Going Back to School During a Pandemic Means Fear, Hope, and Technical Difficulty | #socialmedia | #children

“I want adults to understand that we’re the kids that have to go back into this. We’re the teens and college students that have to go through what you’re making a decision about,” Taylor says. “I want to have a choice and say in my decision process.”

Lindsey, too, wants to be heard.

“I definitely wish they considered our voices a little more,” she says. “We’re important too. Most of us are responsible enough to be in the conversation.”

Back-to-School Shopping No More

August and September typically mean new notebooks, fresh clothes, and back-to-school sales. This year, though, back-to-school shopping was different for some, and nonexistent for others. Romeo says he didn’t buy anything special for this school year since he’s doing remote learning.

“I had to get some books for summer reading, but I’m not going to need binders and stuff that we usually use,” he says. “I had my desk in my room, so I used that for the most part.”

Anusha says she didn’t take her usual before-school trip to Staples for supplies.

“I thought that staying at home for the rest of my senior year would be cool, and I would get an early taste of what online college classes felt like. Now, I slowly realize that I need to have that in-person connection with my classmates and teachers.” -Taylor

“My back-to-school shopping list this year was significantly shorter. Usually, I go out to Staples and get all the necessities. I didn’t do that,” she says. “I had my computer, and that’s all I needed.”

Hannah, who went back to school in person, says her shopping list was slightly different than normal — this year it included masks.

“For the most part it was still notebooks and binders and everything that we needed,” she recalls. “We did get a couple different masks that had logos of the school.”

The Kids Will Be Alright

There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic is taking a mental health toll, and not seeing friends in school can contribute to that. Lindsey says staying inside without access to her friends is hard on her.

“The first weeks weren’t bad, but toward the middle it was miserable,” she says. “Every chance I got, I tried getting out of the house and going to do something.”

She’s not alone. According to a survey by the Healthy Minds Network and the American College Health Association, young people ages 18-24 say their mental health has been negatively impacted during the pandemic. Another survey of young people ages 13-25, conducted in the U.K. by Youngminds, found an even greater impact.

But for Hannah, seeing her friends again brought an immediate improvement in her mental health.

“Being in that atmosphere of school, with classmates and teachers… it has helped, and it’s great to be back with everyone,” she says.

Safety First

Many students aren’t sure whether they’ll get any in-person time this school year, but say safety is more important to them.

“I don’t think anybody’s safety is worth me having the perfect senior year,” Anusha says. “I hope we will be able to go back in person. At least, I want to see everyone one last time. I hope we can do something in person before the year ends.”

“I was most nervous for lunch because I had no idea where to eat since we can’t eat in the cafeteria. Luckily, I had a friend who has gone to the school for the past couple of years and she said I can come sit with her.” -Eliza

Still, she says, she’s trying not to get her hopes up too much.

“I hope I go back, but I also really hope that they figure out a way to ensure that it’s safe before we go,” Lindsey says. “I think about, is it really worth getting sick to see my friends? Right now, I’m leaning toward it’s not safe, and I would rather stay at home and talk to my friends over FaceTime.”

For Taylor, trying to get that senior year feeling virtually is most important.

“I really want to keep a positive outlook on life to make it through,” she explains. “It would be exciting to somehow [have that] emotional connection with my classmates, even though we’re not in person.”

Romeo, who was previously homeschooled and is in his second year of public school, says he wishes he were in the classroom so he could get to know his new classmates better. Still, he’s in no hurry to go back if it means he’s not safe.

“We can’t rush it,” Romeo says. “People need to be a little more patient.”

Want more? Read five students’ first-hand accounts of their first day of school during coronavirus.

Photography by Daniel Arnold
Selfies by the subject

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