On February 19, IMSA President Dr. José Torres announced that all criteria for IMSA’s repopulation plan had been met and that face-to-face learning would commence on April 8, 2021. The repopulation plan’s three criteria for activation are: the entire state of Illinois reaching phase four of the Illinois Restoration Plan, widely available treatments or vaccines, and rapid testing available for the IMSA community.
In an effort to repopulate as safely as possible, the student body was split up into two cohorts, with separate move-in days and on-campus educational periods. The option to join Cohort 1 was extended to the entire sophomore class and half the junior class. The option to join Cohort 2 was extended to the other half of the junior class and the entire senior class. As of now, Cohort 1 is scheduled to move onto campus on April 6-7 and move out on April 29-30, while Cohort 2 plans to move in on May 8-9 and moves out on May 29. All students were given the opportunity to either move onto campus for face-to-face teaching or remain in distance learning.
Below, we’ve compiled some opinions from sophomores, juniors, and seniors highlighting their perspectives on the repopulation plan.
Some responses may be edited for grammar, length, and clarity.
Opting In or Out
Students’ decisions to opt in or out of in person learning were influenced by their grade, the cohort they were placed in, and other factors such as their home home situations. Here are some of the reasons students had for opting in or out.
“I opted in mainly because I have never been on campus before and I didn’t want to go into junior year ‘flying blind.’ I also became close with some IMSA friends and with housing forms coming up, I wanted to know if the dynamic transfers from online to in-person. I was also influenced by the frequency of testing, the limited classroom size, the same online schedule, and the single-occupancy rooms.” – Anonymous ‘23
“I opted in because I really wanted to meet and build genuine bonds with people. It has been hard for me to connect with others because of the online format and I think going to campus would help me get closer with people.” – Elaina Xiao ‘23
“I had to opt-out because my parents were not comfortable with the idea of me leaving to be around a lot of people at school, since my grandma lives with us and is high risk. Personally, I wanted to go because I have faith in the repopulation plan, and if everything goes as planned, I don’t see many risks.” – Bhavyaa Chauhan ‘23
“I opted in so that I could meet and get to know the current sophomores, as well as see my junior friends back in the IMSA environment. Generally, I’m looking at this as an opportunity to get accustomed to my current workload under the conditions that we’d be on campus because it would give me a good sense of how I can manage a similar workload when we are back in senior year.” – Jakob Bachhausen ‘22
“I opted out because my family would prefer me to wait until the vaccines are all widely distributed and until COVID-19 is officially wrapped up to go back to campus. I agreed with this because since I am a junior I still have another year on campus, so I do not mind waiting until my senior year to go back with possibly fewer restrictions.” – Anonymous ‘22
“I opted in for now since I am Cohort 2, but I am planning on waiting to see how Cohort 1 goes and then make my final choice about going back to campus or not. I like how the repopulation plan gives a good introduction to IMSA for sophomores and also a last chance to say goodbye for seniors. On top of that, I think going back to campus is a good opportunity for students to take some time away from their family whether it be because of siblings, financial duties, or other reasons that may be impacting their online education.” – Makayla Zheng ‘22
“I opted in because since I am a senior, I wanted to get a chance to see some of my friends on campus for one last time. I also think it will be a lot more fun than staying at home and continuing to do what we’ve been doing for the past year.” – Brandon Smith ‘21
“I opted in because I feel like my morale and work ethic is awful at home given the fact that I don’t have anything motivating me to finish assignments quickly in comparison to when I was on campus. I was a lot better at time management on campus when I knew that there was an event happening at a specific time, but at home, there is nothing similar to that. I also missed my friends and want to see them before we go to college.” – Maia Peregrino ‘21
“I opted in because I felt like the restrictions were reasonable and that I’d be safe if I followed them. Along with this, I would feel the closure that I needed by spending time with friends. I like that the repopulation plan prioritizes everyone’s safety because that is most important.” – Abhi Vinnakota ‘21
The repopulation plan detailed many changes to residential life and what it will look like when students go back. Here are some students’ thoughts about the new changes and restrictions surrounding residential life.
