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Hear from the students: Chesterfield teens reflect on masks, vaccines and going back to school

Chesterfield County

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Many local students are still wondering if they’ll have to wear a mask at school this year. Thanks to COVID, it’s been more than a year since some of them were in a classroom.

After missing out on various high school activities like prom, sports, extracurriculars, concerts and more, students could finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.

But with COVID-19 cases rising again, some students fear the return of masks, even after getting the vaccine. They wonder whether they’ll miss out on more of their teenage years.

8News sat down with three students from Cosby High School to hear about their experiences with COVID-19 safety in school and the potential of wearing a mask again.

“It’s kind of what we got our vaccination for. We played our part,” said rising senior Alex DiNardo, daughter of 8News Meteorologist Matt DiNardo. “We all did our part. Now I am afraid it’s not gonna matter anymore.”

Jessica Purgason is a rising junior and said the constant changing and adapting to rules has been challenging, but she also tries to understand why it is necessary.

“It’s just confusing at this point,” Jessica said. “I just want to know what we are gonna do. It would be great if we go back to normal. That’s what the hopes been for a year and a half now.”

Virginia schools shifted to virtual starting in March 2020, after Virginia Governor Ralph Northam issued the stay-at-home order. And like other students across the state, kids in Chesterfield County then faced a virtual start to the 2020-21 school year after the school board voted to continue online learning with a phase-in approach.

After multiple ‘cohort’ phases to return to school, students were able to return to in-person learning if they chose to. If not, they had the option to remain fully virtual and learn from home.

Chesterfield County has yet to announce its mask policy for the upcoming 2021-2022 school year.

Alex doesn’t want to lose another aspect of school to COVID. She chose to finish her junior year virtually but was still able to win the state softball championship with Cosby.

“My only normal year was freshman year,” she said. “It was my only full normal year. Sophomore year was cut short. Junior year was weird. Now I am a senior and I want to go back maskless and normal. I want to have our senior privileges. I want to have our senior picnic. I want to have all our senior stuff.”

Upcoming sophomore Conner Winter chose to go back in person to school in February of 2021 to finish his freshman year.

“To have left eighth grade with not a full year, having to do all the stuff like eighth-grade prep — that was weird,” Conner said. “Going into freshman year and not having a normal freshman year was disappointing in ways because you look forward to the high school experience.”

The three said they’ll listen to whatever rules are given to them once Chesterfield County makes a decision, but wanted to express how it is often uncomfortable to go six hours in school wearing a mask every day.

“I wanted to keep as many people safe as well as myself,” Alex said while talking about getting the vaccine and wearing masks. “I was like ‘I’ll do it if that means we can get back to normal life as soon as possible.”

In April 2021, Virginians 16 years and older were eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

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