‘I wanted to say goodbye’: Rock County students start, end grade school careers amid pandemic

JANESVILLE, Wis.– This school year is difficult for everyone, especially for those just beginning and ending their grade school careers.

If there was any possible way, Joseph A. Craig High School senior Natalie Shortreed intended to go back to school this fall.

“I wanted to say goodbye to the teachers that basically raised me,” Shortreed said.

She got the chance. Janesville Schools are offering in-person classes for all age levels this fall, but Shortreed admits it’s just not the same.

“We’re probably like five feet apart from all of each other, but there’s no decorations or anything in the room. It’s just the teacher’s desk and ours,” Shortreed said.

So far, Shortreed said students are respecting the new rules. They’re using hand sanitizer, following floor markers to stay six feet apart, and wearing a mask the entire school day.

“If we seniors are still showing up to school and do the right thing, I think 14 and 15-year-old’s can just wear it,” Shortreed said.

A much younger student just a few miles away doesn’t need to worry about a mask. He’s stuck at home starting his education.

“Jasper was excited to meet his teacher and do his lessons,” Claire Gray, Jasper’s mom said. “He’s kind of a learner, so he was excited.”

Jasper is in kindergarten in Milton, and Gray said his teacher is great at guiding them through the process, but there are still some kinks to work out.

“The workload, because given that we are doing virtual, it’s very condensed learning. If he was with his classmates, a lot of time would be spent with his classmates like lining up, washing hands, changing gears and all that,” Gray said.

Jasper has another 12 years to make up for the 2020 school year. Shortreed’s mother knows her daughter doesn’t, but she’s glad Janesville intends to offer the chance to make some traditional senior year memories.

“We don’t want her to miss that opportunity. It’s weird. We didn’t do the first day of school photos with masks. We didn’t want to capture that,” Krista Shortreed said. “Unfortunately, she will always have to remember her senior year like this.”

The School District of Janesville is working with the Rock County Public Health Department to determine if and when face-to-face learning is no longer an option.