Fairfax Co. high school senior calls back-to-school experience ‘surreal’

For many students, returning to the classroom is a welcome change in routine after a year of remote learning — but for one Fairfax County, Virginia, high school senior, the transition has been difficult.

Henry Smith is a senior at Justice High School who decided to return to in-person learning on March 4, a decision he didn’t make lightly.

Sharing his experience in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, Smith said, “I had to think about my grades, I had to think about social interaction. I even had to think about seeing my teachers again.”

On his first day back, he arrived to find his teacher stationed behind a plexiglass barrier. He was in a class of only four students, each seated about 10 feet apart, with his teacher simultaneously instructing others virtually.

“It was surreal, to say the least,” Smith said.

In some cases, teachers who did not return to campus themselves continued to teach remotely. In an auditorium with other students on laptops, learning from their teachers virtually, Smith observed the situation was challenging for him but understandable. He acknowledged the difficult job of ensuring a safe learning environment Fairfax County schools face.

Despite being back in his building, Smith said his senior year thus far isn’t shaping out to be what he had hoped for: “I’m just holding on to hope that my freshman year of college will be a little bit better.”

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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