For parents, preparing for the 2020 back-to-school season has been about as much fun as, well, going back to school. We have questions — lots of them — and we don’t have a lot of answers yet, probably because so many of our questions are unanswerable. Is it safe to reopen schools — for kids and teachers? What if we don’t reopen schools? Are we prepared — mentally, emotionally, technologically — for another season of online learning? If we have jobs, can we handle another season of that so-called work/homeschool balance? In lieu of answers, we have fear, uncertainty, and Zoom calls.
And hey, that’s just us. We’re adults, who are supposed to be able to better process this kind of life upheaval. But what about our kids? How do they feel about going “back” to school — in whatever form that may look like right now?
SheKnows went straight to the source — kids themselves — to find out. We asked a group of 13- to 18-year-old “QuaranTeens” to share their thoughts about their back-to-school plans, and not surprisingly, they’re experiencing a wide range of emotions — from excitement at starting high school to sadness about missing social events to concern about their teachers.
The kids, all students in the New York City/tri-state area, are preparing for a mix of in-person and remote learning this fall. Jack, 15, tells SheKnows, “for each grade, we have four days of remote school, and then we get to come in one day.” For Henry, also 15, things will look a little different: “My school is planning on doing two weeks of online distance learning and then resuming back in person,” he says. For my own rising high school freshman, the current plan for students who have chosen “blended” learning is to be in the school building every third day — but let’s face it: These school reopening plans are continually evolving, and who knows what the next update will bring?
While many of us parents are rightfully concerned about the risks of our kids being physically back in school, especially considering the fact that more than 75,000 new cases of COVID-19 in children were reported in the first 2 weeks of August — a 24% increase over 2 weeks, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association — the majority of kids we talked to seemed eager to have at least some sort of break from remote learning.
“Online school was really hard for me — I struggled a lot [with] that,” says Reed, 15. “I can get really bored; I’m excited to just have stuff to do.” Added JoJo, 15: “At the end of the year my mental health really declined, and so I’m nervous about that happening again due to the lack of communication with people in-person or the stress of online school.”
For Little Fires Everywhere actress Lexi Underwood, 17, the change will be less abrupt, but that doesn’t mean her future education plans aren’t up in the air. “I’ve actually been homeschooled since I was 12, so virtual school has kind of become a way of life for me,” she tells SheKnows, “I am planning on applying/going to college in person next year, [but] I don’t necessarily know how the pandemic will affect my college experience since I don’t know what the state of the world will look like.”
Speaking of higher education: As these high schoolers prepare for a remote/in-person mix (and aspire to some sense of normalcy) it’s the college kids we talked to who are experiencing more upheaval. Emma, 18, drastically altered her college plans. “For years I thought I was going to a four-year university,” she tells SheKnows. “When March rolled around, I realized that maybe going to a four-year university right away wasn’t the best option. After a lot of research, I decided to go to a two-year university.”
And Liam, 18, a rising freshman at Princeton, will no longer be moving onto campus in August. “My back-to-school plan is that I don’t have one,” he says. “My school just came out saying that our entire fall semester will be online.”
While it may be a relief that the decision was made before students actually got there (unlike students at the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame, who were sent home just weeks after starting on-campus classes), he’s visibly bummed about the prospect of starting his college experience from his childhood bedroom. Complicating matters: He’s a member of the school’s lacrosse team — not exactly something that can happen remotely.
“I don’t really know what we’re going to do as a team,” he admits, adding: “I’m not excited about much for this upcoming school year, [but] at this point, there’s nothing we can really do about it… And we all just kind of have to suck it up.”