'I see it as a new challenge': Distance learning garners mixed reactions from middle, high school students

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The start of the school year is just about here, and we've heard from so many on what should or shouldn't happen. At the end of last school year, middle and high school students in California got a huge dose of distance learning. Some of them excelled and others struggled. News of more distance learning to start the upcoming academic year has garnered mixed reactions among teens.

"When they said they were going to start the year at a distance what was your reaction?"

That was the question we asked Jaysyn Dempsey from Castro Valley High School. She quickly responded, "That's stupid, but okay I guess."

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Dempsey will be a freshman at Castro Valley this year and she is not happy about starting the school year distance learning from home.

"People are saying the teachers are scared but I don't know why they should be scared, cause if we are staying 6 feet away and wearing masks, it's kinda like we're outside but we're inside," says Dempsey.

Not everyone though feels as comfortable going back as Jaysyn does. For this story, we talked with teens all across the Bay Area.

"Hi my name is Erick and I'm 14 years old I go to Freedom high school."

"My name is Victoria Mendoza I'm currently a sixth-grader at Our lady of Mount Carmel School."

"My name is Jazzlyn Garcia I'm 13 years old and I'm going to be an eighth-grader at Thornton Junior High."

WATCH: Elementary school kids not shy about sharing their thoughts on distance learning
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We asked California elementary school students to share their thoughts on the upcoming school year. For all of them, it will start with distanced learning -- something that many are not so happy about.



Everyone we talked with did some form of distance learning last year.

"I did distance learning and it went really well and all my grades were really good so I don't think there's any problem staying at home," said Faith Buckingham who will be an eighth-grader at Our Lady of Grace Catholic School in Castro Valley.

"I see it as a new challenge," says Mendoza who goes to school in Redwood City.

But for several students we talked with, distance learning didn't go so well.

Carolyn Magnane who will be an 11th grader at American High School in Fremont says, "It is a struggle for kids like me that have IEP's I learn best when I can work hands-on and I'm also a visual learner. The last three months at the end of the school year I struggled a lot."

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Daniel Salter says there is too much confusion during distance learning.

"Our teacher posted that for the other class and we didn't know that and she keeps confusing us because she said she is gonna change it and she didn't."

Jonathan Hollis goes to Santa Rosa High School and he's concerned that he won't be ready to get a higher education, "The main issue I have with distance learning is the quality of education we'll be getting. In my case, I don't think it will prepare me for college let alone to graduate high school."

While many kids may not be fans of distance learning at home, they do understand why they're doing it.

"I'm worried about my family and friends' health and safety and I've been really paranoid," says Jazzlyn Garcia who will be an eighth-grader at Thornton Junior High School in Fremont. "I haven't left the house and if I have to go outside, I wear a mask and bring sanitizer with me. And I'm glad that we're doing distanced learning this fall because of the increasing number of cases,"

"I really hope we do online school cause I don't want to get coronavirus," says Buckingham.

High school sports have been put on hold but we found Horacio Bucil practicing on the baseball field with his dad and with his own thoughts on the upcoming year.

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Kids may be getting a lot of extra screen time during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with distance learning. So what's the impact of all that extra screen time? ABC7 News Special Correspondent Dr. Alok Patel says all is not lost.



"I don't mind the online stuff but would prefer going to school," says Bucil.

Doctors have said that the younger kids are most impacted by not seeing other children but in our conversations, it was clear that that impact is felt by all kids.

"I don't really feel very good about the quarantine," Erik Johnson who goes to school in Brentwood said. "I can't really go anywhere. It's kinda boring. My birthday, I didn't get to go anywhere I had to stay home."

"We had a meeting today, it was kinda cool but I wish it was real life that we get to see each other," says the sixth grade Salter.

"I am just frustrated and scared with how the school year is going to end up playing and getting all the education I need and life skills," says Magnane.

Students and their families are preparing with the hope that maybe, just maybe, at one point they'll be able to see classmates and meet their teachers.

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