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Colorado Students Weigh In On Virtual Learning During The Pandemic


How are kids feeling at the start of an extraordinary new school year? Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio went out and asked some of them.

ERIC PETERSEN: Online learning stank. I hated it.

JENNY BRUNDIN, BYLINE: That's middle schooler Eric Petersen.

ERIC: I'm just sitting at a screen all day. It's really unnerving. If you sit there too long, your eyes start to unfocus, and you literally can't do anything.

BRUNDIN: One thing Eric knows is he wants the summer to end.

ERIC: There's only so many times you can reread "Harry Potter" before it gets really annoying.

BRUNDIN: His school district in Durango, Colo., offered families a choice - in-person, virtual learning or a mix of the two. For safety reasons, his family chose virtual. For 17-year-old Caleb, Wash., the decision was made for him by his Aurora school district. He'll spend at least the next couple of months learning remotely, sequestered in his bedroom. Caleb will share bandwidth with two siblings who are also distance learning, just like in the spring.

CALEB WASHINGTON: I would just kind of have to, like, plan out my schedule. When they were doing their stuff, I would wait until they were done, and then I would do mine.

BRUNDIN: He also has two even younger siblings not yet in school.

WASHINGTON: I'm on a phone call. Sorry (laughter).

BRUNDIN: One of them pushes into his room during our call.

WASHINGTON: My room doesn't have a lock, so, like, they constantly just barge in, like how you just saw (laughter).

BRUNDIN: He has mixed feelings about more remote learning because of that and because he's a hands-on learner. He says, though, it's safer being home now. But he thinks school administrators need to think long and hard about the impact of virtual learning on kids.

WASHINGTON: Just off of people I know, I know school was a good outlet for them to get away from the house because they had, like, household problems. The family dynamic wasn't really there. So for them to be stuck in that, I know it has been detrimental.

BRUNDIN: Fifteen-year-old Brianna Meza didn't much like remote learning in the spring. She desperately wants to go back to her school in Denver. But given what a school day normally looks like, she's skeptical her classmates will follow health protocols.

BRIANNA MEZA: Everyone's, like, constantly, like, on each other, like, hugging, high schoolers running around all over the place, giving each other piggyback rides.

BRUNDIN: Talking it over with her parents, 100% remote was the best choice for her. But she knows being away from high school has been very rough on some of her friends.

MEZA: They feel hopeless.

BRUNDIN: Six in 10 American teens said the COVID-19 pandemic had increased their feelings of loneliness, according to one national poll.

MEZA: It's just - it's rough, like, not being able to have a fun, like, teenage life at the age of 15 because no one's really willing to do what they're supposed to.

BRUNDIN: She thinks if people had worn masks and social distanced more, schools might have been able to go back to normal.


BRUNDIN: Of all the kids I spoke to, the littlest ones were the most desperate to get back inside classrooms, like this group I ran to at a makeshift neighborhood summer camp in Denver.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #1: I just wish I could be at school learning something, like, intelligent and something like that.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #2: I don't feel like I can focus on a lot when it's on the computer.

UNIDENTIFIED CHILD #3: 'Cause at home, it's, like, a hangout place for me.

BRUNDIN: Every single one of this big posse of kids, ages 5 to 10, says one of the things they really miss is their teachers. Gabriel Burbage, who's almost 6, says it best.

GABRIEL BURBAGE: I feel like I want my teachers back. And I feel like coronavirus virus is not cool for me. School is fun for me. I feel like it's a lot funner than going to online school 'cause you just get to do a lot of education, and then you get to learn more stuff.

BRUNDIN: It's a sentiment kids across the country would probably agree with. For NPR News, I'm Jenny Brundin in Denver.

(SOUNDBITE OF NOBLE OAK'S "THE SPIRIT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jenny Brundin