It is over a year since the pandemic began and changed the lives of millions of students–including soon-to-be graduating seniors at Godinez Fundamental High School (GFHS).
Senior year, for many, represents a time of indulging in fun activities and making some last great memories before everyone begins a new chapter of their lives. The pandemic has made this no easy feat.
However, after being at home and online learning since March 2020, GFHS seniors are finally allowed to return to campus.
As COVID-19 cases decreased in Santa Ana and across Orange County, restrictions were lifted and students have been allowed to resume some in-person learning at their schools based on individual decisions made by individual districts in Orange County.
During a meeting with seniors which discussed future activities, principal Jesse Church expressed his desire to give them a sense of normalcy in their last year. Though he couldn’t bring everyone back, he did wish for seniors to have fond final memories of their senior year at Godinez.
After spring break, seniors were permitted to be on campus and attend their daily classes as well as complete work. Students can only work outside as classrooms are restricted to only teachers.
Seniors can arrive and leave at any time they wish. Most leave after lunch, but some stay until school is over. They can sit anywhere and with anyone they’d like so long as they continue to follow social distancing and mask protocol. Bagged lunch is provided near the school parking lot, but it is optional.
The seniors that do return are few and spread out. Out of over 500 students in the senior class, only about 10-15, on average, are showing up each day throughout the week. On Tuesday, May 4, about 23 seniors showed up–one of the biggest numbers they’ve had ever since returns began.
Many challenges inhibit more students from coming back, such as a lack of transportation, conflicting schedules, caution of the virus, and a desire to keep the at-homes routines they’ve formed throughout the year.
Though he doesn’t go on campus often, for senior Daniel Sevilla, going back is a chance at ending the year on seemingly more normal terms. With many experiences taken away from seniors, coming to campus is one of the few available activities that are offered. Taking advantage of it feels justified.
“I wanted to get a little bit of my senior experience back, and this was the best way to feel like I actually had a senior year,” said Sevilla.
Each senior has their own reasons for coming back. Many come to hang out and relax with friends they haven’t seen in a year, while others try to escape the noise in their homes.
This reporter while conducting “research” for this article met up with her own friends on Tuesday, May 4, after some planning. Seeing them again and laughing together was a refreshing experience. We were able to break the monotony of school at home.
Senior Jude Marting comes to campus regularly. Marting is tired of having the same routine at home and thought that returning to school would give him the break he needed. Despite having to wake up early and skip breakfast, Marting enjoys the different setting and being near other students.
“I can focus a lot easier when at school, but I can’t really watch television at lunch. I like the feeling of being surrounded by other people. I’ve missed that this year,” Marting explains.
For Montserrat Rodriguez, going back on campus is a significant change to her usual schedule.
Since she lives relatively far from school, Rodriguez wakes up earlier–at 6 a.m. rather than 7:20 a.m.–in order to get ready and catch a ride from a friend. Rodriguez began going to campus for class review sessions and to see friends among other things.
“It’s a lot easier to pay attention at school. The environment is pretty quiet and less hectic compared to my home environment,” added Rodriguez.
When asked how she feels about being back at school, Rodriguez describes it “like passing by your old home and kind of reminiscing on a certain period of your life.”
No matter what their reason may be, seniors that return to campus who were interviewed for this article, all have one thing in common: they long to feel “normal” again, even though the new normal may not be what they want.