COVID-19’s impact on LSE students and staff

What changes the pandemic has made to seniors and teachers.

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Tessa Donahoe, Staff Writer

For Lincoln Southeast students and beyond, the coronavirus has been a life-altering illness; one that’s wreaked havoc on countless lives around the world. It has affected many people, and has changed the outcome of next year for most schools and grades. According to the website Brookings, an American research group dedicated to the well-being and education of the nation, states are draining their rainy-day funds to address critical pandemic needs. Looking forward to next year, K-12 education will be competing for fewer state dollars against priorities like emergency public health, Medicaid and higher education. In fact, many states, such as Illinois, Indiana, Washington and Kansas, are now playing much larger roles in funding public schools, seeking to address any inequities within districts. 

According to Brookings Institution, an American research group, public schools were traditionally safe from economic plunges because they relied mostly on local property taxes. The shared K-12 income that comes from state sources has been growing from past decades, and because of that, many states have traded the K-12 income stability for greater funding equity. However, that change raised many questions and led to the conversation of the financial implications of the coronavirus-sparked economic slowdown. 

According to EdSource, a non-profit organization that’s tracking the impact of the coronavirus on all aspects of education, officials reporting on the grading policy recommended a credit or no credit policy — one that’s typically referred to as “pass/fail” in Nebraska — which the board unanimously adopted. 

“I think the new grading system is helpful because you’re still working on your classes, but you can do more on your own time, and [you] are getting graded more on participation than tests. [However], it doesn’t really affect me because I’m keeping my third quarter grades as my final grades,” Southeast senior Emily Campbell said. 

The coronavirus’s immediate and disastrous impact on the state’s economy will result in a $42 billion decline in state revenues in 2019-20 and 2020-21, bringing the General Fund to under $100 billion for the first time since the end of the Great Recession. The Department of Finance is projecting that funding for Proposition 98, the formula that determines spending for K-12 and community colleges, will drop by a record $18.3 billion, and will also affect the rest of the current year that has been assured to be funded. 

This pandemic has made teaching and helping students more difficult for teachers. Southeast Algebra and Geometry teacher, Sarah Fischbein, has experienced the difficulty of this first-hand in the past month. 

“It has taken away my daily interactions with my kids. I don’t get to check on anyone or see how they’re doing. I miss teaching in front of a class, getting feedback from students and laughing together,” Fischbein said. “I also don’t have any control over whether kids do their work or not. I don’t during the school year either, but at least I can harass [them] in person! Teaching remotely has opened my eyes to lots of new technology that I think I could still use in the classroom, so that’s been really cool. I just miss everyone.” 

Fischbein explained that the hardest part about teaching, along with not getting to see her kids every day, is not being able to see their success. It’s a great part of her job to see someone’s confidence grow and the pride associated with that. For some teachers, this situation might be putting them in a position without a job. 

With the hard parts of teaching virtually through a screen, there can be some good things. 

“I have enjoyed getting to learn new methods and venues to teach on. It’s been nice to know that they are out there in case I need to use some of them during the regular school year,” Fischbien said.

Not only has the change from real school to online school affected teachers, but it’s also affecting seniors with their last year. 

“It’s sad not seeing my classmates [in] our last year together. We very suddenly went from in-person connections and projects with not just my classmates, but also with teachers, to turning in assignments through a screen, and that was a hard and sad transition,” Fischbein said.

Teachers are always looking out for their students and caring for them. The virus could be affecting the students in many ways. 

“I think some of them are scared. I think some of them are having to take care of siblings while their parents work. Those who have parents in the medical field have a completely different perspective. I also think this whole experience of quarantine has not only affected my students, but everyone feeling lonely. Most people like to have human interaction, and the kids I have talked to have said that they miss school,” Fischbien said.

According to Learning Policy Institute, a blog series about COVID-19, the current economic downturn will put a large number of public school teachers’ jobs at risk because it has been quick to happen before. The United States lost more than 120,000 teaching positions during the Great Recession. The number of impacted positions would have been even worse if not for the Federal Recovery Act, which provided $97.4 billion to public schools. 

