Socially Distant: A COVID Retrospective


By Justin Caulfield, Chief Copy Editor

It’s no secret that the global pandemic has left a scar on people everywhere. Xavier took sufficient precaution to ensure the safety of its students and faculty, but there were some downsides that could not be avoided. One such downside was the struggle for students to remain connected all throughout the pandemic. Xavier is known for its brotherhood and enduring personal relationships, but what happens when that’s gone? That experience is what I’m going to address.

Returning from school on the bus was as normal an experience as any. I was only a freshman. Rumors of the school shutting down due to Covid were widespread, and students were split on whether or not we would see each other again the next day. Hopeful, I assumed that I would return to school in the morning, just like any other day. My hopes were quickly dashed. I never got to see my friends face to face after Xavier closed, although I did see a few faces over Zoom, but not for casual reasons. When no teacher would hold a live online class, Mr. St. George decided that his students would get the education they paid for. Over the next few months, these Zoom classes would be the only social interaction I had with my classmates. When the end of the year came around, I closed my computer, completely unsatisfied. It did not feel the same as exiting the building. I didn’t slam my locker closed and walk away proud of the work I did that day. I didn’t walk past the school store manned by two of the hardest working faculty members of the school. I didn’t board the bus to see the many familiar faces already there. I didn’t feel anything.

When we returned after the summer, all students had to wear masks. You don’t realize how much you rely on facial expressions until you cannot see them at all. It was also difficult to put a name to a face. After all, you could only see half of someone’s face. It was a necessary measure, but still annoying nonetheless. There were many changes clearly visible around the school. Water fountains could not be drunk from directly, bathrooms had a capacity limit, hallways were marked with lines, desks were social distanced, and staircases were one direction. However, one of the most noticeable changes was that of the cafeteria. While the tables were able to accommodate six students before, they were limited to only two to a table. Friend groups of more than two people would be put in awkward positions, trying to decide where to sit to optimize their ability to socialize. During that year, to compensate for the reduced seating in the cafeteria, students could sit in the gym for lunch. 

Aside from that, there would only be five classes per day, with a tediously long third period that made students want to fall asleep or pass out from boredom. With only five periods, I had less opportunities to see my friends, which was only exasperated by the introduction of hybrid learning. Students with last names in the first half of the alphabet would be in school one day, while the other half would be online. Then they would switch the next day. Ideally, this meant that each class would be cut in half, but that was not always the case. Being in a Latin class with only four people was a little weird, but it was even weirder to be in a history class with only two people. Despite this, the end of my sophomore year was a lot more optimistic than my freshman year. I could actually say goodbye to the school in a proper fashion. I felt satisfied.

Junior year was the year that a lot of aspects returned to normal. Students were finally able to sit together at lunch, and the classrooms were no longer social distanced. The schedule was also reverted to its proper state. No longer did students have to sit for two hours in the dreaded extended third period. This year saw the renewal of many friendships that simply could not thrive during Covid. For the first time since March of my freshman year, the school felt normal.

Now, as my senior year is mostly done, I am thankful that it was a pretty normal year. The friendships that did survive Covid are much stronger because of it, and we all found ways to help each other through the difficult times. Of course, there will always be something to complain about. However, I’d rather have the doors to the stairways be closed than have social distancing again.