remote learning

‘Nobody Had It Easy': Reflecting on 1 Year of Remote Learning

For seniors and their parents, there’s no getting back what COVID canceled on them a year ago

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One year ago, we were really just beginning to learn about the new coronavirus, watching it spread first in China and then making its way to the United States.

“I remember being like, this isn’t happening,” said mom of four Meghan Anzalone.

Arlington parent Akarshe Ramani said, “We just thought this was something that would stay for a few weeks and then go away.”

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“I definitely have more respect for teachers now, I have to say,” said Foxboro mom Athalia Balantine.

One year ago this week, we really had no idea the journey on which we were about to embark. On March 13, 2020, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said, “There will be school Monday, and there will be school next week.”

That same say, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said, “Just shutting schools down completely does not appear to be the appropriate thing to do at this time.”

But just hours later, on that fateful Friday the 13th, one school after another started shutting down.

“I was handing out books like, ‘Listen, we don’t know how long this is going to be, I want you to keep reading,'” said Kurt Ostrow, an English teacher at B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River.

Algonquin senior Heather Hodgkins said, “I was supposed to take the SAT on that Saturday too, and then everyone started getting canceled.”

Each cancellation was quickly overshadowed by an even bigger one.

“Initially I think it was we were only closing down for a long weekend to do a deep clean,” said Ellie Lupafya, the assistant principal at North High School in Worcester.

Algonquin senior Yasmine Lee said, “I could literally remember thinking like, oh, it’s only two weeks. I was, like, kind of happy.”

It's been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States, and schools in many areas are approaching the anniversary of the shift to online remote learning. Pediatricians say there is an alarming uptick in young patients with depression and anxiety, and emergency room visits for mental health are up for children and teenagers.

With kids suddenly home, parents were forced to figure out a way to juggle work and school.

“In the beginning, I felt like I had, I needed roller skates, I needed to go to this room, that room, like to help each kid in a different way,” Anzalone said.

And some, like special needs van driver Brian Bryson, found themselves abruptly unemployed.

“When this happened, I was out of work for months,” he said.

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Fast forward one year and we’re adapting. Bryson is back to work, more students are back in the classroom. But for seniors and their parents, there’s no getting back what COVID has canceled on them.

“You work all of these years to get to this point where you get to celebrate it and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get to do much,” said Yvette Camachl, the mom of a Framingham senior.

Hodgkins said, “I’ve lost like three-fourths of my year, like, basically all my senior year, and it’s tough, but making the best of it, you know?”

And perhaps that’s the lesson this school year: resilience and perseverance, beyond what any of us could have imagined just one year ago.

Lupafya, the North High School assistant principal, put it this way: “Nobody had it easy, everybody came out of it with some type of a story that we’ll tell our grandchildren for the next hundred years.”

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