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Ont. students discuss unique school year

Ont. students discuss unique school year

Teens are navigating online learning and a lack of in-person interactions with friends

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Ontario students are some of the most affected by the pandemic.

On top of the general lockdown restrictions, some students are trying to figure out how to learn in a new environment.

“The school year started out very new with a lot of different protocols and trying to figure out how the day-to-day in-class learning would work” Maryn Hunter, a Grade 10 student from Smiths Falls, Ont., told

Hunter, who lives on her family’s dairy farm, is now attending school remotely from home.

“It’s a whole new routine to figure out the different platforms teachers are using, scheduling your time and even having the motivation to do the work,” she said.

Not only is she learning from home, but so are her three younger brothers.

The commotion around the house as four people try to attend class, plus simply being at home, creates several distractions.

“Finding the motivation to be engaged is challenging when I know I could be doing something else,” she said. “It helps having people in my classes that work together, but it’s still tough sometimes.”

When she feels like her attention may be slipping, Hunter takes time for herself.

A short walk or even a quick glance at her phone helps her recalibrate throughout the day.

“If I feel like I’m not getting anywhere, I feel like the best thing for my brain is to take my mind off of what I’m doing for five minutes,” she said. “Getting outside for fresh air always helps me when I need a break.”

In addition, the pandemic means Hunter is missing out on extracurricular activities.

She’s on the school’s rugby team, involved in 4-H, participates in dance and enjoys hanging out with her friends.

All of that has been taken away, and it has taken a toll on her mental health, she said.

“I was doing rugby four days a week in the nicer months,” she said. “I don’t have the social life I used to have, it’s more isolating and I’m not doing anything anymore. I keep in touch with my friends over text and Snapchat about what’s going on in our home lives but there are friends I haven’t seen in over a year.

“I’m very lucky that I can still work and see my animals, but it’s hard to look on the bright side when all you hear about is the negatives about what’s going on.”

Mason Lunn is receiving his ninth-grade education in Elgin County through a hybrid approach.

Some days he’s in class and some days he’s learning remotely.

“It can be complicated because you’re having to stick to two completely different routines,” he told

Lunn notices differences in his attention depending on how he’s learning on a specific day.

“Sometimes being at home isn’t great for me because I feel like I should go do something,” he said.

Lunn works on his family's cash crop farm to keep himself busy and stays in touch with his friends through texts and social media, he added.

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