My COVID Dreams: Bryce Murray’s At-Home Freshman Year


Dennis Rackett

Finally In: Freshman Bryce Murray, after spending the majority of his first year of high school at home for virtual learning, was able to finally enter North Atlanta High School on Feb. 16, the first day of in-building learning during the 2020-21 school year.

All freshmen are — by definition — the “new kids on the block.” But what if the “new kids” are not able to make any new impressions, because their school has been by and large closed for in-building learning all year? 

Such has been the experience for new kid Bryce Murray, who has yet to make his first impressions of high school and meet new people the traditional way. Instead, for the 2020-21 school year, he’s sat in his bedroom with just a computer screen between him and his teacher. The struggle to stay focused in class is a constant one, and Murray seeks to balance his hopes for a social life along with the rigors of school life. More than anything, seclusion has marked the year. “I’ve just been in the house,” he said. “I just don’t go to school. In actual school, I can see my friends and I can stay focused but because people spam my phone in the group chat, I have to check because it’s just instinct. I would probably get better grades in school.

Motivation has been a struggle for many North Atlanta students as they’ve worked through a year outside of their school. And this whole “motivation factor” has been affecting Murray. “Well obviously I have to do my part and stay on task but the whole focus thing has been real for me this year,” he said. “I’ll have an assignment to do and I don’t really want to do it but somehow I always have to power through that.”  

Regan senses the quarantine experience has made him more anti-social. He is so used to communicating with his friends via text message and phone call but being kept at home all day he feels like maybe he should’ve done more actual interaction before the outbreak. “I have more people to talk to at school mostly because I have my classmates,” he said. “Here there’s no one to be with but my family and my own thoughts.” 

In some aspects, Murray enjoys the perks of virtual learning. In fact, it is possible he has become more fond of his at-home learning experience rather than what he envisions an in-person version to look like. A huge benefit for any sleep-deprived teenager is getting more time to snooze so Murray said it’s a big bonus that now he gets up at 8:30 as opposed to the normal 7:30 wake up time that accompanied getting up and ready to get to school. He also said the “get-ready-for-school” regiment is a breeze now. “Think about it: I now get an extra hour of sleep, and getting ready for class just means washing my face and brushing my teeth,” Murray said.  

With this much easier schedule, he realizes that a lot of what he is used to has been omitted from his morning routine. And some habits gained during the pandemic are healthier than others, he admits. “I probably should not sleep in so much because one thing I’m seeing is that I’m not taking time to eat breakfast,” Murray said. 

The virtual learning experience has certainly made him more nocturnal, something that likely holds true for most North Atlanta students. “We’re all kind of night owls now,” he said. “I’m not sure how we’ll ever get used to waking up early in the morning when things get back to normal.”  

No matter what comes this historic school year, Murray is working on putting his distractions aside to focus on acing his classes for the rest of his 9th grade school year. Even if a pandemic has made a first year of high school completely different, he’s set on making his best mark, in spite of all the COVID curve balls thrown against him.