In less than a week, the children of Portland will enter a magical place that recently seemed impossible to reach: a classroom.
This is the first August since 2019 that Portland Public Schools open with confidence that they’ll complete a full year of face-to-face instruction. Forget the “hybrid model” or distance learning. This fall, students can get shoved into lockers in person!
All joking aside, two years of pandemic showed what a necessary pressure release school attendance is. Many of the social ills of the pandemic—from feelings of anxiety to the rising number of armed robberies at cannabis dispensaries—can be traced to the school closures forced by COVID-19.
Maybe your kid isn’t sticking up weed shops. But nearly everyone now admits that virtual classrooms were a poor substitute for the real thing. The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University estimates that every American student lost seven to 10 weeks of math learning in the 2020-21 school year. Kids in high-poverty schools missed twice that amount: half a school year.
Still, it’s little wonder kids and parents alike are feeling a twinge of apprehension. School now comes with new perils—including the likelihood of bringing home a still-dangerous virus.
Consider the following pages a fall orientation.
We surveyed students at eight Portland high schools about where the cool kids get coffee and which cafeteria is the least disgusting. A mom whose family just endured a week of COVID explains what to do when your child brings it home. Out in deep East Portland, we found a school district experimenting with a new strategy to make sure that the kids who return to class stay there. And we asked a dozen Portlanders who achieved fame—in politics, comedy and drag clowning—to thank the teachers who inspired them.
Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from a forced separation, it’s that we can’t thank teachers enough. Cheesy? Sure. But now we know there are worse things than being a nerd.