Carbondale Middle School teacher Amanda Martinez’s class of sixth-graders contributed letters about how COVID-19 changed their lives. “I am writing to you to help you understand what life is like now that we are all staying inside to help slow the spread of COVID-19,” each letter begins.
Martinez said the idea came when talking with all the sixth-grade teachers in Roaring Fork School District about how to use the pandemic as a teaching tool. She decided to teach about primary sources by having her students create a primary source about the pandemic.
“We’re all primary sources now through a monumental time in history right now,” she said.
Martinez said some of her students were nervous to share what was going on in their lives during the stay-at-home order.
“It was a grueling process for some students but a therapeutic one,” she said.
In the letters, students reflect on missing their friends and going to school. They talk about their parents who worked from home or had to go to work wearing masks.
They talk about impacts on the ski industry, the economy and the world.
Each letter ends with a final note to future generations. “My goal is not to scare you, but inform and educate you on what COVID-19 is and how it came upon us.”
Below you can read about the students and hear them share their stories by reading their letters for the project.
Jenna Reese Ostberg: ‘The Closest We Could Get To Seeing Her Was Through The Hospital Window’
Carbondale Middle school student Jenna Reese Ostberg hasn’t been able to see much of her family due to COVID 19.
“I know it may sound like, ‘Well, that’s not a big deal. You could Facetime or Zoom with them,’” she said.
It has been a big deal to Ostberg, though, especially since her great-grandmother had a stroke and died soon after. Ostberg wasn’t able to see her in the hospital.
“That is when I realized how much we depend on human-to-human contact to make us feel better in hard times,” Ostberg said.
Between the loss of her great-grandmother, the closure of her school and worry for her community, Ostberg said it’s been hard to stay positive during the pandemic.
Ryder Tezano: ‘Suddenly, It Was In Aspen’
Ryder Tezano, who attends Carbondale Middle School, was home with his siblings, which has forced all of them to get along better. His father was working from home, too.
“Usually, kids like me would be going to school while adults are working, but now, most of us are just staying home,” he said.
His parents kept him at home after COVID-19 cases were identified in Eagle County, a decision they made before schools closed.
Tezano worries about those who aren’t working, particularly in his state, and the economy.
Annika Gomez: ‘My Life Has Become Boring, But Also Kind Of Scary’
“Imagine this,” Carbondale middle-schooler Annika Gomez wrote in her letter. “You are not allowed to leave your house. If you go to the store, you are forced to wear a mask. You are not able to smell all of the delicious smells at restaurants, and you can only get take-out.”
This is what she wrote as part of a project called “Dear Future Historian,” in which her sixth-grade class penned letters describing what it was like for them to live through the coronavirus pandemic.
She said her two sisters are working from home, while her mother still goes to work while wearing a mask. Much of her family’s routine changed.
“My mom has been buying groceries to cover a month’s worth of stuff before it all goes out of stock,” Gomez said. “On the weekends, we try to keep ourselves entertained by cleaning and having more game nights and movie nights as well.”
Zack Bollock: ‘We Have Been Doing What Is Responsible’
“I want you guys to know everything that I wish I knew before this happened,” Carbondale middle-school student Zack Bollock wrote to future historians as part of a letter writing project his class took on during the pandemic.
Bollock said the virus affected his community, friends and family. He says Coloradans can’t do what they would normally like to do, noting that the ski resorts all closed early.
“We are staying home to help slow the process of the virus,” he said.
Andy Bohmfalk Perkins: ‘When People Look Back, They Need To Know That It Wasn’t All Bad’
Carbondale Middle School student Andy Bohmfalk Perkins had a spring break trip cancelled because of the novel coronavirus. He said he can’t go to the skatepark, and all of his classes are online.
Despite all that, Perkins said he feels a sense of optimism.
“We still have fun and see people and friends,” he said. “We can still interact with humanity.”
Beck Hamilton: ‘Pandemonium’
Colorado’s stay-at-home order and the closure of his school disrupted Beck Hamilton’s household. “I have school at home. My dad is here every day, and my brother and I are fighting a lot.”
To reduce the chaos, Hamilton’s family started an at-home “Employee of the Week” system. “You win by doing tasks around the house,” he said.
The winner gets to choose where to order take-out. “With some restrictions and limits,” Hamilton added.
Ella Sherry Gunshor: 'People Need Our Help'
Soccer. Music festivals. Summer camps. All these summer rituals are cancelled because of COVID-19, said Carbondale Middle School student Ella Sherry Gunshor.
“Now most of us are staying home with our families and video chatting all day for schoolwork and socializing,” she said.
Gunshor said she sees how the virus has affected people outside of her family and even her community.
