Coronavirus Florida: What teenagers are thinking as pandemic shuts schools
Ke'Mahr Dawkins and Ty'Shaun Powell were shooting hoops on a basketball court in midtown Tallahassee. The 13-year-old Cobb Middle School students are bored.
"I was mad," Ke'Mahr said, when he heard schools will be closed for another month.
On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced school sites will be shuttered through April 15 due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
"I was mad and happy," Ty'Shaun echoed. "Because it can be boring" not going to school.
The boys said: Yes, school also can be boring, but "if we're not going anywhere," then staying home is worse.
For now, they're entertaining themselves by playing games at home, hanging out with each other, and visiting a local park each day. This week was scheduled to be the regular spring break for Leon County Schools.
The boys have "maybe" plans for going to the mall. They're taking care to be safe, but they're rather unconcerned by the threat of the coronavirus.
"We're too young to die from it," Ty'Shaun said. "But we're still going to wash our hands."
The virus, COVID-19, so far seems to affect adults more than children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The teens' main concern when school starts back is about state testing.
On Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced that annual Florida Standardized Assessments would be canceled and parents could choose to hold their kids back a year in school.
"What happens when we skip the test?" Ty'Shaun said. He held the basketball in his hands and shuffled his feet. "I'm not repeating a grade."
Elsewhere in Leon County, James S. Rickards High School student Max Ngnepieba also wondered about tests when schools start back up. Max is a senior in the school's International Baccalaureate program.
Many of his classes require lengthy essays, and a one based on a community service project, which Max pointed out is impossible at the moment.
While school is closed, Max and his 15-year-old sister, who also goes to Rickards, are playing more soccer in a nearby park.
"We're doing normal things," he said. He's still researching scholarships for college, but said he has more time now for "little hobbies" like working on his French, or picking out more tunes on the piano.
Max said he's taking the virus seriously, and is practicing good hand hygiene. His parents are from the African nation of Cameroon, and have had experiences with pandemics and epidemics before, Max said. That background helps the family put this situation in perspective, he said, and to know how to adjust.
"We honestly have no idea what's going to happen when we get back," he said of school.
Janae Scott, a graduating senior at Florida State University School, is spending a lot more "quality time" with family while the lab program is closed. Learning starts up again March 30 as the school transitions classes online.
Scott, who is going to college on a soccer scholarship, said she and her younger siblings are playing outside more.
But they're also revisiting old board games such as Monopoly, which is the game that taught her now-8-year-old brother to count.
"I don't necessarily know how to feel," Janae said of schools being closed. "Having off from everything — I've never experienced that. I'm always busy."
She's keeping up with friends much more on social media and through FaceTime. She doesn't have to worry about college acceptances being delayed since she's already committed to Florida Southern College.
As her classes enter an online setting, Janae said she's not sure how certain courses will make the switch.
For instance, her Advanced Placement Statistics class will be harder to understand as students readjust. And AP Spanish will be trickier, she said. Sculpture might be impossible.
In the meantime, she's learning how to play the guitar.
Lawton Chiles High School senior Kenneth Greene is focusing less on classes and more on how to prepare for college during the coronavirus epidemic.
"My classes right now are the least of my concerns," he said.
It's impossible to map out the logistics for university, so Kenneth is enjoying his time home as much as possible. He's been accepted to the University of Central Florida.
He said he's practicing social distancing by not spending time in large groups. He's also taking up a few online classes on the side to keep his mind occupied.
"I kind of see the virus as an opportunity for everyone to take a step back and work on themselves," he said.
Most likely, Leon County Schools seniors will not have a prom or a "Grad Bash." Superintendent Rocky Hanna has promised that seniors will be receiving their diplomas, but the details of a commencement ceremony are unknown.
"We're the coronavirus generation," Kenneth said.
Contact CD Davidson-Hiers at CDavidsonH@Tallahassee.com, or follow her on Twitter @DavidsonHiers for news about education in Leon County and Florida.
This story originally published to tallahassee.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the USA TODAY Network - Florida.