U.S. Students Head Back to School Differently


Photo provided by Alexis Hatmaker Alexis and Kaden Hatmaker attend class wearing mask in Tennessee.

Michael Baker III

As with everything in 2020, the start of the school year around the country has been anything but normal. 

Loudoun and Fairfax counties made the decision to begin the school year virtually, while school districts in other states took a different approach. 

In the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, parents were given the option of virtual or classroom instruction for their children. Students attending the brick and mortar school must wear masks and maintain a 6-foot distance from others. Students remain in their pod groups all day eating lunch together in a classroom. Virtual students work on an A/B schedule and are online approximately two hours a day with several hours of asynchronous learning built in. 

“Overall, school is going pretty well for me,” said Quinn Healy, a sophomore from West Virginia.  “I’m happy that I can see my friends again. My least favorite part has been our schedules. They had changed to a block schedule. But overall, I’m just happy to be back.”

Sophomore Brody Furr attends high school in Florida. He had three different options for school this year. 

“We either had to go virtual, physical for three days of the week and two days online or go physical the whole time,” Furr said.

School districts in Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee gave parents the same option as West Virginia. Students could attend school with an A/B day schedule or go virtual. Some are trying to adjust to the situation, but hope everything goes back to normal soon. 

“It is what it is,” said Jeremiah Kohr, a sophomore from Pennsylvania. “But, I do not like how this is going. I have high hopes that in the spring everything will be straightened out. I’m not sure, but we’ll see.”

“It’s ok I guess,” said Kayleigh Rarkstraw, a sophomore from South Carolina. “There is not a problem. I live in a small town, so there’s not a lot that goes on.”

In Sparta, Tennessee, the school year out with students attending classes two days a week and asynchronous learning for two days with Wednesday being a day of deep cleaning the school. About three weeks later, parents were given the option to send students back full time or go virtual. If students wanted to participate in sports, then they could not attend school virtually. 

Alexis Hatmaker, a junior and cheerleader in Tennessee, is attending class in the building and wearing a mask all the time, but she’s able to participate in sporting events.

“We’re still having sports season and games,” Hatmaker said. “But one of the problems is if one person on the team gets COVID-19,  or sick everyone has to sit out for 24 days.”

Students are still struggling with wearing masks and the uncertainty of this school year.

The first week was really hard,” Hatmaker said. “I couldn’t breathe and neither could my brother. I do not think it’s going to last because everyone’s getting it and everyone’s getting sick. As of yesterday, 60 people went to the office and today only 10.”