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What One Student Thinks About Schools Shutting Down Until Summer

Ben Trefny
Empty halls at Burton High School, right outside KALW's studios.

It’s day two of the shelter in place order for the San Francisco Bay Area. Here's the latest on BART ridership, school closures, grocery shopping, and more.

Let's start with the numbers. As of the latest count, there are 598 positive cases of COVID-19 in California, not including folks still on the Grand Princess Cruise Ship, which is still docked in Oakland with crew members on board. Thirteen people in California died. It's expected that all those numbers will rise quickly.

As Bay Area residents get used to the new normal, the economic impacts are becoming clear. BART, for example, is suffering mightily. Ridership is down 85 percent or more, and the agency is expected to ask the state government for 55 million dollars to offset loss in revenue.

All the campgrounds in the state have closed, though trails and beaches not attached to campgrounds remain open. And almost every school in the state is shut down. The expectation was that it would be until early April, but yesterday Governor Gavin Newsom suggested they will remain closed until summer.

The news surprised many parents and kids. Some question whether distance learning is viable and others are just as concerned about the loss of their children's social activities.

We reached out to Hannah Ni, a senior at Presentation High School and reporter for our podcast tbh: by, about, and for teenagers. Administrators at her school decided to send students home and moved all teaching online about a week ago. Here are her thoughts:

"I've just been at home, learning, reading and watching movies by myself. Online learning is actually not that bad. There's a lot of really great software that allows teachers to project their screens, send and receive assignments, and give tests. And I've been really appreciative that my school has the infrastructure and resources to adapt to this current crisis. But online learning by no means is a good substitute for physical learning. The other day one of my teachers actually called WebEx, the platform we use, a zoo, because the teacher's face is always projected on the screen, but, depending on the platform, students don't have to show their faces. Which is what we all usually choose to do because it's just kind of awkward. So, the teachers are just talking to a blank screen the entire time, and everyone feels kind of robotic and strange. Outside of school, my friends and I are all kind of freaking out. Since we're seniors, we're worried about things like graduation and prom being canceled, which are two events that are basically the pinnacles of your high school experience."

On the other end of the age spectrum, people over the age of 65 are generally considered to be among the most at-risk of contracting the disease. And some supermarkets are setting aside hours exclusively for senior citizens, since shopping for food is still allowed under current shelter-in-place rules. Markets making that extra effort include Albertsons and Safeways, where senior citizens and at-risk people can shop between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays. Also, Rainbow Market in San Francisco is adjusting its store hours so people over the age of 60 can shop between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. every day.

And finally, while grocery stores are doing a bang-up business right now, restaurants are pretty much not. Now that Bay Area residents can’t eat out, many establishments are finding themselves forced to discard their food. That’s where a group like Food Runners can help. The non-profit picks up leftover food from restaurants and caterers and delivers it to people in need. According to its director, the organization has more than 80 new volunteers, so they’re able to take food that would otherwise go bad and put it to good use.


Crosscurrents COVID Updates
Ben was hired as Interim Executive Director of KALW in November, 2021.