Many high school seniors face a difficult choice right now. Go back to school and risk bringing coronavirus into your home, or take online classes and potentially miss out on major parts of senior year.
NHPR’s Ava Sasani caught up with three students to find out how they’re approaching school this fall.
What Olivia Kreps thinks about going back to school during the pandemic, she doesn't have a lot of confidence.
“Yeah, mostly I don't trust other students,” Kreps said.
Normally, Olivia would be starting her senior year at COE-Brown Northwood Academy in Northwood, but her older sister has multiple sclerosis, and she's worried about returning to campus.
“I feel like it would be very hard to enforce rules when it comes to wearing masks and sanitizing,” Kreps said.
But Olivia didn't have a good experience with remote learning last year, and she didn't want to do it again. So while COE-Brown reopens, Olivia is opting for the state's online charter school. She's done her research, and she thinks the program will feature a curriculum that is specifically designed to be online. But there are tradeoffs.
“I want to do what I can to keep my sister safe, but I am also, you know, a teenager and I want to be able to see people.” Kreps said. “So I have to balance my emotion with logic.”
Olivia's older sister Emily is living at home after her own senior year of college was cut short last March. And she's watching her little sister make some big sacrifices.
“I feel terrible for making my sister have to make these sorts of decisions and take this kind of responsibility,” Kreps said. “She has to take my safety into consideration. And that's a lot of responsibility to put on kids.”
In Manchester, Julia Playda is also starting her senior year. She spent the summer hoping her high school would be in person this fall.
“Well, I have a few issues with remote learning, mainly because it's a lot more difficult,” Playda said. “I could go on days not doing my work, and even if they're giving me a ton of time, I don't do it. And I try to do it tomorrow, but I still ... still don't do it.”
Julia’s mother, Rona, is relieved. Her mother is 73 lives with them, and they’re worried about exposing her to the virus.
"As a parent, I want to make sure my kids’ safety comes first. And I know that, the fact that they are in school, it is possible for them to catch the virus, and for them to bring it home to give it to their grandma," Playda said.
Rona knows it’s hard on Julia to not see her friends, and she knows her daughter is worried about falling behind with remote learning, and so they talk about that.
“Are you worried that I won’t be as good as I was when I was in class?” Julia asks her mother.
“Well, I’m not going to lie, yes,” Rona said. “But I know it’s hard for you, the time management and the distraction at home, and everything that’s going on. It’s going to be hard. But we’re going to have to do our part to reduce the pandemic.”
If Manchester schools do open up to in-person learning again, Rona says she won’t force Julia to stay home.
But conversations are a little different in other parts of the state, where there are fewer cases. Steve Solomon is letting his daughter Christina decide whether to go back to Kennett High School in North Conway for her senior year.
“We’re in northern New Hampshire, our numbers are super low. The risk is also relatively low compared to other parts of the country,” Solomon said. “Can’t say there’s no risk, but it’s her senior year of high school, and we wanted to give her the option. We actually kind of gave her the option.”
And Christina chose: returning to school. She misses her friends and didn’t want to meet her new teachers on a computer. She’s excited for one more year with her high school track team.
“I’m hoping that we can have a normal track season, and stuff like that, so I can have a semi-normal senior year,” Solomon said.
Semi-normal is a goal, not a guarantee. If there’s a sudden spike in cases, Christina and her dad agree that she’ll have to return to remote learning.
COVID and The Classroom: NHPR wants to understand how this unusual school year is playing out across the state. Every few weeks, we'll ask you to answer a new question. The latest: How has going back to school been different for you this year? Give us a few examples here to help us tell the story.