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Portage Township Media

Portage Township Media

COVID-19 Lockdown: 3 Years Later


March 13, 2023 went by like any typical school day. Students crowded the hallways, commuting to their classes, without social distancing measures following arrows or lines. Teachers went about their business instructing their students, all of which were in class. Students in cafeterias did not have to remove their masks to eat. Extracurricular activities went on as planned, and future events such as the school musical were being prepared for. However, just three years ago, the school day was far from average. It was March 13, 2020, “Friday the Thirteenth,” and the day that several schools including Portage Township Schools announced that they would be shutting down due to the recently declared COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19, also known as SARS-CoV-2 or Coronavirus, was a new virus that had emerged in China around December 2019. While there is still currently some debate over the origins of the disease, many agree that it first started in Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, infecting people through animal to human transmission from horseshoe bats. The symptoms varied, but were quite similar to the common cold or flu, such as a sore throat, runny nose, head and muscle aches, etc. To protect citizens from the virus, China went under lockdown on January 23, 2020, preventing anyone from entering or leaving the country, shutting down schools and businesses, and forcing people to stay within their homes. However, this was not enough to contain the spread within China, and on January 30, the first case was reported within the United States. A few months later, states began to issue their own lockdowns, Indiana officially issuing theirs on March 23, ten days after schools closed.


On the morning of March 13, staff members held an emergency meeting to debrief on the district’s decision on how the impending pandemic would be addressed. Many expressed feelings of fear and uncertainty in the aftermath of the unprecedented announcement. Earth and Environmental Science teacher, Ms. Debra Broom, stated that she was shocked that something like a world-wide pandemic could even happen.


“I was really, really surprised that it had come to a total shutdown of everything. I didn’t think that in our modern medical era that we would have such a worldwide pandemic,” Broom said.

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At first, it was believed that the lockdown would only last a couple of weeks in order to keep cases from spiraling out of control. Spring break was coming up, so many students and staff viewed the shutdown as an extended vacation. However, on April 2, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb announced that schools would be closed for the rest of the academic year. Opinions of the lockdown began to shift, with many mourning the loss of events and extracurriculars they were looking forward to.


Senior Martha Bravo, who was a freshman at the time, said she was initially pleased to hear about the closure, but then realized later how it would affect the upcoming spring musical, Seussical.


“At the time, I was really excited because it was like an extended spring break, and then you realize later that the musical would be canceled that year. Then I felt really sad,” Bravo stated.


As a result of the lockdowns, individuals were restricted to leaving their homes only for essential purposes such as grocery shopping or medical emergencies. Additionally, when outside of their homes, individuals were required to wear masks and maintain a distance of six feet from others in order to promote social distancing and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Due to the restrictions, many individuals were unable to see their family or friends in person which resulted in feelings of isolation and loneliness for most. On the other hand, some individuals were able to connect with others virtually.


During the lockdown, Senior Leo Guido utilized the game Animal Crossing, which had been released that year, to socialize with others and build lasting connections.


“I remember finding a community outside of school friends, and we just played a bunch of games and just got to know each other. So, I felt like I made long-lasting friends over COVID,” he said.


Online meeting platforms such as “Zoom” and “Google Meets” were also heavily used by teachers to continue conducting classes virtually. Many traditional classroom activities had to be altered or removed in order to fit the new setting.


Human Body Systems teacher Ms. Jackie Brasseur states the difficulties of adapting to a virtual classroom. Given that much of the activities done in her class are hands-on experiments and dissections, the switch to online learning was incredibly challenging.


“Virtually, obviously, was a lot harder. So, I would have them bring things to the camera, to be able to do activities virtually and try anyways,” she said. “We did some yoga for a range of motions and things like that. It’s something to keep students engaged because we couldn’t do hands-on activities.”


Despite the negativity surrounding it, the pandemic has taught many important lessons about appreciating what one has and finding joy in life beyond the constraints of the outside world.

For English and Speech teacher Ms. Jodi Newby, the pandemic taught her to appreciate spending more time at home. Alongside her teaching duties, Newby owns and instructs a driving school across the street from PHS which keeps her quite busy. With COVID-19 regulations closing down both PHS and her business, she was left with a lot of down time.


“I have learned to appreciate being at home so much more,” Newby said. “I tend to be kind of a workaholic, I work a lot between my two jobs, and the pandemic taught me to appreciate the value of just being still and being home. I realize how much I need and crave that downtime.”


Three years later, it seems that the world has returned to a state of normalcy after the lockdowns and social distancing. Thanks to both the measures taken to protect others from the virus, as well as the release of a vaccine, COVID-19 is beginning to fade from disrupting public life. School has returned in person, with masks and social distancing no longer enforced. People have been able to congregate as usual, and the talk of the virus has almost completely diminished. However, the memories of the pandemic, as well as the challenges it posed, will be long remembered. Perhaps they will even be taught as lessons for schools in the future on how to work through emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

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