WASHINGTON, D.C. — Back in March, Juliana Colorado was going about life as usual for an 8-year-old, trying out for a talent show at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Long Beach, California.
“Her last day she was in school was Thursday, March 12. There were talent show tryouts after school and Juliana performed a stirring rendition of ‘You’ll Be Back’ from the ‘Hamilton’ soundtrack,” said her father, Carlos.
Later that evening, as restrictions rapidly began to take place to halt the spread of the coronavirus in California, the Colorado family learned that classes at the Catholic school had suddenly been canceled, at least on school grounds, so was the talent show and other events, and over the course of a weekend, St. Joseph’s staff moved into gear to take instruction and the school Mass online for the rest of the year.
“Both my wife and I are very thankful that we have our daughter in a private school to begin with because the school was able to step in without missing a beat,” Carlos said. “I think there was one day or two, when it was down, when we were not doing anything … but then after those two days, classes started up and Zoom was going, and the various pieces of software and applications were up and running.”
After talking to friends and family with children in public schools, “I can tell you that they did not have the same level of attention that we did,” said Carlos.
The transition changed almost every aspect of Juliana’s school life. Now instead of turning in homework to her teacher on a piece of paper, she takes a photo of it and uploads it.
“It’s all about technology,” said the 8-year-old in a June 30 WhatsApp audio interview with Catholic News Service. “If I weren’t able to use technology, then I wouldn’t be doing too well.”
If she wants to take part in Mass with other schoolmates, she has to do it via Zoom, and she did so as a lector for a Mass June 2 after Pentecost. Her father decorated an altar for the occasion.
What does she miss the most about going to school?
“Probably seeing my friends, being able to hug them, being able to talk to them in person,” said the 8-year-old, “being able to talk to my teacher and just seeing people in person.”
Though the school year ended June 19, she is scheduled to begin fourth grade Aug. 26.
“It’s obviously going to be very, very different,” Juliana said. “You’re going to have social distancing. We’re going to have to wear masks, it’s going to be a hybrid.”
She was referring to a possible system that might go into place in the fall, with students attending on different days, so not everyone is there at the same time and it will be easier to take part in social distancing. There’s talk about attending on certain days based on the student’s last name.
“I’m hoping I’m with my friends because we have similar last names,” she said. “It’s obviously going to be very, very different when I start this fall.”
But with California’s COVID-19 cases on the rise and the virus propagating in other parts of the country, much remains up in the air.
Juliana’s mom, Alba, said even though it was a challenge to maintain the pre-pandemic schedule for the family, at least when it came to getting up and finishing work or school by a certain time, the immediate action of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles’s Catholic school system took away an added burden of having to figure out what to do about school.
St. Joseph’s was able to issue iPads for the students, which helped not only with homework but also to help Juliana keep in touch with her classmates and her teacher, an important part of her life, she said.
“We didn’t miss a step and learning continued for the three months,” until the school year ended, she said.
What’s the best thing about being at home more for Juliana?
“I like being able to spend more time with my family, eat all my meals with my parents and it’s nice because then I can go ask my parents for help and if I ever need to, I can take a break and stuff like that,” she said.
For her parents, it’s meant finding a new way to work and to be a parent during hours that once were reserved exclusively for work.
Have there been difficulties?
“For me, it’s been how time-consuming it has been because I’ve been working from home. I have my own work to do and of course, I also want to be involved in my daughter’s education and so, I find it challenging to balance both things, and not feel like I’m doing a bad job in either one,” said Carlos, who’s a lawyer. “That’s been challenging.”
But there have been many opportunities, particularly related to faith and sharing his Salvadoran background with his daughter.
“For example, with the Mass we had after Pentecost and the opportunity to build a Salvadoran altar, the opportunity to tell my daughter about (St.) Oscar Romero and the Salvadoran martyrs during Lent, all of those kinds of opportunities,” he said.
But like the rest of world, Juliana said she looks forward to the end of the pandemic someday.
What’s the first thing she wants to do after the pandemic is over?
“Probably have a play date with my friends or go out to the beach or have like a small party or something like that so I can actually get used to how life used to be,” she said. “And I can spend time and have fun with my friends.”