After months of distance learning, a year at a mixed-face-to-face but not quite stable school, and a fall semester that’s starting to feel normal, Kyla Chester-Hopkins, a Milwaukee high school senior, has learned get that. she had Covid-19.
Kyla, 16, is extremely worried about spreading it to her family members. She worried that she had infected her best friend. So in early January, she stopped going to school and went back to online learning – again, stuck in the bedroom she spent so much of 2020.
She was then at home with her father and four siblings, all but one – her younger brother – who relied on the same Wi-Fi connection to work and study. Most of all, missing art class, she pulled out her acrylic paint to paint murals that spanned the walls and ceiling of her bedroom. She returned to school in the fall of 2020, but that was the case at the time, and most of her classmates weren’t there.
Her senior year was better. Kyla recovered from her battle with Covid this month and is now back in class. But she feels the instability of freshmen and sophomores isn’t over yet, and she’s always cautious.
“There were students who weren’t wearing masks, or complained about wearing masks, and I nagged them,” she said. “People say I’m like another employee at our school.”
School closures in the spring of 2020 are hard enough for students. But this winter, when the Omicron variant caused the number of coronavirus cases to spike, the disruptions began to feel like they would never end. Some school districts are extending the winter break or temporarily returning to remote learning. And some schools, already grappling with a nationwide labor shortage, were forced to cancel classes after staff called in sick.
Many students are still trying to catch up with their studies after months of struggling to learn online, and some change schools or drop out completely.
And while most have returned to the classroom today, a profound sense of isolation persists. There are feelings of loneliness and anger. Many students feel that the whole system has failed them, exposing them to additional responsibilities that go beyond what is usually asked of young people.
For many students, going back to school last fall brought a sense of relief. Jordan Spencer, an aspiring marine biologist in Detroit, can’t wait to start his freshman year of high school after two years of distance learning, an isolated existence in which he is constantly isolated. Interested in video games and YouTube tutorials.
He still keeps his grades but tries to stay motivated while studying alone in his bedroom. Last year, his parents were happy to see him start at a high school that had more advanced classes and operated on a hybrid system where he could study in person several days a week.
This school year, Jordan develops feelings for a classmate (he hasn’t told her yet), attends a hometown dance, and makes friends for weekend skating.
But Jordan, 14, said he tried to remind himself how quickly the virus can go away. The warning signs are there: His county gets remote every Friday in December because of a spike in cases. And after winter break, his school is virtual until January 14. He waits patiently to see his friends again and show off his new kicks: a pair of Jordan 3 sneakers. Retro pine green, matching his school colors.
“I just got the experience going back to school again,” he said. “It was like, ‘What if all that took away from me?'”
For many schools, the risk of infection is not the only concern. Even in states that are determined to stay open, school districts are dealing with staff shortages, with students and teachers frequently absent.
Classes in Tulsa, Okla., are back up and running after a year-and-a-half pandemic-induced hiatus. But this month, some schools have turned to distance learning, sometimes Day by day base when they struggle with lack of staff and the number of cases increased.
Eight-year-old Graham Bevel, a 3rd grader there, is one of many students who have had to suspend face-to-face learning and temporarily return to virtual classrooms in recent weeks. He and his 5-year-old sister went back to their old routine: doing their schoolwork together while their parents watched over them.
“I’m just fine with it,” he said. “I’m used to it now.”
And even though Graham has model trains and a “Harry Potter” book to keep him busy at home, he’s had much more fun going to class and seeing his friends again. “I missed them,” he said.
Reyes Pineda-Rothstein, an 8th grader in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago, was having a hard time learning from home when his classes fell far behind in 2020. He says the virtual classroom is being squeezed. isolated and easily distracted. lessons on his computer screen.
Reyes, 14, started school again last spring. But it was part of a mixed arrangement, and many of his classmates were at home. He was happy to return to a more casual version of last year’s live class.
But this month, he was feeling ill, he said, and did not want to return until both the rapid coronavirus test and the PCR test came back negative.
“It was way too risky,” he said of his decision to skip school during that time. “Plus, you won’t be able to learn anything because you’re too busy. And some kids in my school are really unreliable with masks. ”
So he stayed home for a few days, despite his distaste for online lessons. “A lot of people hate distance learning,” he said. “Well, some kids just love it because they can be goofy.”
Coronavirus pandemic: What you need to know
For some students, the thought of going away once again brought up painful memories from the previous months of the pandemic.
“We got a lot of homework, and it was all online,” said Kaitlyn Long-Cheng, a 7th grader in Saline, Mich. There’s no one there.”
Schools in Saline, a small town outside of Ann Arbor, have personally intended to start the school year. That’s why Kaitlyn’s mother moved the family there in the first place.
Previously, when Kaitlyn attended school in Ann Arbor, the isolation and workload of the virtual school took a toll on her mental and physical health. She became withdrawn and stared at screens for hours every day which resulted in a migraine that sent Kaitlyn to the hospital.
She says things are better now that she has returned to school, although some anxiety remains. This month, Kaitlyn stays home for a day while her teachers test out some new software, in case lessons need to be moved remotely again soon. That worried her.
“I don’t want to end up in the hospital, or anything, again,” she said.
While many students are preparing for future closures, some have pushed them.
Elizabeth Feng, a high school student in Oakland, Calif., A serving school district high number of Latino and Black students and where are most of the students Eligible for free or reduced lunch – said that distance learning made her feel disconnected during her sophomore year. But she also worries that face-to-face classes will expose her teachers and classmates to the virus.
Elizabeth, 16, says: “It was like a win-lose situation. “It’s like, which one are you willing to sacrifice?”
After returning to the classroom last fall, she saw things that alarmed her: Students taking crowded buses to school, teachers not being provided with enough face masks, and their outdoor space. field is not used enough. This month, Elizabeth became one of more than 1,000 students in her district to sign petition urge students to walk unless in-person safety measures are improved or schools return to distance learning.
“Many students say they want to stay home because they don’t want to jeopardize their health or that of their family members” by distance learning, says Elizabeth.
Oakland students who signed the petition have arrived tentative agreement with the district, but their worries are far from over. Elizabeth said: “It seems many people are stressed and delayed in their duties, adding that Covid safety remains a major concern.
For the vast majority of people going back to school across the United States, many are still playing catch-up learning as they address safety concerns, sporadic quarantines, and staff shortages. pellets.
They know that the next variation could change everything again. And while many hope for long-term stability, the weight of uncertainty is heavy.
“We’re trying to get things back on track, and not necessarily stuck in this pandemic loop,” Kyla said. “Because it’s been two years now, and we don’t know how long it’s going to last, and we don’t want it to last forever.”
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/30/us/students-pandemic-virtual-learning.html ‘It’s just stress’: Students feel the weight of pandemic uncertainty