'Kids need a lot of support': A Minneapolis student's view on school life, COVID

A girl in a face mask kneels in front of a locker as others walk by.
The hallways of Carlton High School in Carlton, Minn., on Sept. 8, 2020. With the omicron surge, schools around the state are adjusting to major staffing shortages.
Alex Kormann | Star Tribune via AP 2020

Schools around the state are temporarily pivoting to at-home learning as rising COVID-19 cases lead to widespread absences of teachers and substitutes.

With as much as 25 percent of its staff out, Osseo schools announced a shift to distance learning for the week for its middle and high school students. Prior Lake-Savage, Worthington, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony-New Brighton and Fridley schools have recently extended holiday breaks, moved classes online or canceled school altogether.

Minneapolis public high school students returned to the classroom Tuesday after staying home Monday because of the cold and bus driver shortages. Tenth grader Lucy Heagle attends Roosevelt High School in south Minneapolis and spoke on Morning Edition about what school has been like lately.

Your mom told us you’ve been doing really well through the pandemic, but last week, you stopped wanting to go to school. What changed?

Well, the fact that there weren't very many students and teachers there definitely contributed. I personally am someone who enjoys going to school, and I generally like going to school because of the people. And I like the content I’m learning and being in the classroom, but when I'm not sure if my friends are going to be there the next day, then I don't know if I want to be there.

So there were a lot of absences last week.

Yeah, most of my classes were about half capacity, and I heard from one of my teachers that about one in five teachers were gone. There were about 10 teachers that didn't have a sub, so there were classes that were just in the auditorium because they didn't have a teacher.

What are the safety protocols like in school, when it comes to masking and distancing?

It's actually been pretty good. Teachers have kind of been asked to double down on asking kids to pull their masks up if they aren't all the way up over their nose. They don't try to space us out in the halls as much because there isn't really a way to do that successfully, but generally, safety protocols are pretty good in a sense that like — not very many people are getting it from school. Most people are staying home because their parent got it. So that's good.

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You like the interaction that school offers. How has pandemic learning worked out for you so far? Especially last year.

It was really hard for me last year when I didn't get to see people. And it was mostly difficult because even if when we were online, not everyone was comfortable with online interaction. In classes on Google Meets, people wouldn't turn their cameras on, so I didn't know what most of my classmates looked like. Even now I've met several people where I was like,

“You were in my class last year?”

And they were like: “Yeah.”

And, I was like, “I don't know you!”

How are you handling all these ups and downs? Do you think you and your classmates are getting enough mental health support from the school?

I can only speak to my own experience, and that's like me trying not to need a lot of support. But I mean usually there isn’t [enough support], but I don’t know what it’s like now.

I know that there probably isn’t [enough] because kids need quite a lot of support now, and there isn’t much ability for that in schools anyway. It’s not like they’ve increased it. I would say teachers are also very burnt out, so they’re trying their best to support kids, because they know that if they’re struggling, students are also struggling.

So it’s kind of everyone needing to support everyone at this point. And I think mostly in the classroom that's happening. But that's only for my classrooms at least.

What’s your hope for the rest of 2022?

I'm hoping we can stay in person. I'm hoping I can stay at school with my friends and have social interaction because I know it's important. It’s kind of what makes school enjoyable for most people. So even if they wouldn't admit it, they like going to school.

MPR News reporter Tim Nelson contributed to this report.

Correction (Jan. 12, 2022): A previous version of this story misspelled Lucy Heagle’s last name.