The pandemic may be over, but its effects linger three years later.


More than three years ago, on March 13, 2020, students within the Upper Arlington City Schools school district received the news that their spring break would be extended due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus within Ohio. But that extension soon became the remainder of the school year, with digital learning taking the place of in-person education. 

This major change in routine came with countless effects, saturating every aspect of life. With the world in a panic over the virus, crucial aspects of development went unaddressed for several years, and consequences are being felt to this day. High school students have fallen behind, both socially and academically.

Research by the National Center for Educational Statistics found that COVID-19 had impacted students severely. In a poll, they found that 87% of public schools believed that the pandemic had affected students’ socio-emotional development, and that 84% of schools believed that student’s behavioral development had been impacted as well. 

Now, UAHS is attempting to pick up where it left off, changing aspects of education, administration and mental health in order to try and support students.

“COVID has brought many changes to our school system,” said Nikole James, an assistant principal at UAHS. “I think many people stress the negatives of COVID, but I like to focus on the positive changes COVID has brought to our lives.”

An example of a positive change that COVID-19 has brought is the use of electronic services.

“We have leaned into the incorporation of electronic platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet and Smart Goal electronic signature options,” James said. “These platforms have made communication much more flexible for all stakeholders to attend.” 

Ultimately, the COVID-19 pandemic raised a number of drastic changes across the world, including within the community of Upper Arlington. Millions of people have had to alter or otherwise adapt their livelihoods due to the upheaval of the pandemic. Three years after the “beginning” of the pandemic, Upper Arlington remains changed by its effects.


For underclassmen, semester finals are a relatively new concept. During the 2020-2021 academic year, no midterms or finals were administered. This left students, such as junior Joey Conroy, feeling unprepared. 

“I really, really underestimated how much time I should spend or didn’t need to spend prepping for midterms,” Conroy said. “And so I had A’s in my classes and then I got, like, a C minus on my midterm… And so that was kind of a harsh realization, that those need time.”

Conroy wasn’t the only one to notice a drop in test scores. Ohio state testing, which is required for every student by state and federal laws, saw a large decrease in test scores at UAHS. The Ohio Department of Education reports that from the 2017-18 school year to 2019-20, geometry scores decreased 57%. American history results went from 95.8% in 2018-19 to 88.6% in 2020-21. 

The reason for this decrease in testing scores could be due to the online and hybrid learning years.

“I think we’re still seeing some holes that distance learning had,” UAHS guidance counselor Heather Peebles said.

Spanish teacher Kendra Chandler, who teaches Beginner Intermediate and Intermediate Middle Levels, said she also noticed the learning gap that followed COVID-19 lockdown, especially over the course of the 2021-2022 school year.

“I think it mostly has been detrimental in terms of kids’ confidence,” Chandler said. “They’re less willing to try. They sense those gaps.”

She believes that last school year was a transition period and that “this year has been better than last year.” 

“More kids signed up [for Spanish classes next year]. Maybe that is because they feel more confident now versus last year, because now they’ve [been in class] every day. This year, we’re here every day,” Chandler said. “So it makes sense that maybe they’re feeling a little more competent than kids were one year ago after having the hybrid year.”

For students like Conroy who spent the 2020-2021 school year as a part of the Online Academy, readjusting to school in person was much more tasking then he expected. 

“Going into school the next year was very, very stressful because I hadn’t really developed any studying skills or general preparing, getting ready for classes that aren’t online,” Conroy said. “It affected me a lot.”

Taking core classes virtually has proven to have long term effects these past few years.

“When I came back, pre-calculus was really, really hard because I didn’t remember anything from Algebra 2. Even this year, I’ve had to reteach myself a lot of things from Algebra 2, because I didn’t remember learning any of them from when I was online, because everything was just open note,” Conroy said. 

Peebles has also seen this divide within the education system. 

“Right now Algebra II is a class that has become pretty difficult for some of our students. A lot of that was because Algebra I, the foundational class, happened during COVID distance learning,” she said.

These types of classes that are key to succeeding in future courses can become increasingly difficult when students don’t have a full understanding of the basic knowledge.

Since teachers have sensed this gap, many are taking steps in their approach to teaching that aim to help students gradually get back on track. 

