After a topsy-turvy 2020-21 online/hybrid school year, parents are looking forward to sending their kids to school in person. 2020-21 created a new normal, once in a lifetime experiences like graduations, proms took place in limited gatherings and subdued celebrations. Many kids worked online through the year and will be going for the first time to their new classes or schools. Everyone would love to put the entire pandemic behind and start afresh.
Parents, kids are however divided in their opinions. The virus that ripped apart the normal way of life is present and as potent as ever and may continue to disrupt the 2021-22 school year.
School was hard for educators as well as students as they had to adjust in the middle of the year, March of 2020, for online instructions. Some students and parents felt that it was a lost year.
“It was nerve wracking. It was so hard to focus online as there were so many distractions at home”, said Hallie, a rising sophomore in Edison public school system.
The excitement and novelty of working from home, getting up late in the beginning of the school year soon wore off. “Earlier it was exciting as I got to get up late, set up my own schedule, but later it became boring”, said Michael, a rising senior. Last year, Michael and Hallie, like so many others, attended the school virtually.
The students missed out on the social interactions, clubs, meeting their teachers and friends face to face. The excitement of the first day of school was non existent.
Apart from day to day academics, there was not much fun. “I missed Biz Roads”, said 9 year old Shreeja, who goes to elementary school in the Edison School system. Biz Roads was a fun project for her grade year, where kids made bracelets for sale. “We did not make any bracelets. We could have made them at home but we had no materials”, said Shreeja.
Some kids said that they were plagued by technical difficulties throughout the year. “Somtimes the issues were overwhelming and took time to resolve”, said Nina, who will be entering 8th grade this year.
Teachers tried so hard to make online education work but it was a mixed success. 7 year old Nuha’s mom said that her daughter had difficulty understanding the project work and class work. Plus she felt there was too much pressure on her daughter as expectations were high as always. Nuha, a chirpy 7 year old, loved drawing and had a tough time following the teachers instructions online.
Similar sentiments were echoed by 13 year old, Preesha. She said, the biggest disappointment were online labs. She said that the teacher did all the experiments and all the kids simply watched. “Nobody got anything”, said Preesha.
This year all the schools in Edison, Metuchen, Highland Park, and Iselin will be open for in person instruction. There have not been any provision made so far for virtual learning. Much as parents are looking forward to a regular school year, there are others who want the option for virtual learning available to the kids. Kelly Costa, mother of third grader Kourtney in the Edison School sytem, is petitioning hard for remote learning.
“The numbers are rising day by day, delta virus cases are increasing. My daughter will not be going to school”, said Costa.
Even though there is uncertainty about the virus, about the schools, there is also excitement amongst the school kids and parents.
Back to school Euphoria:
Nuha got herself everything on the school supply list and more. ‘I got a shiny backpack with unicorns, I have yet to buy myself some shoes’, said Nuha. “Last year I did not shop for anything”, she said.
School supply shopping is in full swing online as well as in brick and mortar stores.
Shreeja, from the Edison public school system, got herself a backpack with butterflies and her name written on it. “We bought post-its, highlighters, binders, notebooks, lunchboxes and lots and lots of clothes”, chimed Shreeja and her 13 year old sister, Preesha.
Nina, also bought a bunch of stuff and is looking forward to school reopening and meeting her friends.
Some schools are asking the kids to wear masks for any indoor activities. While this is no way an ideal scenario and parents remain divided about their opinions- one thing is clear, the excitement of going back to school for in person instruction is strong amongst most kids.