“New normal” provokes discussions about unknown future at TuHS

Elle Davis, Fold Editor

To say the last 19 months have been difficult is an understatement. With new COVID-19 variants like Delta, reinstated mandates, conversations about boosters shots and the unvaccinated, it’s been all too easy for the local changes to, as the kids say, get lost in the sauce.

At Tualatin High School, the mask requirements, hand-sanitizing stations and one-time use hall passes are some of the physical changes that have been implemented. On a more personal level, students have been experiencing internal changes on an unseen emotional level.

Lexi Rusk, a senior who transferred from Colorado during her ill-fated sophomore year, talked about a lack of motivation in addition to how the new normal feels.

“I still feel like I am a sophomore frozen in the progression of my education, and I have to spend more time working on things because it’s all about motivating myself,” she said.

The idea of not feeling like one’s grade or age was reiterated by Dustin O’Donnell, who teaches sophomore and senior English classes.

“The seniors say outside, yes, you feel like you’ve grown up, but inside the school you feel like a sophomore,” O’Donnell said.

Switching it up, especially with masks, has been one of the clearest physical symbols of the so-called new normal at Tualatin and around the world.

With change comes discussion, and junior Jordyn Manning had something to add to the conversation surrounding school events.

“At the football games you’ll see people with their masks off for the entire time,” she said. “That’s like a huge thing because there are like a hundred people there without their masks on, and that can lead to a lot of spreading and stuff.”

Spectators five years or older are required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status, at indoor practices and competitions. This is according to the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) which regulates after-school events across the state.

“It’s these (masks) that are the frustrating thing. But necessary and important. And yet, that’s what’s keeping us from fully getting into what it used to be,” said O’Donnell, pointing to his own rainbow-patterned mask for emphasis.

“What it used to be” seems like the natural counter to “the new normal.” But aside from postponed school dances and class field trips and having to wear masks, is it safe to say the status quo has remained at Tualatin? Classrooms are full, sporting events allow spectators and students’ emails are still flooded with reminders about their newest Canvas grades.

“I have a really hard time with that terminology: the new normal,” added O’Donnell. “We’re 18 to 20 months in, so it’s hard to dissect what it could be or what it would have been.”