken off with strict social distancing set in place.
The lunch bell rings, and students flood out of their classes to be the first ones in the lunch line. Though masks are required in the school, whilst students eat lunch, masks are neglected on tables and in backpacks.
The tables now only hold four people instead of the usual six. Friends may be left out of the group due to this change.
Lunches are individually packaged in styrofoam boxes and placed into hot carts. Students are offered a choice of three entrees.
If students want anything else to drink throughout the day, they must provide their own water bottle or purchase a drink from the vending machine. Water fountains have been replaced by water bottle filling stations.
The day is brought to a close by the final bell, and students rush out of the doors to free themselves of their masks and breathe the fresh air.
Principal Scott Carson said he is impressed with how well students are adapting to the new normal.
He addressed many of the concerns he’s heard from students during the pandemic.
With the cold and flu season now upon us, students will be carefully monitored, Carson said. Students must now be “fever-free” for three days before they can return to school. Previously, they only needed to be without a fever for 24 hours.
Extracurricular activities will continue as they are. If an athlete of any sport comes in contact with Covid-19 they will be quarantined for 14 days, as was done after the Iola vs. Wellsville football game.
As far as school dances go, fall homecoming will be hosted outside on the football field, where multiple festivities will be planned
No plans regarding graduation have been discussed.
Tabitha Graham is a senior at Iola High School and an intern at The Register.