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School Reopens: Pandemic Stories from All Over America

“They have to pay particular attention to a lot of things,” she says after leaving him. “Hand sanitizers and everything—and don’t get too close to their friends or play as before.” — Ivan Moreno

8am, Santa Monica High School

A cheerleader rushes to the entrance to Santa Monica High School and carries a stepladder painted in the school colors blue and gold. She sets it up and displays the school ID and “green screen” to the guards on the phone, indicating that she has passed the daily Covid screening questionnaire. She’s in a hurry because it’s match day. The soccer team will play against their longtime rival Venice High School.

“Are you ready for Venice tonight?” The school’s bilingual community liaison, Johanna De La Rosa, helps students approach the gate by helping them see their ID and green screen in the morning. I will ask. It wasn’t a regular part of her work before the pandemic.

“Our teamwork on campus—whatever the title, it was very important to really understand that we are really a team of all sorts,” she says. Most of the school’s approximately 2,850 students undergo weekly Covid testing during the class as part of their rotation monitoring schedule.

Amara McDuffy, 14, fills out a Covid screening questionnaire over the phone as she walks towards the gate. Her first class is art. “It’s really fun. No one in the class knows. They are a lot of juniors,” Amara says. “It’s the usual class clowns, quiet kids, etc. I think I like to see it again.”

Students begin to increase their pace as they approach the first bell at 8:30 am.

The 17-year-old Lara Hunter, who first came to Santa Monica High, says that Game Day activities were said to be “not really.” “But since I was from art school, this is totally new to me.” — Jesse Jeffrey

8:10 am, Herbert Hoover High School

At the end of the second week of school at Hoover High, principal Jason Babineau roams the campus yelling “good morning” to his students. He suddenly banks to the right, catches flying football and hits his elbow against a soccer player.

School Reopens: Pandemic Stories from All Over America

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