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NW Ohio families describe navigating ever-changing classroom landscape during the pandemic

Since March 2020, it seems like change has been the only thing staying the same. It's a never-ending cycle of trying to balance health and being in the classroom.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The last year and a half can easily compare to the journey a roller coaster makes; up, down, and all of a sudden you're doing a full 180.

If you're a teacher, parent or student you've probably felt this way at some point or another.

Since March of 2020, it seems like change has been the only thing staying the same.

"We didn't have recess last year because it was on the computer," Grove Patterson first-grader Eden Archer said.

Virtual learning, hybrid, and now in-person learning all because of COVID-19.

It's a never-ending cycle of students, teachers and parents trying to balance keeping everyone healthy while remaining in the classroom as much as possible.

"We're doing our part and I feel like the schools are trying as hard as they can to do their part," Eden's mother, Amerah Archer, said.

We first introduced you to the Archer and Mee families back in September, right after the start of the school year.

RELATED: Three northwest Ohio families share their experiences as they return for a new school year

The Archer family attends Toledo Public and the Mees Washington Local. Both have been back to in-person learning, five days a week and have noticed how much of an impact it's made.

Credit: WTOL 11

"Her progress in school has dramatically changed. Just being able to be in class with her peers and her teacher. Learning how to read," Amerah Archer said.

"High school is more than just going to school and that's what was so difficult when you didn't have those social interactions. Yeah, you kept up on your schoolwork virtually but you missed out on the whole picture," Susan Mee said about her son Grady's school experience.

Grady Mee is a senior at Whitmer High School and a basketball player. He is just weeks away from his last season as a Panther. 

Credit: WTOL11

After only being able to have family members in the stands last year, he's looking forward to a bigger crowd to cheer him on.

"That was something we missed last year. You could only have two people per person in the stands. So even though parents cheer super loud, it's just not like having a thousand in the gym so I'll definitely look forward to having our student section there," Grady Mee said.

As one makes their way out, another is just getting started. Eden Archer is only in first grade this year. 

Credit: WTOL11

Her experiences now are some of the only ones she's ever had because last year was nearly all virtual.

But parents Joshua and Amerah Archer don't look at last year as a negative because their daughter has many more years to create memories in school.

"We're the ones comparing it to something or saying we missed out on something. But from her perspective or her peers, they're not missing out. This is their life and their experience. So we just try to make it as fun and enjoyable as possible for her and him," Joshua Archer said.

"Some of these small experiences seem different but I feel like in the end, these different practices do keep us safe. That good outweighs the few lost experiences that we had," Amerah Archer said.

Just as families started getting used to this new normal, another change showed up on the horizon.

The majority of school districts in northwest Ohio made the decision to drop mandatory mask-wearing in class, Washington Local included.

"I trust the administration and that they made the right decision. Really it's just about staying in school, staying healthy and playing basketball now. However they see us doing that, I'm on board," Grady Mee said.

"I have mixed feelings about that. I believe in the science and I believe that masks work. But, I also trust our administration. They have had the high-level conversations that we're not privy to," Grady's mother, Susan Mee, said.

Credit: WTOL11

Over at Toledo Public, masks are still required.

The Archers say they feel safe knowing their kids are protected but also see how removing the mandate would help too.

"I personally think it's a good practice, having the children wear masks. But I do see how certain children with different challenges, it can be harder for them," Eden's father, Joshua Archer, said. "Our son has a speech delay. Just with him learning speech and being able to see mouths move and seeing his peer's mouths and things like that, I think it would be more beneficial for him not to have a mask."

Despite enduring the year and a half no one ever imagined, each parent is thankful their child is back in-person and how far districts have come since the pandemic.

"There are no negatives. It's all great. I think now that we're in the swing of it this fall compared to last spring he wasn't vaccinated and I'm a worrier-type parent. But now, he's back in but he's also vaccinated so I worry less about that," Susan Mee said.

Worrying aside, if there's anything the last year and a half has taught us, there's bound to be more change before the school year ends.

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