“We had to slow down a little bit; we had to kind of review things a little bit more and probably just give a little more grace on assessments and on just knowing that kids were feeling less competent,” Chandler said. “We’ll catch up to where we need to be. And now that this year has been pretty normal, and last year, I bet that there aren’t many gaps going forward.”


With COVID-19 changing many aspects of student life, the administration has changed with it. As school policies changed around the world in order to accommodate for the recent pandemic, teachers and administrators had to adapt. In the process, there are features that have gotten looser and stricter.

During COVID-19, UAHS had gone online in accordance with government-issued mandates. Once students came back in person, it was difficult for administrators to control the students during this time.

“One of the main things that changed, or [was] at least highlighted by the quarantine, was that administrators really didn’t have much power to enforce stuff,” sophomore Atlas Dwyer said. “If enough kids stop complying, or if enough parents complain, they’ll cave and change policy.”

An example of such a situation was the mask mandate. During the 2021-2022 school year, there were protests throughout the U.S., trying to remove the mask mandate. UAHS eventually eliminated the mandate, making wearing a mask a student’s personal choice.

However, there are more aspects of administration that have become less strict.

“There’s also not a whole lot of consequences for excessive absences or tardies. Sure, it goes in your file, but there’s not any real punishment,” Dwyer said.

Policies have gotten stricter as well, as UAHS made attempts to rein in the students.

“It seems like after COVID-19, schools are attempting to care more about their students,” sophomore Rohan Baste-Bania said. “Even though it could be unrelated, E-hall passes and more regulated passes for leaving the classroom seem to be more apparent; it feels like the school wants to know more about you.”

UAHS is slowly adding policies to ensure that students are on task and doing the things that they are supposed to, especially with the implementation of E-hall passes. An early version of an E-hall pass was the huddle room pass.

Due to students skipping classes, often misusing huddle rooms due to the lack of enforcement, the policy was put in place by the school. It was an attempt to keep students from using the huddle rooms as they pleased, requiring them to have a pass given by teachers. However, UAHS went up from there to E-hall passes, as students were skipping classes to be in the hallways and restrooms.

“I’m not sure there’s a fair way to compare pre-and post-COVID apples-to-apples,” UAHS Research and Development Coordinator Laura Moore said. “Many of our systems would have had to change, COVID or no COVID, given the new space.”

With the new high school building’s construction being completed close to the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, many new policies had to come along with it. Although some may be coming from the lockdown, such as masks, many have been put in place to accommodate the new building.

“Attendance policies are stricter because of new state laws, not because of COVID. Lunch policies are stricter because the Board of Education voted to close lunch. Many of these things happened to coincide with COVID, but they are not because of COVID,” Moore said.

Although COVID-19 could have introduced policies that were put into place, many of them were not well enforced, with the mask mandate being a prime example.

“I feel as though the administration has not had to change any policies to become stricter as a result of COVID,” assistant principal Matthew Jordan said. “What I believe has occurred is that we have had to shift the enforcement of some policies.”

Some rules that were always there before and even during COVID-19 are beginning to be enforced more. This results from both students who are actively breaking the rules and also as required by law in the state of Ohio.

In general, after three years of COVID-19, schools have had to change their policies. COVID-19 caused some policies to become looser, others to become stricter and more policies to be made to fit the needs of the school. There are also others that affect administration but come from sources other than the virus.

“I can imagine that the schools having a better grasp on student’s lives should be positive for people but I’m sure there are students who don’t appreciate the larger involvement of the school in their lives,” Baste-Bania said. “Other than that, I feel as though the school is attempting to be safer and most likely achieving that on a larger scale.”


Psychiatric disorders are more likely to be diagnosed among adolescents rather than adults for a multitude of reasons. These reasons include intense changes in hormones and hormonal receptors, increasingly powerful emotional responses to social stimuli, and rapid alterations in motivation and reward systems, according to a study done through the National Library of Medicine.

Data from the 2021 Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey (ABES) indicate that 37.1% of U.S. high school students reported poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic, and 44% reported they persistently felt sad or hopeless during the past year. Prior to the pandemic, however, rates of anxiety and depressive symptoms in large global youth cohorts were 11.6% and 12.9%, respectively. Adolescent mental health is currently in a state of crisis, which Peebles commented on.

“Statistics that came out with the National Institute[s] of Health [say] that it used to be a quarter of kids presented with anxiety and depression. And so that number has grown from 24% to almost 45%,” she said.

