Magazine Opinions Volume 70, Issue 7

A Year of COVID: Looking Back

By Jack Abells

Over a year ago now, the district announced that we wouldn’t be returning to campus until April of 2020. Many viewed it like COVID would be a brief break from school. But soon enough, we learned COVID would not be over that quickly. At the time of the Las Lomas campus’ closure, there were 68 new cases of COVID in the county that day. As of March 2021, there are over 64,000 cases in total. Since then, the pandemic continues, there’s been political unrest and a presidential election and the district has pushed into the transition to a hybrid of in-person and online school. After an entire year of having to continue doing school during undoubtedly major historical events, one must ask how students have been impacted. 

Though I obviously can’t speak for all students, I believe that online school is putting unnecessary stress on students during an already stressful time. In a study conducted by NBC News and Challenge Success, a Stanford-run organization, they found that a major source of stress for 68.8% of high school students was tests, quizzes, and finals. Overall, schoolwork was a major source of stress for 60.7% of students. These responses were taken from fall 2018 to fall 2020 and included over 75,000 high school students across the country. Schoolwork made up such a profound amount of students’ stress and was the most commonly reported source of stress, even with everything going on in the world. 

When we’re busied with school assignments, it becomes difficult to feel connected with bigger issues. It’s absurd to be doing mounds of schoolwork while there’s political strife going on outside our Zoom meetings. We’re expected to keep going through the motions as if everything is normal. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, online school also makes it difficult to feel involved with smaller and more personal parts of one’s life. The unrelenting work from online school in addition to the stress of current events in the world makes it feel like we aren’t given a chance to catch our breath. “Once I adjusted [to online school], it hasn’t been too bad, but I do feel I’ve lost interest in things I used to love,” said Reese Williams, a junior. “School does take up more time than it used to,” an anonymous freshman said. “The gap between home life and school life has grown smaller if not completely gone at this point. It feels like teachers are assigning more work since now we’re home all the time… Since some classes are designed to be more hands-on, now having to put that online versus on hand it doesn’t translate well.” A lot of work during online school, especially for “hands-on” classes, feels like padding, as if the teachers are just trying to find something for us to do. 

Unsurprisingly, a lot of students have been disengaging with class since online school started. According to Challenge Success, 41% of students reported a decrease in effort in school, 42% reported a decreased engagement with learning and 51% reported an increased amount of time spent on homework. A lack of sleep during the pandemic has also impacted students’ mental health. About 43.2% of students in the study say their amount of sleep has decreased since the pandemic. Only 6.6% of students in the study got the medically recommended amount of sleep per night. 

When the lockdowns started last year, mass amounts of people were impatient to go “back to normal.” For some, that meant being free from COVID, but for too many others, it meant schools and businesses reopening. So, without much time to gather ourselves, we’re pushed through an unusually difficult school year during what is probably the craziest part of any of our lives. Many of the problems students are having with online school have existed long before the pandemic, but now they’ve been magnified. The schoolwork has been put into perspective now that we’re stuck indoors while the world seems to crumble. In the past, school would be canceled by things like weather. Now there’s a pandemic, and school is still going. That kind of thing makes me worried for the future. If we have these kinds of heavy expectations placed on us during a pandemic, what will be expected of us when the pandemic ends?