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Lex Buffonge

Junior, Melrose High School

“I used to do theater. But I think it’s apparent that [COVID] changes how it works and operates — it’s about the masks, really. So I haven’t really been participating in that. The most extracurriculars I’ve been doing have not really been in person.”

Barb Fecteau

Librarian, Beverly High School

“It’s been nice to just see kids choosing to be [in the library] again. . . . I have these really comfy chairs in the library that are upholstered. And the kids will move the chairs, and I always have to come up to them and say, ‘When you leave, make sure you move the chairs back.’ And the first time I said that, I was like, Oh yeah, I’m home.

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Hai Son

Principal, Mather Elementary School, Dorchester

“School is academics; it’s also social. Especially for younger students, developing those social skills and learning through play is something we could not provide when we were remote. This component is really making our kids excited to come back into the building, to see us, to hear our voices. ‘Good morning, Mr. Son,’ they would say, and they would wave at me. When they come into the building they get to see the whole community, the whole village who’s here to support them every single day.”

Jeniya Herbert

Senior, Boston Latin Academy

“We kind of came back like we never left. It feels like I picked up right back at sophomore year. I’m still trying to adjust to thinking, like, Wow, I’m really a senior? Overall, it’s just a nice experience for me to be back because I really do learn better in the school environment. I feel like I’m doing better when I’m able to get out of the house, learn, and work toward my goals.”

Matt Holzer

Head of school, Boston Green Academy, Brighton

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“We missed our kids. And they’ll grudgingly admit that they missed us. There are some students we literally haven’t seen in 18 months, and they grow. Recognizing them now that they’re taller or different, it takes a little bit. But we’re a week and a half in, and it feels like we are familiar with each other again. "

Clockwise from top left: Heidi Paluk, Denise LaPolla, Clare Murphy, coach Ryan Craig, and Hayden Chernow.
Clockwise from top left: Heidi Paluk, Denise LaPolla, Clare Murphy, coach Ryan Craig, and Hayden Chernow.Handouts

Hayden Chernow

Junior, Boston Latin Academy

“I think one word that a lot of people felt was overwhelmed. It was a very big transition to go from mainly remote to back in-school with 1,800 students. It’s too many people to be in one building. I don’t think this is going to be able to continue on without people getting sick, if there is no remote option.”

Clare Murphy

English Language Learner teacher, Belmont High School

“Some students are feeling really just relieved to be back in a very social setting, and some people are getting used to making connections again. The main thing has been maintaining open lines of communication with students to make sure that if there’s something going on . . . we can figure that out and move forward. But I’m feeling it’s just so nice to all be present together in the same space.”

Denise LaPolla

Resource teacher, W.L. Chenery Middle School, Belmont

“A lot of the teachers have really started out slowly, and incorporated a lot of social, emotional learning activities so that they get to know the kids really well . . . . I think right now, the emphasis has been on learning about procedures and routines, and about [building a] positive community.”

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Ryan Craig

Head football coach, North Quincy High School

“This is the first time in two years that we were able to have fans in the stands, and the crowd at Veterans [Memorial] Stadium in Quincy was outstanding. I think the kids are really excited to be back in school and to play football. But, you know, there’s always this underlying nervousness of what can happen next.”

Heidi Paluk

Interim executive director, Abby Kelley Foster Charter Public School, Worcester

“We’re thrilled to have the students back, but it’s by no means what 2019 looked like. It’s a tremendous amount of work on everybody’s part to keep students safe [from COVID] . . . in addition to making sure the kids are socially and emotionally prepared, academically prepared. But it’s great to have them in front of us. That’s by far the biggest relief and joy that the teachers have expressed.”


Jules Struck is a journalist in Revere. Send comments to magazine@globe.com. Interviews have been edited and condensed.