Wilton High students reflect on school experience through COVID

One student from each grade at Wilton High School shared their experiences of schooling during the pandemic with the Board of Education Thursday.

One student from each grade at Wilton High School shared their experiences of schooling during the pandemic with the Board of Education Thursday.

Contributed Photo

WILTON — Sophomore Shawn Gregory said he “hadn’t known” what Wilton High School was like before the pandemic.

His first foray into the halls of the school were dictated by the strict guidelines enforced by the reality of the pandemic.

Much of that changed this year, he recently told the school board.

Gregory said he has felt a real “resurgence” of school spirit. He noted that he feels a collective elevated sense of interest in school activities and even fandom around the high school’s sports teams.

Junior Joy Ren said that having everyone in the school building has been “a lot more engaging.”

“I’m able to see my friends every single day, which is really, really good for my mental health,” Ren said.

Following a ‘milestone’ day on Monday, one that marked the first mask-optional school day since face covering regulations were put in place at the state level, a handful of high school students shared their perspectives Thursday of the current academic year and put into perspective how their experiences have been affected by the ebbs and flows of the pandemic.

Senior Avery Baumel said that while she and her classmates are looking forward to traditional high school happenings, like the prom in spring, many of her peers are content to enjoy “the little things,” like being able to sit and speak with friends in the cafeteria while eating lunch.

“Its been really great to see that everyone is really committed to following those rules and making sure that we can maintain those spaces in a safe way,” Baumel said. “I think everyone in the entire school community has really been trying to do what has been asked of us to make sure we can have those ‘little’ things.”

Baumel said her classmates appreciate slowly gaining some of those opportunities back after being able to adapt to all of the guidance put in front of them over the past two years.

Freshman Skyler Reading had a different read than any of her fellow classmates who spoke to the Board of Education Thursday. Coming into high school this academic year, she was appreciative to be in the school building and to meet peers from other grades and to “not be so confined to a single group of students and be able to travel around the school” to “get to know it for what it is.”

Reading said she and her friends have talked about how much more positive their daily experiences have been in the school building since the district dropped the mask mandates this week.

“A lot of my friends have noted that the school just seems so much brighter,” Reading said. “Being able to see people smile, I think people really love that.”

When BOE Chairwoman Deb Low asked the students how this school year would be remembered in a decade, Reading focused on her cohort’s ability to adapt through an ever-changing reality.

Gregory had a similar reaction.

“The thing I have learned the most about is the perseverance and what people can do when they are together,” Gregory said. “Just the resolve everyone can have when they put their minds to a certain task.”

Each student spoke on their reverence for the in-person relationships they are once again beginning to build with not just their peers, but their teachers and administrators as well. Superintendent Kevin Smith lauded the group for representing each of their grades “wonderfully” when sharing their experiences.