How COVID-19 has affected students

Lily McLean, editor

This article was completed on April 16th and many of the students polled submitted their answers as early as mid-March. Some information will not be current due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation.

On March 16th, 2020, it was announced that millions of Californians, spread across several counties, would be required to shelter in place in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. At the drop of a hat, everything changed. Businesses closed, people lost their jobs, and everywhere, citizens were contemplating the prospect of being trapped within their homes for an indefinite period of time. Governor Gavin Newsom extended this order three days later to cover the entire state. Since then, 45 states have announced at least partial shelter-in-place orders, putting normal American life on hold. As the coronavirus spreads throughout the United States, news outlets have covered the myriad of ways it affects citizens, from record numbers of people filing for unemployment to a dangerous shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). In this article, we give students the chance to explain how they have been affected by the coronavirus in their own words.

Jessie S., a sophomore at Lowell High School in San Francisco, normally wakes up at around 6 AM. She travels to school, often via bus, early in the morning, and rarely gets home until several hours after the dismissal time of 3:30 PM. She’s involved in multiple extracurriculars but spends most of her time working on debate. When the shelter-in-place order was announced, her life was drastically changed. Suddenly, she was waking up several hours later, spending her days trying to figure out the new ways her school was trying to function. After a few weeks, her school introduced a proper schedule: Fridays are dedicated to “office hours” while the rest of the week follows a kind of block schedule at least somewhat familiar to Jessie and her classmates. Classes are inconsistent and homework can be confusing, but she’s finally settling into a new routine, albeit one that would have been almost unimaginable to her even a few weeks before the shutdown. Jessie’s experiences with the shutdown are not unusual for students who typically attend in-person schools. But even online students, including those who attend GWUOHS, have found their lives changed by the shutdowns. 

Across the bay from San Francisco, Maera K. at Berkeley High School says that “there is a lot of confusion about coursework, grading, and scheduling, and it’s difficult to stay motivated when everything feels so distant.” The spring semester is also her first semester at BHS, and having it so totally disrupted has made what was already a challenging transition even more difficult.  

Kyra J., a junior at Detroit Country Day School in Michigan, has had her school year turned upside down by the shutdown there. Her school play was canceled, along with a long-awaited trip to New York City. She has lost the opportunity to become involved in sports this semester, something she had been looking forward to since the beginning of the school year. Additionally, online learning is difficult for her; “my neurological disorder is an obstacle because I am highly sensitive to screens… I am stuck in a perpetual cycle of becoming burned out and frustrated… I feel like I am back in the place I was last year when I was home from school… due to health issues,” she wrote. This is a side of the issue we rarely see represented in mainstream media; most outlets point out a lack of access to internet or technology as the primary issue with online school but it can be challenging for students with health issues and coming up with accommodations for these individuals is difficult. 

To better understand the concerns and experiences of students, we polled dozens of students, both those attending GWUOHS and those at traditional schools. Many were deeply concerned about family members. “I am just worried for the safety of my elderly grandparents and young cousins,” said Sheik C. Reem Z.’s plans were canceled which is troubling to her because “we wanted to travel and see my family since my grandfather just died, and we wanted to check on grandma.” Now it seems impossible to know when she and her family will be able to do that.  For sophomore Raya S., the shelter-in-place orders have stopped her family from celebrating a Bat Mitzvah. “Everything was planned and booked, and… my younger sister had been preparing for this special moment for over 2 years, and it has now been postponed.”  

The uncertainty is perhaps the worst part of the shelter-in-place orders. Some governors have closed their schools for the rest of the semester, but it’s impossible to know how long these closures will remain in place. Will students be able to return to their schools for the fall semester? Or will they continue to experience a disrupted education? GWUOHS students don’t need to worry about school closure, but they are affected by the changes in popular tests, such as the SAT and the AP exams. GWUOHS student Lindsey Foushee’s scheduled SAT was canceled and she was forced to sign up for another one which now seems uncertain as well.   

Students who are involved in in-person extracurriculars or employed have had these opportunities taken away. GWUOHS junior Francesca R. is a dancer who both practiced and worked at her studio via a work-study program. Meanwhile, Joshua H. of Newton, Massachusetts, was laid off from his job at an ice cream shop. He isn’t sure if he’ll be rehired and this has caused financial concerns. And Alexa W., a senior at GWUOHS living in Georgia, is part of a group of high school students who choose which Georgia historical sites receive grant money. Now that in-person visits can no longer be conducted by her group, they have to use conference calls to make their decisions which makes the process much more complex.  

Last week, 5.24 million Americans lost their jobs alone and global cases are well over a million. Although several European countries have seen the curve flattened, the US has yet to hit rock bottom. “I’m hoping as time goes on, we’ll be able to figure out a system and improve distance learning for everyone in practical and creative ways, and establish some sense of structure and eventually normalcy,” said Maera K. For Jessie S., the shutdown in San Francisco makes her nervous about the future, “There are so many things I want to do and having to stay home and social distance for the next two years could destroy all of my opportunities to learn and have experiences and possibly stumble upon something I want to major in and do as my future job.” One anonymous student simply wrote, “I’m just worried about how much this is going to affect our generation.” 

The New York Times has made all of its coronavirus coverage free to all readers. Go here for their live updates and more.

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