The 2020/2021 school year at Collingwood has started off like no other. We kicked off September showing up to school with masks over our mouths and the same two classes each day.
Overall, one of the most conspicuous adjustments this year is the absence of our lockers. The color-coordinated locks that previously filled the rows have vanished, replaced by homogenous zip ties. Until further notice, Collingwood students no longer have access to a locker, an unprecedented and staggering change.
The concept of lockers originally came from an Ancient Greek text written by Xenophon, an Athenian historian. He thought it to be essential for athletes to have a place to store their personal belongings where they would be safe from theft. The people of ancient Greece who attended the gymnasium were given a location to keep their equipment and this is how the idea of lockers first arose. Ironically, in the current day, one of the biggest differences caused by not having lockers at our school is the lack of storage for our personal athletic equipment. Walking through the classroom has now become an obstacle course, dodging field hockey sticks jutting out from under desks, and hefty gym bags that have been deposited anywhere in an attempt to give the shoulders of their owners a break from strain.
Having or eliminating lockers in a high school environment is a debate that has been ongoing for many years, even before COVID became an issue. Many believe in the advantages of lockers, which include health benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that backpacks carried by young adults shouldn’t be over 13 to 15 percent of their body weight. If a backpack is too heavy it can have serious effects on the human body. Dr. Kenneth Hansraj, an orthopedic surgeon at the New York Spinal Surgery Medicine Center, stated that the constant strain on the spine can cause chronic back pain, neck pain, spinal compression, and most commonly, an altered posture. This is why many people argue in favor of students having lockers to store their backpacks in. Bella, a senior school student, attests that, “My bag is so heavy and I’m only taking Art and Science. Imagine how wreaked my shoulders will be when we have five courses instead of just the two.”
The idea of this article first came to me about two weeks ago. I had just arrived in the Cafeteria at Lunch and saw that everyone was receiving the yearbooks they had ordered for the previous school year. Walking up to the table I picked up the yearbook my mom had ordered for me and the one ordered for my brother, as he was absent from school that day. After the initial excitement of going through the yearbooks with my friends wore off, the realization dawned on me: I would have to carry these two substantial volumes with me for the rest of the day! Gone are the days when I could have offloaded them into my cozy little metal container. After lugging the yearbooks around at lunch, then to class, then to volleyball practice after school, my back had already started to ache from the extra weight. It is then when I truly noticed how useful my locker had been to me but as Ilsa J Bick once said, “Sometimes you don’t know what you need until it’s gone.”
On another note, our lockers have also always provided us with a location for general social interaction. Last year, before and after school, our interaction with friends was centered around the place where we stored our belongings. Starting and ending the school day by our lockers while interacting with so many different people in varying grades was a communal aspect of school that is greatly missed. However, the exact reason why we love our lockers so much is precisely the same reason why we are not able to have them currently. The act of conversing and socializing with lots of people coincides with close contact and a much greater potential of the spread of COVID-19.
Overall there are many things we must sacrifice and measures we must take in order to keep our Collingwood community safe during this time. One of these measures unfortunately must include the removal of lockers. However, I often look back to that fateful day in March, to the afternoon when Ms. Evans declared our early spring break and we all simply thought we would be receiving a few extra days off. On this day we closed our beloved locker doors for what we didn’t know was the last time, never anticipating all that we were leaving behind.