“The repopulation plan will limit social interaction once we get onto campus, but it’s totally understandable. I hope I get to experience at least something of the usual ‘IMSA experience’ everyone else experienced as sophomores even though it may not be the same. There are also a ton of regulations and restrictions and of course we have to be safe, but I am willing to make the most of it even though all I might be doing is changing locations.” – Alan Hernandez ‘23
“I am unsure about how residential life will be with the hall ‘pods,’ but I like that we might have the chance to have classes in person even if that means living in the housing pods.” – Elaina Xiao ‘23
“The main reason I wanted to opt-in was to socialize with my teachers and possibly friends, but after reading the repopulation plan, I also realized that I may not be doing that much socializing outside of school either.” – Bhavyaa Chauhan ‘23
“I want to go back to campus when there aren’t as many restrictions. As of now, I find that it may be difficult to balance the restrictions such as hybrid learning, no roommates, not being able to visit other wings, and not being able to bring a lot of stuff to dorms. They may work against me and may be worse than if I stay at home where I can be around people and the food I like.” – Amanda Chen ‘22
“I don’t really like that we can’t live with a roommate since I can imagine the seclusion possibly being bad for mental health. I also dislike the residential life housing pod.” – Makayla Zheng ‘22
“I am not a huge fan of the residential life housing pods, but I understand why they are being put into place. Since some halls don’t have RCs right now, I didn’t like the possibility of being distributed to another hall on campus since I would find it difficult to live on campus in a pod without the friends in my wing.” – Anonymous ‘22
“I think the chaperoning within halls restricts us a bit, but I understand the reasoning behind the decision. I also think that as IMSA students we can behave responsibly enough with following the rules even during times within chaperones, so certain rules may not be necessary at times, but I understand why they’re there.” – Anonymous ‘22
“I think that some of the restrictions are kind of heavy, especially considering that one of the main reasons students want to come back is because of social interactions, but I can see the hall restrictions making those interactions more difficult.” – Jay Ganesan ‘21
“Although the repopulation plan may be a bit restrictive, I can understand why IMSA is being cautious about this since there is a lot of liability. From what I’ve heard they’re doing as much as they can to make this on-campus and residential life stay an enjoyable and safe experience, especially for the seniors since it is our last year here.” – Lalana Appasani ‘21
“I like that IMSA is making an effort towards bringing us back on campus, but apart from the residential halls, some things I am not a fan of involve the fitness center. I don’t understand some gym restrictions such as no free weights, but I will probably find out soon why they made the fitness center extremely limiting.” – Anonymous ‘21
Repopulation will also lead to changes in the way classes are run. Here are some students’ thoughts about how classes will work.
“I wish individuals, teachers, and classes would give us a plan as to how classes would look and work once we are back on campus especially with the repopulation restrictions and guidelines.” – Shria Halkoda ‘23
“Once on campus, I wish that classes would have a structure more appropriate for in-person learning and that it would be possible to speak to more classmates outside of classes. “ – Ben Simmons ‘23
“One thing that may be tough is making sure that the academic classrooms are fair, like offering the students that attend in person the same educational experience as the students that attend online. I think that the limitations involved with repopulation may make it harder to ensure that student life both in and out of the classroom are not damaging to either side.” – Balaji Balachandran ‘22
“I think the teachers should have the choice to make their class hybrid or virtual instead of having the rule where if the majority of a class is not going back, then the class will remain virtual and have the opt-in students take classes from their rooms. Each class has a different structure and the teachers know their own classes best and can try to accommodate both students who are on campus or at home. For example, a music class benefits a lot from in-person learning so music teachers may prefer to take hybrid students even if the number of students on campus in the class doesn’t reach a majority. However, since English classes are mostly discussion-based, the teacher may find that holding in-person and online discussions at the same time may be a lot to handle.” – Anonymous ‘22
“I think the plan IMSA has is the best-case scenario right now, especially for seniors. In May, we seniors will be in our last month of school and will all be committed to colleges at that point, so there’s nothing really for us to worry about other than just finishing high school.” – Francesca Dumitrescu ‘21
“Academically speaking, I think seniors have it the best with the hybrid structure because we are just focused on doing well in our last semester of classes in high school. However, switching to in-person classes may be more of a struggle for juniors and sophomores since they have had limited time on campus already and may find it hard to balance the IMSA workload along with not being able to collaborate with others on work when they need to.” – Anonymous ‘21