With what’s going on, there is more time to figure things out about yourself.  

“I’ve learned that my job sucks without my kids. I think at the beginning, I thought that remote teaching would be interesting, but I counted on kids showing up to my office hours. Without kids showing up to office hours, it takes the best part of my job away which is interacting with my students. As a person, I’ve learned that I need structure every day. Even though I am not a morning person and hate waking up early, I miss the daily routine. I have tried to create my own routine at home, but can’t always stick to it,” Fischbein said.  

Campbell agrees that it’s good to keep a routine.

“I’ve learned that it’s much easier to do schoolwork, at least for me, when I’m in a routine. If I set a schedule for myself, I can get things done so much easier than if I try to, ‘I’ll just do it on Thursday,’ or whatever. Having a routine each day and waking up at a decent time, whether I have a lot to do or not, helps me function and get what I need to [do], done. [It] helps me so much!” Campbell said. 

With all the free time in your days, it can get really boring and maybe even hard to get things done. 

“The hardest part for me is keeping myself busy and staying positive. It’s a very uncertain time for everyone, and we aren’t used to not knowing. With all the technology we have now, uncertainty can be a foreign concept, but it’s something we’ve all had to deal with. I don’t know if my college will be open in the fall or when I’ll be able to see my friends again, and that is very, very hard to deal with,” Campbell said. 

The hard parts come with some enjoyable things during this time. 

“Some things that have been nice are having more time for myself and my family right before college. College is such a busy time, so having this downtime is something I’ve tried really hard to take advantage of. I’ve loved having extra time to get into a routine of exercising, and to get organizing done in my room and just do things I always put off because ‘I don’t have the time,’” Campbell said.

No one really has any idea of how easy or hard the next school year will be. You can’t really expect anything to be figured out soon. There is no telling how teachers will be affected next year. 

“I think we will all be more grateful for our time at school and with each other. I think that we will have some catching up to do. So on the teacher side, we will be spending time planning out what all works,” Fischbein said. 

Seniors might also have a hard time next year transitioning into college. 

“I think that all of this has made me look forward to college more in a way. I can’t wait to be in a classroom and to have face-to-face conversations with teachers and students again. I’m excited for a new beginning and a new environment to finish out my education. Especially after my senior year feels so anticlimactic and cut short,” Campbell said. 

For some seniors, they feel they are missing out on things and not getting to live there senior year to the fullest. 

“I feel like I’m missing out on a lot. I mean, I’m losing my last few months with people I’ve gone to school with for at least four years, if not up to 12 years, now. It’s definitely not how anyone thought we were going to finish. We also lost our senior prom, a normal graduation ceremony and grad parties in the last few exciting weeks of school. We all missed out on so many memories, feelings and emotions that come with graduating and those last few moments of school. I feel very ripped off, as I’m sure most seniors do, because of how unfair it is that this is how we finish our senior year. We are so far apart in a time where we all want to be together and finish this time out strong.” Campbell said. 

Teachers and students are both ready for quarantine to end. They are looking forward to being able to go back to the “normal routine” of everything. 

 “I can’t wait to see my friends and start college! I can’t wait for the stores to feel more normal again and not make you feel contaminated just by walking in the door or by someone in an aisle. It’s sad with public places feeling scary or wrong to be at,” Campbell said. 

With all the hard times during this pandemic, there are many things to look forward to and be excited for. 

“I look forward to being able to hug my family and friends. I look forward to being able to not have to Lysol wipe every single thing that enters my home! I can’t wait to see my students again and catch up. I also can’t wait to take my dog to the dog park! He’s feeling a bit cooped up, too,” Fischbein said. 

With everything going on, the changes, what next year will look like and the good and bads of many things, there is honestly no way to predict that this was going to happen. 

“If I were to have known this was going to happen, I would have told myself to try and go with the flow. Even if things are uncertain and hard, try not to stress; just enjoy the downtime. Who knows when I’ll have so much time with my parents and siblings again?” Campbell said.