CALIFORNIA, USA — It was Friday the 13 last March when many students in the Sacramento region were sent home.
"They didn't realize that they weren't going to come back, you know? That was really hard for them because there was no warning," said Dr. Denise Sweeney of Granite Bay, a mother of two teen boys.
What was supposed to be two weeks off turned into a year of confusion. Learning took a hit as the world learned more about COVID-19.
"This whole year, has been a big blur," said Dana Maeshia of South Sacramento. As a literacy advocate, she says distance learning hit some families harder than others, and communities must help children who fell further behind amid the pandemic, as they start returning to school.
"We're going to have a group of young people who more than just missed the prom, or missed the graduation. The little folks who were already struggling, they're going to be struggling that much more," Maeshia said.
In Folsom, single mother Lakhwinder Kaur and her son Maninder, a freshman, say they yearn for normal, but both decided sticking with virtual learning would be safer, despite the challenge of them both working and learning from home.
"It's fun," Lakwinder said, as her eyes shifted back and forth.
"It's a struggle!," interjected Maninder. "It has its struggles, he thinks that I'm home so I'm free, right? but I know I have work," Lakhwinder said.
Reflecting on the past year, Dr. Sweeney said she saw her affluent community start learning pods and hire tutors, knowing other families didn't have the same opportunities.
"That to me really showed some of the inequities of what is happening to kids," she said.
As an OB-GYN, she saw how the pandemic impacted mothers from all walks of life.
"My patients were telling me, they watched their kids get more and more depressed, sometimes, they were more and more depressed themselves," she said. "I think we as a society didn't have a way of quickly reaching out on the mental health aspect. We didn't even think about it in the beginning."
As a working mother of two boys who struggled with distanced learning, she says she's grateful her district had been half-days in person since late 2020 but hopes school districts will do everything in their power to ensure every child gets the education they deserve.