Cross Country Checkup·Q&A

'It does feel pretty normal': Calgary teen offers glimpse into high school during a pandemic

Grade 11 student Greer Hunt says that while new, pandemic-related rules at her school have been challenging, she would much rather be in class with a mask than learning from home.

Due to worries over COVID-19, Greer Hunt started the year at a new school with smaller classes

Greer Hunt is a Grade 11 student in Calgary. (Submitted by Greer Hunt)

Grade 11 student Greer Hunt says that while new, pandemic-related rules at her school have been challenging, she would much rather be in class wearing a mask than learning from home.

The Calgary student began classes last week at a new school. Due to worries over COVID-19, Hunt transferred from Western Canada High School to a private high school, West Island College, specifically in search of smaller class sizes.

"My parents and my family did feel that because of COVID, a smaller school would be a good idea ... considering Grade 11 is one of the most important years," she told Cross Country Checkup.

Hunt spoke with Checkup host Ian Hanomansing to offer a high schooler's perspective on returning to the classroom. Here is part of that conversation.

Describe for us in a little bit more detail the safety measures of the new school.

It's social distancing everywhere you go, even outside. At all times, you have to wear your mask, but when you're outside you can take it off. When you have to drink water, you have to go outside of the classroom, drink your water, then come back in. 

At the beginning, and at the end, of every single class, you have to wipe your desk. And also some of the grade sevens and the eights are in cohort classrooms, so they only see the same people every day.

In terms of social or physical distancing, I'm trying to picture that inside a high school — and I understand it's smaller than the one you used to go to — but how do you manage to keep that two metres, or just over six feet, of distance?

Well, it's really hard because all you want to do is hug your friends that, in some cases, you haven't seen for six months, right? So it's really hard to, you know, keep that connection going. 

I thought going into it, that with masks — not seeing someone smiling, not seeing anyone's facial expressions — it was going to be really hard. But I'm actually finding that it's not too bad. 

You can stick with your friends and make new connections, but there's a little bit of a barrier there.

I was super anxious because there are a lot of changes, small and big. But actually, in the classroom, sometimes I forget I'm wearing my mask.- Greer Hunt, Grade 11 student in Calgary

So let's talk a little bit more about masks. You know, there's been so much controversy — people who are absolutely pro-maskers or those who are against it. Tell us more about what it's like to be in that school and wearing a mask so much.

I think it's hard for younger students and, I mean, even high school students, because you develop a sense of heat inside the mask and you have to wear it all day until about lunchtime, if you go outside. Then you put your mask [back] on and then you wear it for the next two or three hours that you're in the school.

It's hard because when your teacher is trying to give you a lecture, or you're writing notes and you're learning something, it's hard to get the teacher's reaction — if they're being sarcastic or whatever, you can't really tell because they're wearing a mask. 

My social teacher has actually made pre-recorded lectures at home so that we can watch it on the SMART board, and see his face and his facial expressions, while we're learning the lecture.

How much of an impact is the pandemic having on all of you in the classroom, either in terms of when you're discussing lessons or just when you guys are talking about life? 

All classrooms are alphabetical when it comes to seating, so you can't sit with your friends. A lot of the time you're sitting next to people you don't know, so you have to go out of your way to make friends with people around you, so that you can talk about the issues that you're debating in social studies or whether you're talking about a novel in English. 

I think that it is a challenge because, you know, you're not around the people that you're comfortable with. But ... I think that it's actually forcing students to make new friends in a way.

As the school year begins, students across the country will have to adjust to new rules around physical distancing and mask wearing. (Syda Productions/Shutterstock)

A lot of people across the country haven't started their classes yet, or their kids haven't started their classes yet. How do you feel a few days in? Has it been an anxious time?

Going into it, I was super anxious because there are a lot of changes, small and big. But actually, in the classroom, sometimes I forget I'm wearing my mask.

It does feel pretty normal. I mean, I'd rather be in my classroom wearing a mask than at home just learning from my computer. So I think it's really a decision that every child has to make. 

I have a student in all of my classes who is learning from home and doing online, but she's [video calling] into every single one of our classes. So it's just a personal choice. 

I think that for every student, they should make their decision based on their morals and values.


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Kate Cornick and Jasmine Mani. Q&A edited for length and clarity.

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