“With all the businesses closed, many people are without work,” she said. “People need our help.”
Ellie Henry: ‘Life Is A Lot Harder Now’
“My family and I are having some trouble,” said sixth-grader Ellie Henry. “We are having trouble connecting to try to figure out what we’re going to do.”
That’s not the only challenge Henry said came with COVID-19 closures. She said fewer people are “just talking.”
“COVID-19 has caused my community to be less and less happy,” she said.
Fritz Simmons: ‘We Still Find Ways To Connect’
For Fritz Simmons, who attends Carbondale Middle School, the coronavirus outbreak was a mixed blessing. While school closures and online learning has been hard he said, “we do get to sleep in.”
His family has canceled vacations, sports and camping trips. Despite that, they’ve spent more time together.
“We’ve been going on a lot of walks and hikes together,” Simmons said. “We’ve also been playing a lot of games that we would not usually have time for, like card games and board games too.”
Hazel Lazar: 'We’re Doing The Best That We Can'
Hazel Lazar’s family paid heed to health officials when it comes to avoiding large gatherings. The sixth-grader said that they’re also wearing face masks to the grocery store.
“Most people can fight off the virus on their own,” she said, “but some have to go to hospitals and even be put on ventilators.”
“We hope that a vaccine comes out soon, and we can resume doing what we love,” Lazar said.
Jenny Vasquez: ‘I’m Not Able To Be The Same Anymore’
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Jenny Vasquez, who’s in sixth grade, called life “awesome” because it was worry-free.
“You could go outside and enjoy life and feel everything, smell everything, touch anything you wanted and not have to worry,” Vasquez said.“You could go outside and smell the rain coming down. You could go to birthday parties and parks.”
Vasquez said she misses sports and activities, seeing more people out in public and doing things in person with friends.
“Every day you wake up knowing that you are going to do the same thing over and over and over again,” Vasquez said.
Lucas Carballeira: ‘The World Kind Of Just Had To Pause’
Like many others, Lucas Carballeira didn’t know how drastically COVID-19 would alter life in his community.
“At first, I thought it was just a small virus that couldn’t get to other countries,” he said. “But then it did.”
Carballeira spends most of his time at home and takes classes online, “which is not as fun as regular school,” he said.
Kiko Pena: 'Very Stressed'
Kiko Pena said life is different since the COVID-19 outbreak closed businesses deemed non-essential, and forced residents into their homes.
“I can’t see my friends. I can’t go on vacation,” he said. “I can’t go to public places.”
Pena said kids like him are at home, maybe playing video games and doing online school.
“Online school is very hard for me because I get confused,” Pena said, “and I cannot have my teachers’ or peers’ help.”
Maddy Applegate: ‘My Life Has Become Harder And Easier’
Maddy Applegate said both good and bad things have come with the orders to stay home and with virtual learning.
“I can relax a little more and not have to worry about getting up at the right time every day,” she said. “But I also have a lot of work that I am expected to do every day, and it is hard to complete it all the time.”
Applegate, who attends Carbondale Middle School, hopes that when people look back on this time, they remember to see the whole picture.
“They need to know that while many people are struggling and need help, some are donating as much as they can,” she said.
Masamo Stableford: ‘Trapped’
Masamo Stableford said the pandemic blocked him from everything he loves including “friends, restaurants and the park.”
He also said he realizes he took school for granted. “I never thought I’d ever say that, but here I am, saying it,” Stableford said.
“I realize that waking up at 6:30 in the morning is worth it. So thank you stupid pandemic.”
Miles Spiess: ‘We All Had To Work Together’
The pandemic forced the ski season to end early, which meant sixth-grader Miles Spiess couldn’t compete in the Big Mountain Nationals. COVID-19 also cancelled his soccer season.
However, Spiess said one positive impact was the ways people support each other.
“Families can get together and have dinner,” he said. “Some people are sewing masks for those who need them, and others are getting groceries for people who are vulnerable.”
In a letter writing project with his class at Carbondale Middle School, he explained how they “wore masks, socially distanced, stayed at home, washed our hands, and cheered on healthcare workers.”
Nick Nardecchia: 'We Will Get Through This, But It’s Going To Take Some Effort And Kindness'
“It is hard to remember life before coronavirus,” sixth-grader Nick Nardecchia said.
“But now, most of us are only with our family, stuck inside our fenced properties, eating cold takeout food, trying to start up a conversation that we have talked about hundreds of times,” he said.
Nardecchia said COVID-19 is all anyone can talk about. He said he sees the impact on his community when he looks at closed signs on the doors of stores and restaurants.
“When walking downtown,” he said, “the empty streets are eerie.”