COVID in Images: Buttonwillow college students throughout the pandemic

COVID in Images: Buttonwillow college students throughout the pandemic


This story is a part of a sequence on the experiences of scholars attending three completely different California faculty districts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in spring 2022. It was produced via a partnership with CatchLight Native and CalMatters

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

Lorena stated 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 simply terrible. That yr (2020) I failed as a result of it was too terrible for me, and I couldn’t focus as a lot as a result of I had my child sister and my brothers yelling and stuff like that,” Lorena stated. 

That yr COVID-19 drastically affected the Latino neighborhood in California. In Could 2020, Latinos made up greater than half of COVID-19 circumstances and 38% of deaths in California, based on the California Division of Public Well being.

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

Within the rural 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 for the reason that begin of the pandemic. Of these, 38% are Hispanic/Latino, based on Kern County Public Well being Companies. 

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

“However within the second yr, once we might go to high school, I used to be glad as a result of I acquired to study in entrance of my trainer and enhance my grades,”  she stated. 

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

“We had border shields round our desks, and we needed to keep six toes aside,” she stated. “Then we needed to have our masks on contained in the classroom. However 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 exterior, not inside.

“It was laborious for me to maintain the masks on all day. It felt uncomfortable and laborious to breathe, so I saved taking it off. It didn’t really feel unsafe being again, however I used to be simply nervous about getting COVID.”

In eighth grade, Lorena turned sick with COVID and was despatched residence for every week to recuperate.

“It was horrible. You get a fever, runny nostril, cough and also you couldn’t breath as a lot due to your nostril. You additionally get horrible complications. I informed my dad I believed I used to be going to die however I acquired higher,” she stated. 

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

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

“I used to be actually excited to graduate, particularly since I didn’t know if I might have the ability to make it on account of my grades in seventh grade throughout COVID,” she stated. “It was laborious getting my grades there, however I did it. And it was nice having my household right here as a result of they supported me and helped me get right 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 College.

When requested about distant studying throughout the first yr of the pandemic, Lorena stated, “It was simply terrible. That yr, I failed as a result of it was too terrible for me and I couldn’t focus as a lot as a result of I had my child sister and my brother’s yelling and stuff like that. However within the second yr, once we might go to high school, I used to be glad as a result of I acquired to study in entrance of my trainer and enhance my grades.”

Lorena Hernandez works on her project in school.

“When it first began, we needed to begin carrying masks, then we had to go surfing as a result of they stated it didn’t really feel secure round all people. On-line was horrible since you didn’t get sufficient web. The WiFi was normally gone more often than not,” Lorena stated.

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 primary constructing to Buttonwillow Elementary College. The college 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 together with her pal Yoselyn Cuellar as they stroll off the sphere throughout gymnasium class. Lorena stated that when she was in quarantine the factor that upset her most was not with the ability to be round her associates.
Lorena Hernandez and Yoselyn Cuellar have been associates for six years.

“We do virtually all the pieces collectively and at all times be there for one another. It was unhappy being aside throughout the pandemic as a result of we couldn’t see one another. She was busy quite a lot of the time and I used to be busy taking good care of my siblings. It was actually unhappy not being round her throughout that point. Once we acquired again to campus, we have been so glad to be collectively and have the ability to speak and hang around once more,”

A road view of Buttonwillow within the San Joaquin Valley. Buttonwillow is predominantly Latino and recognized for its agricultural industries, with cotton as a serious crop. The newest California information present Latinos made up practically half of all COVID-19 circumstances 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 area on the Buttonwillow Recreation and Park District.
Lorena Hernandez swings at a ball throughout follow. The lady’s crew follow was canceled that day, so Lorena practiced with the boys baseball crew.

COVID-19 restrictions impacted recess and sports activities. “We will now play with volleyballs, basketballs, soccer balls. The whole lot,” Lorena stated.

Lorena Hernandez sits within the dugout with the boy’s baseball crew as they begin follow at a baseball area on the Buttonwillow Recreation and Park District.
Lorena Hernandez joined the college’s softball crew in March of 2022. That is the primary yr the college has each a baseball and softball crew for the reason that starting of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Lorena stated she joined as a result of she performed when she was in elementary faculty and desires to play in center faculty now that sports activities have been introduced again to campus after two years. “It felt like they have been looking for us with the foundations and imposing them. Like preserving our masking on and preserving 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 now not obligatory on campus.
Lorena Hernandez and her classmates use laptop computer computer systems to work on an project of their historical past class.

“It was superb being again with my associates in school. It was higher and we are able to speak and stuff like that as a substitute of feeling remoted on the pc,” Lorena stated. 

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

Distant studying was a problem for Lorena. “It was tough due to the web. I couldn’t flip in as a lot homework as I might. I normally needed to care for my siblings,” Lorena stated.

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

“The college is now getting again to regular. We don’t need to have restrictions or put on masks or keep six toes aside,” Lorena stated. “It’s getting higher now and I’m glad. The times have gone quick now, however the previous was horrible, horrible.”

Lorena Hernandez and her pal Yoselyn Cuellar sit in opposition to the Roadrunner signal after taking the Pacer health check throughout her bodily schooling class within the gymnasium.

“It solely felt like I wasn’t residing via the pandemic after I acquired residence and I didn’t need to comply with the foundations that college had,” Lorena stated.

Lorena and fellow college students sit on the stage earlier than the eighth-grade commencement ceremony within the gymnasium on Could 26, 2022. There are 33 college students graduating from Buttonwillow and transferring on to one in all three Kern County excessive faculties.
Lorena Hernandez sits together with her class for a bunch photograph earlier than the eighth grade commencement ceremony.
Lorena Hernandez (left) and her pal Yoselyn Cuellar (proper) take a selfie collectively as they prepare for his or her eighth grade commencement ceremony.
Lorena Hernandez poses for a photograph together with her household on the eighth grade commencement ceremony at Buttonwillow Elementary College.

“I used to be actually excited to graduate, particularly since I didn’t know if I might have the ability to make it on account of my grades in seventh grade, throughout COVID. It was laborious getting my grades there however I did it. And it was nice having my household right here as a result of they supported me and helped me get right here,” Lorena stated.

Scholar Reflections: Wanting Again on College throughout COVID was reported and written by photojournalists Larry Valenzuela, Salgu Wissmath and David Rodriguez for CatchLight & CalMatters.  

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

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