There's no denying education has been upended amid the coronavirus pandemic. For most of 2020, once-bustling hallways were silent; classes, proms, and graduation ceremonies were canceled or held online, with millions of students denied rights of passage that generations past cherished.
Yahoo Finance spoke with six students from White Plains High School in Westchester County, NY, and got their thoughts on virtual learning, what it has been like going to school wearing masks, and their hopes for the 2021 school year and beyond.
Rising seniors Evelyn Pardo, Carter Reynolds, Rina Stanghellini, and juniors Brian Mulvey, Thiago Guimaraes De Oliveira, and Andres Gomez Garcia endured virtual learning for the better part of 2020. As the 2021 school year approaches, they are looking forward to a fresh start even amid possible setbacks due to the Delta variant of COVID-19.
'It was hard to focus on school'
When it comes to virtual learning, the students were not fans — and not just for social reasons but also for academics.
Reynolds said learning at home came with many distractions. “It’s hard for me to do work in my house because there’s so many other things I can do in my own household. But at school you’re sitting there in a class for like 40 minutes and you have to do that one thing. At my house you can do whatever you want, so it was really hard to focus on school,” he said.
Gomez-Garcia added that virtual learning can lead to habits such as procrastination.
“So for me, online learning was also really difficult because you also had a lot of other things to do. And the thing for me was that you would procrastinate. You would say, 'I’ll do this later,' and you will keep going and going and then at the end of the day, you would have no time to do all the work you had to do,” he said.
De Oliveira, who serves as vice president of the school's student government, said his classwork suffered as a result of the lack of in-person communication and connection between student and teacher. Once in-person classes resumed, he immediately saw more positive results.
“I have to have a connection with my teacher. I have to be friends with them, and … talk to them. And when I came back to school, that’s exactly what I did. On the first day of school, I made friends with my teachers, and my grades went up, literally, the first week," he said.
'Just put it on'
When it comes mask-wearing at school — one of the most contentious topics in education amid COVID-19 — the students were in the pro-mask camp.
“I think it’s a trade-off, you know. I’d rather be back in school with everybody and be wearing masks than … not wear masks,” said Stanghellini said.
Pardo added that adults need to get some perspective. “I feel like vaccination, that’s your own personal belief, do whatever you want to do — but a mask, just put it on. It protects yourself, it protects everyone else, it’s not that big of a deal, but to have adults arguing about putting it on and not putting on it … don’t act like a child, protect your children instead,” she said.
Hope for the future
Despite all of the unknowns as a result of the pandemic, however, this cohort of kids still has hope for the future.
“Eventually enough the world will be vaccinated, and there will be enough of an understanding that the world will improve and hopefully it’ll be eradicated from the population,” said Mulvey.
Stanghellini tells Yahoo Finance that the pandemic will be something that she will reflect on with her future children.
"I think they’ll always be like in disbelief at what we went through. And I think the only thing we can hope to instill in them is everything we’ve learned during this pandemic … to value human connection, being in school. Hopefully we can instill that in them so that they won’t take anything for granted like we did,” she said.
Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.
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