The Sunday Read: ‘The School Where the Pandemic Never Ended’


    Adrienne Hurst and

    Dan Farrell and

    Lakishia Fell-Davis is aware that at this point, in 2023, most people are treating the coronavirus pandemic as a thing of the past. For her, though, Covid still poses a real threat: Fell-Davis has Type I diabetes, putting her at higher risk of hospitalization and long-term complications from illness. As such, her experience during the pandemic has shaped how she thinks about her daily life, especially at Ninety-Fifth Street Elementary School, where she has worked on and off for more than a decade as a substitute teacher and teaching assistant.

    She felt much more comfortable when schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District were online during the first year and a half of the pandemic and her kids, Makayla and Kevin, were attending virtually. Sure, they missed their friends, but they were shy and soft-spoken children who had never really strayed far from home. They didn’t seem to mind the arrangement. And back then, Fell-Davis’s mother, who was paralyzed on her left side after surviving stomach cancer and two strokes, could visit them with relative peace of mind despite her poor health.

    Fell-Davis cried when she learned that in the fall of 2021, the school district would require students and teachers to return to in-person learning. Her home — a cozy two-bedroom apartment in a calm neighborhood — had become her haven, the place where she had more control over her family’s health than she had anywhere else.

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    Additional production for The Sunday Read was contributed by Emma Kehlbeck, Parin Behrooz, Anna Diamond, Sarah Diamond, Jack D’Isidoro, Elena Hecht, Desiree Ibekwe, Tanya Pérez, Marion Lozano, Naomi Noury, Krish Seenivasan, Corey Schreppel, Kate Winslett and Tiana Young. Special thanks to Mike Benoist, Sam Dolnick, Laura Kim, Julia Simon, Lisa Tobin, Blake Wilson and Ryan Wegner.

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