On March 13, 2020, Manitou Springs High School, along with schools around the country, announced that spring break would be extended by two weeks because of a new virus called COVID-19.

I remember that we were all excited to have extra time off, but we had no clue what it would turn into. During spring break, Superintendent Elizabeth Domangue announced that we would go into full online school instead of in-person learning because the virus was becoming a worldwide pandemic.

This was a shock to all of us, as nobody had experienced online school or been away from our peers for so long. Online school was a very difficult adjustment for everyone — we were all stuck in our homes, expected to sit and do our work in our personal spaces.

There was definitely a divide as some students felt they learned more at home while others couldn’t focus and had no motivation.

Life as a high school student is almost completely back to normal now that COVID is coming to an end, but is it really? I think it’s important that all students impacted by COVID reflect on the true impact these past couple of years have had on them.

The pandemic completely changed the way students learn and work with others, but are we recognizing this? This is a big question I think a lot of students are glossing over as we come to the end of our first year back to full in-person learning.

This reflection starts by realizing the things that we’ve lost and the things that have changed. Class of 2022 members lost the second half of their sophomore year; for a lot of students that meant a whole sports season, as well. This means that, as athletes, we lost a whole year of progression, which can be a big deal.

Losing a whole semester of in-person learning definitely had an impact on the following years. How we learned completely changed and learning to constantly adjust made our experience much more difficult.

For others, COVID wasn’t just about school but also their families. Essential workers like nurses and doctors had to spend increased hours away from their families, and people lost family members and those close to them.

People are tending to forget about or try to move on from all of these events, but without reflecting on how they truly affected us we will struggle to truly move on. Making the adjustment back to full in-person learning was something a lot of us struggled with.

The homework loads got much bigger, and teachers’ expectations for us were the same as before COVID happened. Many students, including myself, lost motivation going into this school year, especially after we experienced smaller work loads and had more time to finish assignments.

Being a high school student is already hard enough on teenagers, so having to adapt to all of these changes as well as just getting through high school has been very difficult.

I know I struggled with my motivation and overall organization coming back this year, and with the stress of being a senior added on top of that, it has been a lot to handle. So not only has our education been impacted, there has also been a change in students’ mental health.

The American Psychological Association reported that 81 percent of teens have experienced more stress during the pandemic and much of this is associated with schooling. Anxiety, depression, PTSD and suicidal ideation has increased in teens because of the pandemic.

Studies show how our mental health has declined, how our test scores have dropped and how many negative impacts this whole situation has had on all of us. So I need all of us to take a breather and not be too hard on ourselves.

Find those people to hold you accountable when you can’t get motivated and know that you are not alone in feeling that way. It will be hard, but finding a new normal, whether students are going to college or continuing as a high school student, is possible and we will get there.

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