COVID in Photos: Buttonwillow college students in the course of the pandemic


This story is a part of a sequence on the experiences of scholars attending three totally different California faculty districts in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, in spring 2022. It was produced by means of a partnership with CatchLight Local and CalMatters

At Buttonwillow Elementary School, Lorena Hernandez ended the varsity yr able to graduate eighth grade and begin highschool, one thing she thought she couldn’t do after her expertise with distance studying in the course of the pandemic.

Lorena mentioned as she did her faculty work on-line she struggled to take care of her grades. Her mom was typically sick, so she additionally cared for her youngest sister and two brothers.

“It was just awful. That year (2020) I failed because it was too awful for me, and I couldn’t concentrate as much because I had my baby sister and my brothers yelling and stuff like that,” Lorena mentioned. 

That yr COVID-19 significantly affected the Latino neighborhood in California. In May 2020, Latinos made up greater than half of COVID-19 instances and 38% of deaths in California, based on the California Department of Public Health.

The newest California knowledge present Latinos made up practically half of all COVID-19 instances statewide and about 44% of deaths, greater than some other racial or ethnic group.

In the agricultural city of Buttonwillow, in Kern County, the inhabitants is sort of 80% Latino. In Kern County, as of June 2022, there are practically 250,000 residents who have been contaminated with COVID-19 and recovered because the begin of the pandemic. Of these, 38% are Hispanic/Latino, based on Kern County Public Health Services. 

As she handled so many distractions, Lorena additionally struggled to get on-line, provided that she shared the house’s bandwidth with three different siblings additionally attending faculty on-line. She mentioned even with the varsity offering scorching spots for college kids’ properties, the battle to remain on-line affected her grades. 

“But in the second year, when we could go to school, I was happy because I got to learn in front of my teacher and improve my grades,”  she mentioned. 

Returning to high school in particular person helped enhance Lorena’s grades however offered a brand new expertise.  

“We had border shields around our desks, and we had to stay six feet apart,” she mentioned. “Then we needed to have our masks on contained in the classroom. But as quickly as we have been out at recess, we needed to keep separate. We might take off our masks. We have been solely allowed to eat outdoors, not inside.

“It was hard for me to keep the mask on all day. It felt uncomfortable and hard to breathe, so I kept taking it off. It didn’t feel unsafe being back, but I was just nervous about getting COVID.”

In eighth grade, Lorena grew to become sick with COVID and was despatched dwelling for every week to recuperate.

“It was horrible. You get a fever, runny nose, cough and you couldn’t breath as much because of your nose. You also get horrible headaches. I told my dad I thought I was going to die but I got better,” she mentioned. 

Returning to high school after quarantine was a aid however she nervous about catching COVID once more. As the varsity yr progressed, restrictions started to raise. The defend borders have been taken off   desks, and on March 11 college students have been not compelled to put on a masks in school rooms. Assemblies started for the primary time in two years. In March, Lorena  joined the varsity’s softball staff after its two-year hiatus. 

On May 26, Lorena attended her eighth-grade commencement ceremony.

“I was really excited to graduate, especially since I didn’t know if I would be able to make it due to my grades in seventh grade during COVID,” she mentioned. “It was hard getting my grades there, but I did it. And it was great having my family here because they supported me and helped me get here.”

Lorena Hernandez (center), a bilingual pupil who speaks each English and Spanish, helps translate an project for a brand new pupil at Buttonwillow Elementary School.

When requested about distant studying in the course of the first yr of the pandemic, Lorena mentioned, “It was just awful. That year, I failed because it was too awful for me and I couldn’t concentrate as much because I had my baby sister and my brother’s yelling and stuff like that. But in the second year, when we could go to school, I was happy because I got to learn in front of my teacher and improve my grades.”

Lorena Hernandez works on her project in school.

“When it first started, we had to start wearing masks, then we had to go online because they said it didn’t feel safe around everybody. Online was horrible because you didn’t get enough internet. The WiFi was usually gone most of the time,” Lorena mentioned.

An indication on a classroom door warns college students to not enter if they’re feeling the signs of COVID-19. Lorena had a tough bout with COVID-19 and was out of college for a couple of week.
The entrance view of the principle constructing to Buttonwillow Elementary School. The faculty teaches a complete of 362 college students in a city with a inhabitants of round 1,500 folks, with 96% of scholars being Latino.
Lorena Hernandez roughhouses along with her good friend Yoselyn Cuellar as they stroll off the sphere throughout health club class. Lorena mentioned that when she was in quarantine the factor that upset her most was not with the ability to be round her mates.
Lorena Hernandez and Yoselyn Cuellar have been mates for six years.

