COVID-weary high school students ready to take on a new challenge: semesters

It's been a long time since students in Ontario have gone to school in a regular semester system, with four classes each day. COVID-19 safety measures forced a variety of different learning models, but today London high school students are going back to class under the old system.

For the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards, a new semester begins today

Fatima Hassan, 15, is a Grade 9 student at Oakridge Secondary School in London, Ont. (Supplied by Fatima Hassan)

It is a sign that things are slowly, cautiously going back to normal: high schools start a new semester today, and students will take the same four classes a day, every day, just like in pre-pandemic times. 

It's been a long time since students in Ontario have gone to school in a regular semester system; COVID-19 safety measures forced a variety of different learning models, but today London high school students are going back to class under the old system. 

"I'm pretty excited, actually. I think it will feel a lot better. Socially, we'll be interacting more frequently, not sitting in a class for half a day straight," said Noor Farooqi, 16. "I've taked to my friends and we're excited, just to have a sense of what high school should be like."

CBC London spoke to three students as the new semester begins. Here's what they had to say: 

Noor Farooqi, 16

  • Grade 11, Oakridge Secondary School
  • Classes: Chemistry; Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology; Physics; Philosophy.
Noor Farooqi, 16, says she's looking forward to school being 'back to normal' as a new semester begins. (Supplied by Noor Farooqi)

Farooqi completed one semester of Grade 9 before the pandemic threw everything into a tailspin. Since then, she's gone to classes remotely, for two days a week, and more recently, taken two classes a week, half day for one, half day for the other. 

"Now, we're just going to have all four together, switching every 75 minutes. I'm kind of relieved," she said, adding that teachers have told her there will be less content covered daily than there was when classes were more than two hours long. 

"I get to take the time to learn the information and really understand the concepts better. Hopefully I can learn better like that." 

The prospect of having four subjects to juggle at a time is a bit daunting, but Farooqi is looking forward seeing more friends in different classes. "Maybe I don't have a friend in this class, but I do in the next one. It's a chance to meet more people," she said. 

Alex Chun, 16

  • Grade 10, Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School
  • Classes: Math; Civics and Careers; Science; Physical education 
Alex Chun, 16, says he's a little worried about jugging four courses every day as the new semester begins. (Supplied by Alex Chun)

Alex Chun is an English as a second language learner who moved to Canada from South Korea in the fall. He's apprehensive about taking four courses a day instead of two, he said. 

"We used to take two courses a day but now we have four courses each day. So you have much more to review at night. I expect it's going to be hard." 

He plans to take engineering in university, so is already thinking about the marks he'll get in science and math. And sitting through one course for an entire half day was very difficult, he added. 

But the social aspect, of meeting four new teachers, and peers in four different courses, is exciting, he said. So is getting seeing friends every day. 

"It used to end after two months, so it wasn't enough time to get really close with friends and share yourself, to make a good friendship. Now we'll have four months, and that will help form friendships," Chun said. 

Fatima Hassan, 15

  • Grade 9, Oakridge Secondary School
  • Classes: Grade 10 history; Physical education; Business; English
Fatima Hassan, 15, is looking forward to meeting new people in her new classes. (Supplied by Fatima Hassan)

"I'm kind of excited because I'm going to have all new classes, meet more people, and we won't have to sit for more than two hours in just one class," said Hassan. "But I also wish they would have waited until next year, because this is all going to be so new to us. Next year they could have had a fresh year, fresh start." 

Hassan isn't worried about the increased workload of four classes a day, because she feels her elementary school prepared her well. 

"It's going to be at a fast pace and I like that," she said. She's excited that her high school, finally, will be "a little more normal," even though there will still be mask precautions. 

And although she "likes the stress of exams," Hassan is not really complaining about the fact that both the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards have cancelled exams for this upcoming semester. 

"Right now, with no exams, school is way easier," she said.