The Covid-19 Experience at St. Thomas Aquinas

The Covid-19 Experience at St. Thomas Aquinas
Posted on 10/23/2020
St. Thomas AquinasWritten by Willow Girard, Student Journalist

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School in Tottenham, opened its doors to students for a new school year on September 14, 2020.

Covid-19 has meant that this year is different from an average school year. The school uniform is now accessorized by a reusable mask and friendly smiles have become eyebrow raises of expression between students.

Despite the uncertainty of how this school year would run, the guidance department was able to manage both student safety and academic success. Although the school offers online distance learning, much of the student body chose to attend school in person.

The daily schedule has been adapted over this first ‘quadmester’ as unexpected issues arose. St. Thomas Aquinas decided to take part in four quad-mesters, rather than two semesters. This way students could focus on 2 courses for 8 weeks, alternating between each course every other week.

“I think quad-mesters are great because one week I have math, the next I have law. I spend all day in the same class so I am only exposed to a certain group of students and I have more time to focus on each course without having to decide what homework from what course gets a higher priority. I think from a perspective of safety and academic efficiency, this makes sense”, explained Sarah O, a Grade 12 student attending her last year of high school in person during Covid-19.

However as Covid-19 statistics rose in Ontario, school boards across the province took action as it became clear that a percentage of students not following safety guidelines were putting communities at risk during the lunch periods.

The temporary solution involved students staying in the same classroom all day, with a quick break outside and lunch inside. In combination with rising workloads, changing weather and isolation from friends, student spirit declined.

“It was not a great week of school”, admitted Patrick K., a Grade 11 student taking all math and science courses this quadmester, “ I understand the school board had to make a decision to keep us safe, but I found it hard to focus in class. Our break outside was the best 10 minutes of my day”.

A new daily schedule that has been effective so far includes classwork until the new lunch period at 2pm-3pm. Students are able to leave the school at this time without worrying about coming in contact with other students after their lunch excursions.

“Although it certainly is something to get used to, I think this schedule is the best way to maintain the physical and mental health of the student body,” said Alexis F. an academic Grade 12 student who also explained that, “As a student who drives to school, I do like being able to leave early.”

This school year has also included a positive change at St. Thomas Aquinas. Students have been encouraged to take advantage of the beautiful school grounds during their breaks and have made concerted efforts to decrease the amount of litter on school property.