“We do almost everything together and always be there for each other. It was sad being apart during the pandemic because we couldn’t see each other. She was busy a lot of the time and I was busy taking care of my siblings. It was really sad not being around her during that time. When we got back to campus, we were so happy to be together and be able to talk and hang out again,”

A avenue view of Buttonwillow within the San Joaquin Valley. Buttonwillow is predominantly Latino and identified for its agricultural industries, with cotton as a serious crop. The newest California knowledge present Latinos made up practically half of all COVID-19 instances statewide and about 44% of deaths, greater than some other racial or ethnic group.
An indication selling COVID-19 vaccinations hangs on the fence of the baseball subject on the Buttonwillow Recreation and Park District.
Lorena Hernandez swings at a ball throughout apply. The lady’s staff apply was canceled that day, so Lorena practiced with the boys baseball staff.

COVID-19 restrictions impacted recess and sports activities. “We can now play with volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls. Everything,” Lorena mentioned.

Lorena Hernandez sits within the dugout with the boy’s baseball staff as they begin apply at a baseball subject on the Buttonwillow Recreation and Park District.
Lorena Hernandez joined the varsity’s softball staff in March of 2022. This is the primary yr the varsity has each a baseball and softball staff because the starting of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Lorena mentioned she joined as a result of she performed when she was in elementary faculty and needs to play in center faculty now that sports activities have been introduced again to campus after two years. “It felt like they were looking out for us with the rules and enforcing them. Like keeping our masking on and keeping our distance.”

Lorena Hernandez and her classmates take part in a fifth-through-eighth-grade award ceremony within the gymnasium. Some college students continued to put on masks, regardless that mask-wearing was not necessary on campus.
Lorena Hernandez and her classmates use laptop computer computer systems to work on an project of their historical past class.

“It was amazing being back with my friends in class. It was better and we can talk and stuff like that instead of feeling isolated on the computer,” Lorena mentioned. 

Lorena Hernandez and her classmates work collectively on an project of their historical past class.

Remote studying was a problem for Lorena. “It was difficult because of the internet. I couldn’t turn in as much homework as I could. I usually had to take care of my siblings,” Lorena mentioned.

A bottle of hand sanitizer on a desk in a classroom. All lessons are required to have hand sanitizer due to COVID-19 well being precautions.

“The school is now getting back to normal. We don’t have to have restrictions or wear masks or stay six feet apart,” Lorena mentioned. “It’s getting better now and I’m happy. The days have gone fast now, but the past was horrible, horrible.”

Lorena Hernandez and her good friend Yoselyn Cuellar sit in opposition to the Roadrunner signal after taking the Pacer health take a look at throughout her bodily training class within the health club.

“It only felt like I wasn’t living through the pandemic when I got home and I didn’t have to follow the rules that school had,” Lorena mentioned.

Lorena and fellow college students sit on the stage earlier than the eighth-grade commencement ceremony within the health club on May 26, 2022. There are 33 college students graduating from Buttonwillow and transferring on to certainly one of three Kern County excessive colleges.
Lorena Hernandez sits along with her class for a bunch photograph earlier than the eighth grade commencement ceremony.
Lorena Hernandez (left) and her good friend Yoselyn Cuellar (proper) take a selfie collectively as they prepare for his or her eighth grade commencement ceremony.
Lorena Hernandez poses for a photograph along with her household on the eighth grade commencement ceremony at Buttonwillow Elementary School.

“I was really excited to graduate, especially since I didn’t know if I would be able to make it due to my grades in seventh grade, during COVID. It was hard getting my grades there but I did it. And it was great having my family here because they supported me and helped me get here,” Lorena mentioned.

Student Reflections: Looking Back on School throughout COVID was reported and written by photojournalists Larry Valenzuela, Salgu Wissmath and David Rodriguez for CatchLight & CalMatters.  

This mission was produced by CalMatters & CatchLight as a part of the CatchLight Local CA Visual Desk. Contributors embrace Joe Hong, Miguel Gutierrez Jr., Martin do Nascimento and Jenny Jacklin-Stratton. The San Antonio Elementary School mission was produced by means of further collaboration with the Salinas Californian.

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