By Alysha Conner | LA Wave Newspapers
LOS ANGELES — With the start of a new school year still more than a month away for most local students, many youngsters have mixed feelings about returning to classes for more reasons than one.
Going back to school will mean long-awaited reunions with classmates after a spring and summer of stay-at-home orders and countywide quarantines.
Many students want to return to campus to regain a sense of normalcy.
“I had big plans for this summer, but everything was canceled,” said Jolee Sutton, an eighth-grader at La Tijera K-8 Academy of Excellence Charter School in Inglewood. “I was supposed to link up with some friends that go to other schools. We were going to hang out at places like the mall, movies, and World On Wheels. Everything was shut down because of the coronavirus.”
In general, students are anxious to know precisely how their lives will be affected by the pandemic. In particular, athletes are worried about their future plans if extracurricular activities remain canceled.
“I was on my school’s basketball team as an eighth-grader,” said Ryan Holmes, a recent graduate from Magnolia Science Academy 3. “I want to be a part of the high school basketball team next year. But because we might not go back to school this fall, I won’t be able to.”
Another basketball player wondered how the possibility of not playing his senior season might affect his opportunity to get a scholarship. Omarion Shackelford, a senior at Morningside High School, said, “I want to go to school because I’m a basketball player and I want to earn a scholarship. Going to school and playing basketball will help a lot.
But there was more than a basketball scholarship on his mind.
“I also can’t wait to return to school because we will get to be with our friends and be more social with people,” he said. “I’m more of a visual learner, and I like to be taught in-person.”
When elected officials issued stay-at-home orders in March, teachers and students turned to digital learning to adapt.
All traditional spring semester festivities such as basketball games, prom and graduations were eventually eliminated.
“This has been my first time really missing my teachers,” said Justin, an eighth-grader at View Park Preparatory Middle School. “With all that has been going on, I needed someone to talk through stuff.”
The coronavirus also forced the class of 2020 to hold virtual graduation celebrations. Members of the class of 2021 are concerned that their fate will turn out the same way.
“I’m going to be a senior this year and the virus is messing up my high school experience,” said Ashlynne Whitt, a rising senior at Opportunities For Learning Charter School. “We’re probably not going to get our senior trip or prom.
“I planned to go to college, but I feel like the virus is going to mess up everything. Right now, I don’t even want to go to college anymore. I want to start my own business and build my money from home, so I don’t have to deal with the struggles of the virus.”
Some students said that resuming normal school activities in August is too soon and want to wait for a vaccine for COVID-19 before returning to school.
“My lungs aren’t as strong as most people because I have asthma,” said Ernez Crayton, an eighth-grader at Paris Middle School. “So, I’m highly susceptible to coronavirus. The classrooms aren’t that big for kids to be six feet away the whole time.
“I also feel like it’s going to be harder for the teachers because we usually have a lot of people in one room. There’s already a teacher at my school that uses a microphone. Plus, with a mask on, you can’t hear people all that well.”
In addition to suggesting that schools could potentially turn into coronavirus hotspots, some students believe that safety restrictions will be a distraction.
“Even if we sanitize the whole class for the next group of kids, that will take forever after every class,” said Luis Gonzalez-Alvarez, a junior at Morningside High School. “It will make the classes short and take time away from what the teachers try to do.”
Many parents also are skeptical and undecided about whether schools should reopen.
“I feel that a lot of parents will make their kids go back because the government will make us go,” said Ashlynne Whitt. “They’re probably going to open up schools, no matter what, because they need the funding. They’re not looking at the greater good for us. They’re looking at the greater good for them.
“But it’s our right and decision to go back to school.”