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Clayton County middle school student speaks on return to the classroom

The district shifted more than a dozen schools to virtual learning, citing Covid-19 concerns and rising case numbers. Now students are back in the classroom.

CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. — It’s been a roller coaster school year for 13-year-old Judah Whaley.

“I look back and I'm like, wow, covid really changed my life," Whaley said.

The 8th grader started the year in person for the first time in 500 days.

A month in, Whaley's school and 18 others in Clayton County went virtual for two weeks because of rising Covid case numbers.

“I personally don't love virtual because ... I'm just going, to be honest, it’s not easy to focus or stay disciplined," Whaley said. "In the building, you get that physical interaction, it’s healthy for you as a student.”

Now to his great relief, Whaley is back in the school building.

“For the most part it's back to normal," he said. "But it was a great show of how you couldn’t slack off during virtual and come back with the same intensity.”

His football team was also finally able to play, and win, their first game. 

Normally by this time they’d be on their fifth game.

“It was sort of like a covid clash," Whaley said. "Being honest, I wasn't really expecting it to impact football like it did. A lot of teams had to deal with players not being there because of covid, with a lot of breaks and things of that nature.”

Credit: 11Alive

Of course for both students and staff, being back at school in person comes with its own hurdles.

“They give you a temperature check before you get in the building for everyone before you go into the locker room, you have to fill out forms, a lot of mask wearing, making sure that we're socially distanced," Whaley said.

"I'm just doing everything I can to stay safe. Part of my life will forever be defined by that.”

On Sept. 20th, Clayton County Public Schools launched school-based vaccination clinics at the district middle and high schools as well as COVID-19 testing at all schools.

Editor's Note: The Learning Curve is an ongoing series on 11Alive and 11Alive.com that will follow the stories of local students as they navigate this unprecedented school year.