The 2020–21 school year is almost over, and it has been anything but normal. Kids who went to school in person had to wear masks and social distance, while others did not even go to school at all, but instead joined Zoom meetings for class. Last September, I interviewed seven local North Oaks students and asked them about the upcoming school year. Recently, I interviewed the same students to reflect on how this year went.


Olivia Kautt, sixth grade, Chippewa Middle School

•Learning model: hybrid/in-person

Ryan and Christian Goralski, seventh and ninth grades, Chippewa Middle School and Mounds View High School

•Learning model: hybrid/in-person

Soren Chowdhury-Dinsmoor, sixth grade, Chippewa Middle School

•Learning model: distance/in-person

Benny, Tommy, and Charlie Starke; fifth, third, and third grades; Otter Lake Elementary

•Learning model: hybrid/in-person



How has COVID-19 affected your life over the past year?

Olivia: “It has really affected the way I’m used to things in my life—my school has switched learning models probably more than four different times, and I was really just trying to adjust to the way we are doing things. I’m a competitive dancer and it sure has affected that part of my 

life as well. We have to wear masks during practice, social distance, and we did Zoom dance classes for a short period of time. And competitions for dance are running very differently as well; in fact, last year we didn’t really have any competitions at all. I know this same type of thing is happening at other youth sports as well, so I think everyone is having a bit of a hard time adjusting.”

Soren: “It has separated me from a lot of my friends.”

Ryan: “Sports have been different—school has changed how it works, it just feels different, and it has been scary.”


What was it like doing the learning model you did?

Olivia: “Our school switched learning models multiple times, so I did multiple different types of learning. Both times we did distance learning it was a bit crazy in the beginning, but we got used to it. The second time we did distance learning it got a bit draining at the end, being on the computer so long, but we switched back to hybrid shortly after that. During hybrid learning it was better because we got to actually see our teachers, and work with them in-person some of the time.” 

Charlie: “It wasn’t that good: I felt like 

I wasn’t learning.”

Soren: “You could wake up later and take breaks if you got your work done early.”


Did you switch learning models in the middle of the year? If so, why did you?

Christian: “I did not switch learning modules at all aside from the school making us go all online.”

Benny: “We went to full distance at Thanksgiving because Covid numbers went up.”

Ryan: “Yes, I switched between distance and hybrid multiple times because of how the world was changing.”


How was this school year different for you?

Tommy: “All the different learning models were confusing.”

Soren: “Just the whole distance and masks impacted me.”

Ryan: “It was different because I was in a new grade, I was doing distance learning, had to wear masks, and social distancing.”


Did you participate in school sports or clubs? If so, how were they different and how did they go?

Olivia: “I did actually participate in a small student council type thing we have at Chippewa called the HERD. I’m not really sure how it was different because this is my first year doing it at Chippewa. But it did go better than expected. We meet every Friday at 12:35 and we actually get a lot done. We’ve done multiple monthly contests this year, have organized morning announcements, sent out a Valentine's day candy-gram form, done a few special things for teacher appreciation week, and are currently organizing the fifth grade tours.”

Christian: “Hockey was good even though we lost a month of our season and after that month we had to wear masks on the ice. I am also doing high school golf this spring and it is not much different. You do not have to wear a mask because you are outside and you cannot get to the course super early.”

Benny: “For hockey, I had to wear a mask on the ice which got really annoying because it was hard to see.”


What was the best thing about school this year?

Olivia: “For me there were a lot of great things about this school year. Some days it was just that you got to see teachers and friends. But I think the overall best thing about this school year was when we got to be in-person, seeing people, and doing the best we can to have fun under the current circumstances.”

Christian: “The best thing about school this year is that I get to see my friends more often.”

Charlie: “Hatching chicks in our classroom.”


What do you most look forward to about school next year?

Olivia: “The thing I look forward to most about next school year is hopefully, getting back to a sense of normalcy and being in school five days a week.”

Benny: “Middle school and playing the saxophone.”

Ryan: “Probably being full time, no masks, normalcy.”


For many kids, the school year was confusing, scary, and strange. They had to switch from hybrid learning to distance learning and back, but they still were able to make the most of it. The hope is that next fall, students can return to daily in-person school without masks or social distancing. The 2020–21 school year was rough sometimes, but kids were able to find things they enjoyed about the year and are hopeful that we will be back to some sort of normalcy soon.

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