UAHS student Jane Doe reported a decline in her mental health during the pandemic. Doe requested not to be identified by her real name due to the nature of her mental health experiences.

“I experienced feelings like thoughts of suicide,” she said. “I didn’t feel great. I turned 16 during the pandemic, so I thought when I turned 16, everything’s going to go back to normal. Like, I was going to go get a job. It didn’t happen. So I thought I was going to be stuck at home for a long time, which did happen. I just wanted to go out there and be free.”

The rise in anxiety and depression in youth can likely be attributed to a number of factors that have amplified effects on the developing teenage brain. The social disconnect caused by mask wearing and physical isolation has stunted communication skills, having a greater impact on young people due to the malleable nature of their minds.

“It definitely affected my mental health due to the fact that I had to do school from home,” Doe said. “And I was isolated from friends and family. So it just really took a toll on me because I couldn’t see them and I couldn’t go out [and] have a normal time.”

Sophomore Kai Navaneetha concurs.

“[I wasn’t] able to hang out and see other people because of COVID, and I wasn’t able to adjust to online school and doing activities on there and things like that. So that was a pretty significant change,” they said.

Additionally, changes to routine — involving virtual schooling, extracurricular activities being canceled, and more — have been shown to increase feelings of stress and fear as well as correlate with behavioral issues. This situation has created many discussions within staff administration, as well.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations about that within our department; we keep talking about how kids are struggling more and more. Anxiety and depression are the ones I mentioned the most, because that’s what we see. Either being sad and lonely and isolated, or feeling hopeless and being worried about the future,” Peebles said. “It’s just the fact that almost half are struggling with how to function on a day-to-day basis dealing with those fears.”

Navaneetha struggled with digital learning during the pandemic.

“Online School was really hard for me, especially as a deaf person, [not] being in the classroom [or] being able to get help from teachers. That was really hard,” they said. “I didn’t have a lot of time with friends and didn’t have anyone to hang out with. It was really, you know, difficult on my mental health.”

During that time, many students and other people didn’t feel that they had a sufficient support system. 10% of respondents to a 2021 survey by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) felt that their mental health needs were not being met.

Mental health issues haven’t only increased in adolescents; Americans of all ages have seen increases in anxiety, depression, and substance use. According to the NIH, almost half of respondents to a 2021 survey reported experiencing symptoms of an anxiety or depressive disorder. The issue extends beyond the United States: In the first year of the pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25%.

The COVID-19 virus itself can have mental health related symptoms, such as cognitive and attention deficits, anxiety and depression, psychosis, seizures and suicidal behavior. After being infected, some have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Besides the direct symptoms, the fear of getting COVID-19 has evoked feelings of anxiety.

“I got COVID. And when I got COVID, it caused anxiety, because my parents got it. My mom discovered I got it — she was worried about me because I have medical problems. So we were all a little worried that I was going to have a problem with that,” Doe said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there have been a total of 1,117,856 COVID-19 deaths. This figure includes parents and caregivers; an estimate of over 210,000 children lost a co-residing caregiver, over 75,000 lost a parent and over 17,000 lost the only caregiver with whom they lived. Loss of caregivers and caregiver absence due to quarantine regulations act as major stressors for children. Deaths of loved ones forces people through the grieving process while simultaneously dealing with COVID-19 restrictions.

Job instability also increased during the pandemic, which caused financial pressure and catalyzed mental health issues. Unemployment rates skyrocketed in 2020, reaching as high as 14.7% in April 2020. For comparison, the number as of Jan. 2023 was 3.4%. High unemployment leads to financial instability, which is a major stressor, affecting unemployed adults as well as their children.

The pandemic has especially impacted the mental well-being of healthcare workers. This is due to uncertainty about when the pandemic would subside, understaffed hospitals, employees being overworked and fear of getting COVID-19. According to the NIH, half of participants in a 2020 survey of healthcare workers reported experiencing more than a minimal level of anxiety. 22.5% of participants indicated moderate to severe anxiety.

From digital learning to the exhaustion of masks, the time period in between has left room for students, workers and adults to fall behind in not just their work but the prioritization of their mental well-being. In three years, COVID-19 has affected the world in ways no extended spring break could have ever been foreseen to, nor does anyone know what it holds for the future.