The Loneliness of a Student-less School Building

The hallways of my middle school contain only the echoes of a teacher’s shoes clicking on the tile and the custodian cart being wheeled to the next room in need of a deep clean. It is the third day of an absent student body as nine hundred 6th, 7th, and 8th graders stay at home.

COVID-19 cases have spiked in our area, after several weeks of decreasing. Many thought we were past the crisis and looked forward to the return of normalcy but the virus has played a cruel form of resurrection and has put more distance between the memory of the way we used to live our lives and the new anxious normal.

In regards to the academic arena, colleges and high schools have seen the bulk of COVID cases. However, like a fog bank it has crept toward our school population through contact with the outside world and family members who have tested positive. It’s not as if our middle school, or other middle schools, have had riotous parties or heavily-attended school events. In our hybrid model class structure, the most heavily-attended school activity this year has been the lineup of cars with waiting parents ready to pick up their son or daughter after the 2:45 dismissal bell.

The empty hallway is simply a ripple effect of what has happened. The silence is eerie. It’s loud in its exclamation of its reason. So many students whose faces I’m staring at on a screen are visibly disappointed. If nothing else positive comes out of this, perhaps it will bear credence to the importance of students and their teachers being together in a physical classroom. Maybe it will tell us how vital it is for teachers to be standing in the hallways and welcoming students as they arrive in the morning. Maybe it will trumpet the importance of presence.

Silent school hallways that are absent of the sound of lockers being opened and slammed shut, bursts of laughter, and the chatter of the young are signs of the dark tunnel we are walking through, hoping that there is the glimpse of light indicating a return to the normal.

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