The coronavirus pandemic is undoubtedly going to be one of the most impactful events of the 21st Century. In countries all around the world, schools are closed, stay-at-home orders issued and travel restricted.

As of the third week of May, the number of cases in New Jersey neared 150,000 but with a decrease in daily infections beginning to show. Pushes for businesses to reopen also have started which could help test the current limits and risks of social interactions but also pose health risks. While we all know how this has affected the present, the question still remains about how this pandemic could possibly change life and schooling forever. When will this end? Will the world ever be the same?

As you have probably already heard, all schools in New Jersey were ordered to close for the year, including Boonton High School on March 16. Until schools reopen, teaching will remain exclusively online. It is currently unknown whether or not New Jersey schools will reopen this September as a vaccine has still yet to have been discovered, and prematurely opening schools and businesses could cause a spike in the number of cases and deaths. But when schools do open, what will it look like? Will we be at risk?

Schools are considered a high-risk area for spreading viruses, bacteria, and diseases. So, when the doors open, there will be plans set in place on what precautions to take. Classroom sizes may be reduced, there will be a much larger focus on sanitization, students may have to wear masks, and there have been rumors about only opening schools to certain classes or grades at a time. Other ideas include a “blending” of online and face-to-face teaching. These could help ease into in-person schooling while not posing health risks.

Many are still concerned about reopening schools and businesses, though. Gov. Phil Murphy has also said that New Jersey schools may be able to reopen in September with “reduced capacity.” While students aren’t necessarily at risk if they don’t have any serious health concerns, they could still pass the virus on to those who are considered vulnerable (e.g. the elderly and people with respiratory illnesses). Considering this, there have also been plans to only lift quarantine restrictions for those under a certain age or without health risks.

Online schooling has also had major effects on the lives of students. Many have found it much more difficult to keep up with work. When not physically in school, it makes it easy to lose motivation and procrastinate. However, there are also many ways to be able to keep motivated and on track with your work. These include setting a schedule, creating goals for yourself, taking short breaks in between work, and keeping a balance between schoolwork and your personal life. It is also important to remember that while we still aren’t physically in school, teachers are always available to help you if you need it.

According to Gov. Murphy, we may be able to get an idea on how New Jersey schools will look by the beginning of the next academic school year, supposedly “within the next number of weeks.” He also stated that schools will most likely not be able to return to pre-pandemic states until a vaccine or effective treatment has been developed for the virus.

“There won’t be a vaccine by the time we go back to school, so we can take that off the table,” he said. “And if I’m wrong, I’ll be the happiest guy in New Jersey, maybe in America.”

Senior graduation has also been a major concern. There is no definite plan on graduation at Boonton High School, but there are many rumors on how they could be held and are being held in schools around the world. These include graduations that are drive-in, virtual, individual (one student on the stage at a time), or just postponing it until a further date. For now, we can just wait and see.

What about the current state of the virus in New Jersey and Morris County? At the time of writing this article, there were 146,000 cases in New Jersey with 10,000 deaths and 6,000 cases in Morris County with 569 deaths. On the bright side, there is a visible decrease in the new number of daily cases in both Morris County and New Jersey as a whole, signifying that the spread of the virus has been slowing gradually. This also includes both Boonton and Lincoln Park, as both towns have reported a large decrease in the number of new cases.

There have also been slight pushes to open more businesses in New Jersey lately due to the slowing of the virus. Gov. Murphy has recently stated that we may soon move into Stage 2 of New Jersey’s multi-stage approach to reopening. This includes opening certain businesses and activities, like restaurants with outdoor seating, more retail businesses, including personal care, and limited capacities for indoor dining, museums, and libraries. While it is good to slowly reopen businesses so that the economy can stabilize and life can return to normal, it is still important to mostly stay indoors and keep your distance to prevent further outbreaks of the virus.

Now that we’re starting to reopen, what will life look like in the future? As previously stated before, it is likely that we may not be able to completely return to normal until a vaccine or treatment has been developed. Many people may also be hesitant to gather in large groups or to go out in public, as there is a possibility that the virus may be seasonal. Travel will also likely be more restricted.

One of the greatest impacts will likely be on healthcare systems and especially sanitation. There will probably be a much bigger focus on washing hands and reducing the spread of germs. This could be related to after the 9/11 attacks when a much larger emphasis on security was established. In addition, there may also be consequences on mental health due to isolation (If you are having problems with mental health, please remember to contact a family member, teacher, or guidance counselor. Help is available).

So, the coronavirus is predicted to have massive impacts on schools and life in general for years to come. As we make efforts to reopen, we can get a vision on how we will live in the future based on current events until we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel and life can return to normal. While the coronavirus pandemic will have a great impact on society, the economy, and the world forever, it is important to stay positive and follow suggestions given by the experts.

Remember to wash your hands with soap and water, keep your distance from others, stay home if you are feeling sick, avoid crowded places, and do what you can to stay safe so that we all eventually can get through this together.

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