Nina Thompson: Schooling Choice in the Age of COVID

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With the amount of COVID cases in schools, students like YR Media’s Nina Thompson feel they have to make a choice: go to school and risk catching COVID or stay home and fall behind in class.

I’m a sophomore in high school. After winter break, I wasn’t sure how safe it would be to return to in-person learning with COVID cases on the rise.

I waited for an email announcing the temporary shift to online learning. But I never got it. So I figured it was safe enough to go back if my school wasn’t closing.

But on the first day back after winter break, I’d never seen so many empty seats before. In one of my classes, almost a third of the students were absent. That’s when the truth sunk in. I knew that cases were bad, but not this bad.

After a couple days of being back in person, I decided it was time to stay home until COVID numbers went down. At first it seemed like that was okay. The school would understand. Or so I thought.

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I emailed all my teachers about the work I needed to do, and I waited. Days went by with some teachers never responding. Others said they would give me the work “when I got back.” I went out of my way to figure out how to get assignments from friends and turn them in.

But it wasn’t enough to keep me on track. Even though many teachers were generally understanding of the circumstances, they just didn’t have the setup to accommodate absences. I fell behind and didn’t understand what was happening in class. After a week, it felt like I had no other choice but to go back. So I did.

Even now, I still feel uneasy knowing that there are probably people sick in all my classes. My school had more than 300 on-campus COVID cases in January alone.

I know it's not easy — there are a lot of factors that are involved with closing the school and going back to online learning. But with so many students missing class, there should be options for those of us who feel unsafe or are sick with COVID to continue learning from home. I shouldn’t have to choose between my safety and my education.

With a Perspective, I’m Nina Thompson.

Nina Thompson is 15 years old and lives in Berkeley. Her Perspective was produced by YR Media.