ANAHEIM, Calif. — It’s exciting and stressful as students return to the classroom.

The Anaheim Elementary School District allowed parents to vote on returning to in-person learning. Roughly 80% of parents in the district voted to send their kids back to the classroom, but the decision comes with concerns and more obstacles.

What You Need To Know

  • Students in the Anaheim Elementary School District have returned to campus

  • Roughly 80% of parents voted to send their child back to the classroom

  • Parents have to weigh the health risks versus the educational rewards of in-person learning

  • Children are not currently allowed to receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Just as third grader Jeena and her mom Mayra Reyes got a handle on Zoom, everything is upended as they finally head back to the classroom. Mom and daughter walked to school for their first day back Monday.

“This pandemic we didn’t ask for, but that’s what we have so we have to deal,” said Mayra.

The pandemic brought this family to its knees. Both Mayra and her mom, who lives with them, contracted COVID-19. At the same time Jeena’s dad lost his job. For months they weren’t sure how to pay for food or rent.

Jeena had to muddle through much of virtual school alone. They turned the living room, which is also her bedroom, into a makeshift classroom using a bedsheet as a wall. She was learning core content as well as tough life lessons.

“It was hard for me because I couldn’t hug you and I couldn’t sleep, and I had to sleep on my own,” said Jeena to her mom.

COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Most of the students in the Anaheim Elementary School District identify as Latino and are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged.

When the district asked, Mayra voted to send Jeena back to school despite the economic and personal risk it poses.

Returning could make life more difficult, however, forcing the family to adjust to a new hybrid schedule and cope with inescapable risk.

“If she gets COVID I couldn’t think of how we are going to do it,” said Mayra.

It will be several weeks after the first day back until everyone in the Reyes family, except Jeena, is fully vaccinated and protected from COVID-19. Currently, children are not allowed to receive the vaccine, although clinical trials are underway to see how safe the shot is for those younger than 16.