Take a look at the following and see what triggers you. If you were a parent, teacher (and what parent was not a teacher this past year?) or student during the 2020 pandemic, hold on to your hats as you read! Two weeks to stop the spread. Six feet apart. Distance learning. Zoom. Mute. Unmute. Zoom code, passwords, headphones. Not enough tablets and computers to go around. Two of your children’s classes happening at the same time. Short video clips, play, pause. Work from home while being a morah, a chef, and a housekeeper. And on, and on!

Suddenly having to figure out remote schooling and then having to do it on the daily was a huge struggle for families across the globe. For me, having young children in school during the pandemic was no small feat. Although they were not responsible for studying or tests, the technical coordination fell on me. I had to put in the zoom code and password at the correct time, wait around for the teacher to allow them in, unmute, turn on the camera, mute for the lesson, unmute when the teacher requested, and that was when there weren’t technical difficulties! At first I thought zoom would be a nice break for the kids to distract them during the day with some learning. However, I soon came to realize it was just another chore I was responsible for. It was all too much.

Now we are entering a brand-new school year, so how are parents, teachers, and students in our community preparing for the shift back to what we all hope will be a much more normal year? I interviewed a few community members to find out.

Celia Francis

As a parent (and teacher) I highly recommend parents prepare their kids for back to school. In-person learning is highly important and should be treated as such. Kids should be encouraged to be social, form good relationships, and most importantly, have a good routine set in place.

Home learning was not ideal for many reasons, and a major one was the lack of structure. We have to work to get that routine down of getting up early, eating a good breakfast, and heading out to school prepared for a full day of learning and social interaction. I suggest about two weeks before the first day of school waking your kids up at the hour they would need to be up for school, so they get used to it. They should also have their outfits picked out the night before and have anything else they’ll need to bring with them to school ready to go that night.

As a teacher, I can’t wait for the start of this coming school year. Every district has its own rules, but I’m looking forward to hopefully no masks and no plexiglass getting in the way. And, of course, in-person learning all year as opposed to on and off zoom school. I’m looking forward to fun class projects, inter-grade larger projects in which different classes come together, as well as having the special needs children back with the rest of the children. The social aspects of things really enhances the learning. For faculty, too, I’m eager to work together with co-workers again and to collaborate on different lesson plans and special projects.

If something positive came out of this pandemic it’s definitely to be more aware of having good hygiene at school. That includes being more aware of the importance of more frequent hand washing, personal space, and keeping the classrooms clean and germ-free. No one wants to get sick and hopefully this will make for a happier and healthier classroom experience for all.

Raquel Vogel

I think this school year will be better because there will be more consistency in terms of kids being about to spend time together in the classroom. This is imperative so that they continue to gain social skills. In this day and age of technology it’s a slippery slope. Kids can be more introverted and being isolated can lead to social awkwardness. We all know in the real world social skills are highly important to get ahead.

Although I am unsure of the exact Covid protocols for this coming year, I’m looking forward to the kids hopefully wearing masks a lot less and being able to take full clean breaths as well as seeing each other speak. This should make everything feel much more back to normal.

Rosie Nigri

I really enjoyed all the new social opportunities high school had to offer when I became a freshman in the 2018/19 school year. Sophomore year came around and I was eager for more of the same school experience. Little did I know what 2020 would bring. Zoom school was really rough, as it took away all the fun parts of school and left only the learning. When we were finally back to in-person school fall of 2020 things were not back to normal. There were masks restricting my breathing, which were uncomfortable and distracting. We no longer ate lunch in the cafeteria with the rest of the school, but instead we ate in the classroom. Speaking of classrooms, we stayed in the same one all day with the same kids, day after day, period after period. Only the subject and teacher would change. It felt more like elementary school and less like high school. We didn’t have sports after school or any fun holiday or rosh chodesh programs like we used to.

I don’t know what this next year has to offer but I am hopeful. I’m hoping for things to go back to the way they were, I’m hoping for lunch in the cafeteria and a change of environment and peers with every class switch. I’m hopeful that the rest of my high school experience will be as normal and fun as that first year was!

Margo Cohen

I really think it’s important that our kids grow up in a normal, stable environment. Masks for children should never be mandated again. I’m hoping my kids will have a more calm and relaxed year, with no sudden or unexpected shutdowns. I’m ready for structure, I’m ready for homework, kids to bed on time, and out of the house bright and early.

I hope it’s not going to be like last year, but we really don’t know. What I honestly feel is that it’s going to be nothing like the beginning of last year. We came to school, buses were canceled, masks were a must, and after just a few weeks of being in school, they had to close down because of an outbreak. I don’t think this September will look anything like that one.

Casey Dweck

We are so stoked and cannot wait to get back to school in full swing! I’m a mom, my kids are from the ages of four to thirteen, and collectively as a family we are eager for what the new year has to offer!

To be honest it feels a little far off. With the holidays in early September we’re only having two full days and two half days in what’s supposed to be the first month of school. But October should be hopefully awesome and consistent. It’ll be nice for us parents to not have to worry about suddenly having kids home from school and on zoom.

At the end of last year there were pretty much no masks and no barriers. Starting off this fall without the fear of the unknown, which was pretty much the whole vibe of last fall, it’s going to be a completely different experience.

As a member of the PTA, school year 2020/2021 was exhausting and eventful. Every time a child was quarantined or a whole class was quarantined, we’d send home care packages for them. It was a lot. We were a small school and we sent out over 70 packages over the course of one year. It was a lot of work. For that reason and much more, we are looking forward to a more normalized year all around. This year instead of buying masks and taking covid tests as school prep, we get to enjoy good old fashioned school supplies shopping for back to school prep! Can’t wait!

Jessica Anteby

I teach kindergarten. Last year was rough when I had some kids or even just one on zoom due to exposure or illness. It was a big challenge. For example, I’d tell the parent to log on at a certain time for writing, but if reading was running late I’d get texts from a parent worried I’d forgotten about their child. Or if we were running early, we would have to wait for that student to log on to begin the lesson. Then when they were finally logged on, I had to juggle zoom and a classroom full of students. It was a struggle I’m looking forward never having to deal with that again.

This coming year I’m looking forward to meeting class parents in person! Last year all the PTA meetings were on zoom, and I feel like I didn’t really meet the parents, like if I passed them on the street, I would have no idea who they were. Also, school events, like authors’ fair, and siddur and chumash plays are so much more exciting for the kids and everyone when parents are allowed to come and join. It was a completely different vibe without them. I’m excited for this year to go back to normal!

Finally, I look forward to just walking in the hallways and hopefully being able to smile at everybody without a mask in the way!

In Conclusion…

School year 2021/2022 definitely looks to be shaping up. When we were in the thick of it during 2020, we really did not know how long all the restrictions and zooming would last. The unknown was daunting and uneasy. This year, although some things are still unknown, there seems to be an overall easiness. There is a vibe of the anticipated return back to normalcy that is calming down parents, teachers, and students. As of now whoever wants a vaccine can get one. It seems as though we have reached some sort of herd/community immunity. So long as no serious Covid variant rears its ugly head, we should have smooth sailing this school year, after, of course, being home almost all of September for the high holidays!

Hoping you and your families stay safe and happy this school year and get the most out of it as possible!

Until next time,

Frieda Schweky

Frieda Schweky