Parents and a student share their back-to-school experiences

We’d like to get more voices in our news feed so we launched a new feature where you can share your thoughts on returning to school amid a pandemic. What has it been like? What’s working, or what’s not working for you? Below are some of our first comments. It’s an interesting and varied mix of experiences — one mom says leaders have been “communicative and supportive,” yet another describes a “nightmare” experience with online learning.  High school student Kate Sand raises awareness about the long-term effects of COVID-19 that have “devastated” her.

We welcome you to join the conversation.

Abbey Erquiaga, parent, West Ada School District 

I have two elementary age kids in the West Ada School District. Their “mandatory but not really” mask policy at the start of the year was disheartening to say the least. We have had both kids wear masks, and they’ve stayed in class longer than some of their classmates, thanks to the quarantine exception available before masks were mandatory. They have both watched as classmates are pulled from class or are absent for lengths of time. While they know the reason, they worry more than they ever have about the well-being of their friends and classmates, and the oldest (4th grade) worries almost every day if she’ll get COVID and have to stay home. For the kids, wearing masks doesn’t phase them at all and, luckily, their school only had 30% opt out. The kids are much more aware of and concerned for the health of their classroom communities than having to wear a mask. As parents, we are just thankful for everyday that they are healthy and can attend. Their school administrators and teachers have been so communicative and supportive.

Disclosure: Erquiaga is a member of the Idaho Education News board of directors. 

Katherine Sand, junior, Boise High School

Like most people around the world, I was afraid of COVID-19. But like many Americans, I still thought it would be okay to hang out with my friends. I thought just being a teenager in the midst of COVID was the hardest thing I would have to endure—but I was wrong. Three days before I was scheduled to get the COVID-19 vaccine, I was notified with a positive result. Will Grogan, a victim of post-covid symptoms, stated in this article: “My idea of COVID before I got it was … if I get it, I’ll get it over with and I’ll have the antibodies and I’ll be good.”

Similarly, I was not worried about myself, but rather my parents and grandparents. During the virus, my symptoms were very mild. It’s the long-term effects that devastated me. I had no idea how badly COVID could affect a healthy teenager. Before having COVID, I was reaching for a varsity cross-country spot on one of the best running teams in the nation and racing the best I ever had. After having COVID, you could say I’m pretty far from that. Respiratory issues, as well as weird brain fogs, forgetfulness and loss of confidence have all torn me down. Recently, going on a run has physically hurt me, and I feel isolated from my team. I’m scared that I may never be able to get back to the same place I was at six months ago, let alone reach my potential. At the beginning of this short response I stated, I was afraid of COVID-19, but I wish I had been more than I was. 

Theresa Bidwell, parent, Nampa School District

I am a parent of two children attending school in Nampa. One is in high school, she is vaccinated. One is in elementary school and unable to be vaccinated. We are one month into the school year and on quarantine No. 2. I am beyond frustrated. I wish masks were mandatory! My children learn best while in person education is available.

Kelly Hardy, parent, Kuna School District

My daughter got COVID in her kindergarten class her first week of school. Her teacher said she wasn’t aware that COVID numbers were rising or that she had to do anything except clean things in her room. The desks were pushed four together and the students eat together in the cafeteria against the health guidelines. The teacher nor the students wore a mask, my daughter was the only one so of course she would take it off where before she wore it regularly with no problems. My daughter was given the classroom duty of sanitizing the other children which involved going up to each of them in line and putting squirts of hand sanitizer on their hand. When she got COVID, it was three days of hours-long bouts of incessant pain where she would lay on the floor not wanting to be touched until she vomit and pass out. Then a week of “Covid Cough”.

The principal and superintendent could not offer us any classroom in the district that followed the CDC/CDH classrooms  guidelines but were happy enough to put us in online kindergarten, which has been a nightmare. The teachers there are trying hard but it’s two hours a day four days a week where before she had a full day with art, music, social studies and PE.

Today I had to do the teacher’s job because you can’t teach a child to hold a pencil over a computer. She’s also started sucking her thumb, which she never has done before, and this morning she was talking about her “friends,” which are two kids in her kindergarten class that she saw for less than a week and she won’t see there again. She’s upset because she didn’t want to be on the computer and already dislikes school. The money the governor is sending to my district is going to the black hole of staffing shortages instead of helping my child who is behind because of my district’s lack of ability to put any precautions in place.

I’ve applied to Boise School District but at this point can’t get it. I can see that my child is going to be disastrously affected by being isolated in this reduced school setting where she has no social interaction but have no access to any in person learning where the guidelines are followed. She has had COVID twice and I don’t want her exposed any more. I can’t understand why we can’t access a single classroom in our district that has the CDC guidelines where my 5-year-old can learn safely and instead she is having to experience all of this. My parents have tried to do this but they are almost 70 and the technology is even beyond me. She is given homework to print but the Chromebook is locked from printing by the district. It’s a complete failure right from the beginning of her educational experience.

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