– Florence Dewhurst

Welcome to my new column, where I’ll be shedding some light on the experiences and opinions of a 15-year-old during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, which can be shrouded in negativity by the adults around us.

As a Transition Year (TY) student at Loreto Fermoy it was obvious to me from the very beginning of the year that this was to be a TY year unlike any other.

Understandably there’s very little work experience or indeed employment opportunities around at the moment, so I am extremely grateful to The Avondhu for giving me the chance to write this column, with the support of journalist Graham Clifford.

School as a whole has changed so much – what with face coverings being worn, a new one-way system and the endless sanitising of hands, desks and chairs.

We have to spray down the desks before every class and wipe it with tissue. We’re forever spraying, wiping, spraying and wiping.

It’s difficult to maintain social distancing, especially as there isn’t enough space to have the desks two metres apart anyway.

Then you have the petty stress of choosing the right colour and style of mask to wear. Yet another tricky daily decision for yours truly – to be individualistic or to conform to the teenage fashion norms?

Transition Year has drastically changed. Luckily, at the beginning, we did manage to go to Ballyhass Lakes, but now as the Stage 5 restrictions have been imposed I’m doubtful that there’ll be many more trips.

A few speakers have been brought into the school to talk to us about various topics, including resilience and nutrition. And because there’s less going on, I’ve definitely felt more compelled to throw myself into more school clubs, like debating – though conscious that this will inevitably lead to more work!

I try to be optimistic about TY, but I know there will be certain things that I’ll miss out on, such as the TY musical, job opportunities and international and local trips that happen throughout the year.

It’s difficult to come to terms with the fact that I won’t be doing all these things that I’ve been looking forward to for years.

And to be honest some things about school confuse me.

Like, how am I allowed to see 600 strangers in the corridors every day of the week, but I’m not allowed to see two of those 600 outside school in my garden – even with masks on? I would question the way that senior secondary school students are allowed to go downtown at lunch time. This is a premium opportunity for swarms of people to crowd around the front of shops, without supervision. It’s hard to imagine Covid-19 going away when I can easily meet up with several people from different schools every day at lunchtime with no masks or social distancing in sight.  

On the other hand, I’m not saying I want to stop going downtown during break, because it’s honestly one of my favourite parts of the day. For these reasons, I think the regulations can easily be misinterpreted, and that’s why they can cause tension among friends and family.

School is not all bad – hard as that is for me to admit!

It’s a relief to be out of full lockdown and online learning, and to actually see human faces again not just through a screen.

It doesn’t look like schools will close again though, and I can only be grateful for that, because the very thought of virtual school returning makes me feel physically sick. I get to see most of my friends every day, and school provides a welcome structure to the day.

Even as a teenager, I’m aware that health and education need to be prioritised. Right now, I’m enjoying my mid-term break, even if it is quieter than usual. There must be something on Netflix I haven’t watched yet!

– Florence Dewhurst is a Transition Year student at Loreto Secondary School, Fermoy