Manitoba·First Person

It's back to pre-pandemic basics for this school year, says Steinbach Grade 11 student

Steinbach teen Ayesha Badiola has been diarizing her experience as a high school student during a pandemic. "It is 2022, I am now in Grade 11 and my days have seen drastic changes," she writes in her latest entry.

Going maskless in class and 'being in a sea of faces may take time to get used to,' writes Ayesha Badiola

Ayesha Badiola, left, with her friend Olivia during photography class, soon after Manitoba's mask mandate was lifted. 'Respecting each other’s decisions has been a common topic in conversations, a critical lesson everyone needs to learn,' she writes. (Lucas Thompson)

This First Person column is the experience of Ayesha Badiola, a Grade 11 student in Steinbach, Man. Since September 2020, she has been diarizing her experience as a high school student during a pandemic for CBC Manitoba.

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My last diary entries consisted of thoughts about school life with many restrictions in place. One year later, circumstances have changed. It is 2022, I am now in Grade 11, and my days have seen drastic changes.

On March 15, the mask mandate in Manitoba was lifted. There were mixed emotions about this decision, especially after all the protests and lockdowns that took place.

What does this look like at Steinbach Regional Secondary School, rural Manitoba's largest high school?

The busyness of course registration and Grade 8 orientation week collided with the lifting of mask mandates. Everything seemed to be happening all at once. The change in mandates, mixed with the flood of questions about the future, felt surreal.

At this point, nothing is out of the ordinary; however, that day was a reality check. 

Stepping into the halls and going to class felt different. Instead of just squinted eyes, I was greeted with smiles and conversations. There were fewer half-covered faces as a majority of students have chosen not to wear masks. More can be seen during transition times between periods in the hallways than in the classroom.

Along with the removal of directional arrows in the hallways, it has looked like pre-COVID times. For myself, being in a sea of faces may take time to get used to, especially after two years of constant mask use.

Respecting each other's decisions has been a common topic in conversations — a critical lesson everyone needs to learn. 

Many students are mindful of the comfort level of those around them, even taking the extra step to ask if those around them are comfortable with their choice.

Looking ahead

My senior year is approaching faster than I anticipated. The class of 2023 has not had a full year of high school without the disruption of the pandemic. We have dealt with changes, studied during the different formats and missed out on events that make high school memorable. 

For the past two years, the graduation ceremony has been held at a local church's parking lot. This year's graduating class will have theirs at RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg, where it is usually held.

We are getting back to what it once was, and hopefully, it only gets better. 

At this point, change isn't unexpected. It feels like the world has experienced every situation imaginable.

However, only time will tell what my final days of high school will look like. With three months left of the school year, I am living in the moment and seizing the opportunities offered.

To all staff and students, good luck with the rest of the school year and stay safe!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ayesha Badiola

Freelance contributor

Ayesha Badiola is a high school student who grew up in the Philippines, before her family relocated to Steinbach, Man. She loves "hoops, writing and reporting," and hopes to one day cover the Toronto Raptors as a journalist or a sideline reporter.

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