Students share their experience in getting safely back to school

Posted at 9:16 AM, Sep 17, 2020

SE WISCONSIN — Back to school season is in full swing and students are navigating through a new normal thanks to the pandemic.

Below are several experiences from local families navigating through the uncertainty.

Janna Baylor is a nurse practitioner and the mom of two high school kids. The children will attend Martin Luther in the fall. The family has lived in Milwaukee all of their lives.

Oct. 3 --
Homecoming 2020. My house was filled with teenagers prior to the dance. A few parents came to take pictures before the kids left. The brother of one of the kids, a local college student, casually mentioned he had Covid several weeks ago. There had been an outbreak on campus but his only symptoms were congestion and fatigue. The conversation quickly turned to an open discussion about the disparities in minority communities and the reason why Covid has disproportionately affected us. It’s unfortunate that now cases are rising in areas that had previously been unaffected. It felt so good to have a true conversation with people that look, live, and think differently from me. In the end, we all want the same thing. Our differences shouldn’t divide us. This Homecoming will probably be the most memorable. Things weren’t normal. I talked about the difficulty of raising and educating African American children in this city. And people who live 40 miles away heard me.

Sept. 28 --
My daughter’s teacher tested positive for Covid. I received an email from the school that there was another positive test within the building but I didn’t receive an email indicating that my child had potentially been exposed. My daughter informed me that she was notified by her teacher via text that the test was positive. She then informed me that only students who sat in the first few rows were considered at risk which is why I never received an email. Initially, I was furious. I felt that all parents of students within the class should’ve been notified. But after thinking about it I realized that this is just going to be the norm. The reality is that many of us will be in close contact with someone who tests positive. Maybe the school was trying to avoid panic. The teacher was asymptomatic and my daughter informed me that the teacher didn’t walk around during class. Social distancing was always maintained. I’m so grateful that my daughter maintained has maintained her composure and refused to allow anxiety and fear to dominate her. I’m also grateful for staff and teachers who continue to show up for our children.

Sept. 22 --
More positive tests. There have been two emails sent out this week to inform parents of additional positive COVID 19 tests within the school. I know administrators are working with the health department but I’m wondering what the threshold is. At what point does the school need to switch to virtual learning? We’ve already been through so much this year but are we now going backward? Will schools become hotspots for community spread? Of course, no one has a crystal ball but it does seem like we are heading in the wrong direction.

Sept. 16 --
Mask up. I’m not sure how or why a mask has somehow become a political statement but I’m proud of the students I see wearing masks on campus. I’m grateful that they are doing their part. I’m sure it gets annoying to have a mask on all day long. I’m sure it’s hard to communicate and understand one another sometimes but they all seem to be adjusting and taking it in stride. I also appreciate the creativity and self expression that you can find when you pay attention to the masks that kids have on. Children are showing us how to adapt and continue living.

Sept. 12 --
What about MPS? My children have always attended private school but I have friends who are MPS teachers. They were recently discussing their concerns related to virtual instruction. They both expressed feeling as if it was their first year of teaching despite the many years of experience between the two of them. One friend was very discouraged regarding her lack of ability to motivate and energize older students especially those who need additional assistance. She commented that she may drive to a students job in order to offer him some face to face encouragement. The pandemic has magnified the disparities in education that already exist. In order for this community to thrive and be healthy, ALL children need to have the same opportunities for a good education. If you haven’t said THANK YOU to an educator now is definitely the time to do so.

Sept. 1 --
Of course, the school has a positive COVID-19 case! We were notified that there is a positive case in the school but we were not advised whether it was a student or a staff member. We were also advised that we would be notified if our children were in close contact with the individual.
Fortunately, my kids were not on that list. My daughter is convinced that the school will shut down in a few weeks.
I’m just praying that students and staff stay safe.

Aug. 28 --


I wasn’t expecting the school to continue with regular social activities during a pandemic but there was a dance held on the first week of school.

My kids were excited to tell me about all the twerking and grinding that was going on so I guess that part about social distancing was forgotten.

Realistically, I don’t expect kids to social distance. Many of us adults still don’t get it or maybe we are just done with it at this point. On a side note, my kids have told me the desks are spaced appropriately and kids stay away from each other in class but in the cafeteria or when they change classes there is no way to distance. But did we expect anything different?

Aug. 24 --
I have a freshman and junior that returned to in-person learning. The school came up with a safety plan which included the use of hand sanitizer, social distancing, wearing masks in addition to temperature checks, and limiting of visitors.

The administration did offer a virtual option, however, it was made clear that the school is not an online school and regular instruction was preferred.

I loaded my kids up with masks, personal hand sanitizer, and cleansing wipes. I’m not sure how many lectures I gave them about trying to stay safe. We will just have to roll with the punches and see how this all plays out.

Gabe is a sixth-grader at St. Mary's Visitation. Gabe is energetic and loves anything outdoors or sports-related. He also enjoys drawing, especially his own anime characters.

Sept. 9 --

Gabe's back to school vlog #1

Heyyy! The name's Biak Hlawn but I go by my last name, Hlawn. That is pronounced as "huh-lawn". That pronunciation is very much Americanized and simplified but I can't be angry at people's tongues. It is a Chin name after all. Chin, not Chinese. I attend Reagan IB High School as part of the Class of 2021. As of right now, all classes are running virtual. Being a senior, I'm currently scavenging colleges and scholarships. As a low-income, first-generation student, it's been a difficult journey to get to where I am today. 2020 marks my 10th year living in the United States. Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure what I'd like to do in the future, career-wise than to attend college. I'm diving into political science but that can potentially change since nothing is 100% certain. You'll soon discover my hardships as well as achievements as you keep up with my daily blog posts and video vlogs. My long list of hobbies includes sleeping, singing (not the best at it), scrolling through social media feeds (memes YAS), photography, anything food, keeping up with social issues, and many more! Coincidence or not, I do casually vlog but rarely ever publicize them. Even when I do, they're mini clips posted on my Instagram and Snapchat. Nevertheless, I'm excited to share my days with y'all. May it be sharing my personal growth, college admissions process, changing the world, procrastination, or whatever life throws at me/us, let the adventure begin.

Oct. 14 --
Hey, everyone! I've recorded many videos capturing the things I've been up to lately, but I haven't had the time to edit them! It's been such a stressful time period for me.

I've applied for FAFSA and am currently working on my college applications. In addition, there's just been A LOT of schoolwork. Ever since my mother was hospitalized, everything just kind of went downhill from there. Having to catch up on all the schoolwork is a hassle. I wish certain things could be waived instead of having to make them up if given legit excuses.

Also, it's so scary to be living through a pandemic and Wisconsinites acting as if we're free from it? For the sake of us students, PLEASE stay inside or mask up! We'd really like to return to school in the spring but safely. A lot of us are struggling mentally due to the lack of interaction and engagement. Please stay in! Mask up!

Today was the last day to register to vote [online or by mail] so make sure you registered! NOW VOTE VOTE VOTE! <3

Sept. 22 --

Hlawn Vlog #4

Hlawn Vlog #3

Sept. 18 --

Biak Hlawn Back to School Vlog #2

Sept. 16 --

Watch Hlawn's first entry below:

Biak Hlawn BTS #1 - Sept. 14

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