Bruins face changes upon return to campus

St. Joe students returned to campus on August 11th amid the coronavirus pandemic.


Bianca McCarty

St. Joe hallways are now one way travel on each side.

The line of cars stretches from the administration building to MS 463. Masks are worn and temperatures are checked before students even exit their cars. It feels as if we are living a scene in a dystopian novel when in reality, this is one of the places we know best: St. Joe.

Less than a year ago, no one could have imagined what this August would hold. Sure, COVID-19 was lurking across the Pacific, but we entered Spring Break of 2020 expecting to return to school in a week. Instead, we were faced with what felt like the apocalypse. Suddenly, we were all quarantined to our homes and forced to learn from a distance. Our school year was cut violently short in a way that no one could have predicted.

Now, we’re back at school, and here’s what’s changed.

. . .

To start, St. Joe students had the option to return to campus for in-person learning or to participate in remote-learning from home. Students who chose to stay home have to wait until the end of the first quarter to return to campus, but are still engaged in the same curriculum as in-person students. These students primarily work through the Learning Management System (LMS) that St. Joe adopted last year as well as ZOOM meetings with their teachers.

We were able to get together a group of volunteers who were teachers, staff, and parents”

— Dr. Dena Kinsey

The students who decided to return are met with daily temperature checks by teachers. If students report acceptable temperatures, they scan a QR code that takes them to a Microsoft form that confirms that their temperature check. Students who initially report temperatures that are considered too high are scanned a second time. If their temperature does not change, they are sent home.

Following CDC guidelines, St. Joe enforced a slew of other new rules. Everyone on campus is required to wear a mask and are encouraged to frequently use the sanitizing stations around campus. St. Joe has also taken on a new bell schedule that was created by a task force. “We were able to get together a group of volunteers who were teachers, staff, and parents,” said St. Joe’s principal Dr. Dena Kinsey. “[We] met multiple times in the library and started off looking into a new schedule to limit the interaction of students.” The bell schedule has been modified to A/D alternating 4-class period days.

Kinsey, with the help of the task force, spawned ideas such as prohibiting the use of lockers, making hallways one-way foot traffic on each side, and putting extra time in-between class periods to keep students from congregating. Lunch on campus also looks different as an extra lunch period was added to the schedule. Students now have three periods that they can utilize depending on the C/F class that they are in. Lunch orders are placed electronically and are individually packaged for students. The tables in the cafeteria were replaced by desks, and extra outside seating near the lake has been added.

Even mass changed, as different classes and a select group of teachers rotate attending in the auditorium. Other students and teachers watched the mass through a Livestream produced by the Bruin Broadcast team as well as Mr. Jamie Stringer. Eucharistic ministers travel throughout campus to give the Blessed Sacrament to students in their classrooms.

These changes have been strange for many returning Bruin families. However, this experience has been even more taxing for new students. “I definitely don’t like the mask procedures in Saint Joe,” said seventh-grader Dominic Weisenberger. “But in the end you know it’s for a bigger cause to keep everyone safe.”

New picnic tables have been added by the lake for extra outside seating. (Leah Clark)

. . .

Despite all of the changes St. Joe has made, some events and traditions are in jeopardy. The Student Council is working with the school administration to find a way to have homecoming and pep rallies that still adhere to CDC and local guidelines. BruinThon, St. Joe’s annual dance marathon for Blair E. Baston Children’s Hospital, is still forming its committee and plans to continue to help the hospital even though the event is still up in the air. “Since we didn’t get to have an event last year,” said BruinThon student director Clay Blanchard, “we’re working extra hard to make sure we raise money for the children of Blair Baston’s Hospital.”

The fine arts department is also struggling during this time as the fall play remains a mystery for most. The St. Joe community was disheartened after last year’s spring musical Sister Act was canceled due to Covid-19.

While sacrifices have been made by students during the pandemic, there have also been sacrifices for teachers. St. Joe teachers are now expected to alter their lesson plans to be remote-learning friendly as well as for in-person learning. Most teachers even had to give up at least one planning period for the new schedule to work.

However, St. Joe is still confident that this school year will be successful as long as everyone follows protocols. Compared to other schools in the metro-Jackson area, there are only about 340 students. “I think St. Joe had an advantage because we’re already a small school,” said Kinsey. “That was a benefit for us.” The smaller the population, the fewer exposure students have to possibly contracting Covid-19.

. . .

Somehow, this has all become normal. Masks are simply a part of the uniform and hand sanitizer is just an addition to the routine. We long to hug our friends and go to football games again, yet simultaneously, we’ve accepted what the world has become. We learn to find joy in the little things, like being back at school, or zooms with friends. Sometimes this may feel like the apocalypse, but rest assured, the world will keep turning.

No one is sure when life will return back to the way it was, but in the meantime, the Bruins press onward.