Extracurricular Activities Provided a Lifeline

Outside activities were a vital key to help kids feel normal, even without the usual in-person formats.

It’s no secret that everyday life was disrupted during the pandemic, and kids’ normal routines were shattered. Relationships, interactions, outside school activities, and school itself were sacrificed in order to mitigate COVID spread, and extracurricular activities were particularly upended. Whether it’s traveling to other schools to compete on an academic team, participating in traditional sports, or preparing for prom, the pause in regular activities was significant and, in many cases, crushing.

Illustration by Emi Villavicencio

Now that area schools have experienced a year without extra activities, innovative solutions have sparked new ideas and in-person events are slowly coming back. We talked with several area school leaders to hear how extracurriculars might change in the future and how important they are for students and parents alike.

GETTING OUT OF THE HOUSE

Beechwood Independent Schools Superintendent Mike Stacy credits sports and other extracurriculars for laying the groundwork to resume in-person learning. “I absolutely be­lieve that the social-emotional health of the kids who were involved in [extracurricular] activities helped them a lot,” he says. “Kids need movement and need to get out of the house. Extracurriculars became almost a lifeline, and I credit extracurriculars in general, not just sports, with helping our kids get through and manage the last 12 months.”

VIRTUAL OPTIONS

“I think there will be opportunities in the future for virtual extracurriculars, since we’ve discovered that some of this works,” says Purcell Marian High School math teacher Kyle Nobbe. “But we’re going to have to make sure that we don’t revert everything to virtual just because it works.” Nobbe’s academic team, for example, competed with other schools virtually, though students told him they prefer in-person for the future. On the other hand, he had a Purcell Marian alum meet with his class via Zoom to discuss his research, which wouldn’t have been possible in prior years.

INCREASED SUMMER ACTIVITIES

Prom, sports, graduation, and other extracurriculars have certainly taken a hit over the past year. Even entering summer, questions remain around what’s safe to resume. St. Bernard-Elmwood Place City Schools Superintendent Mimi Webb says her district is increasing summer activities this year. “Extracurricular activities are vitally important on multiple levels,” she says. “We recognize the kids need to work together. Zoom is OK, but in my opinion it’s not a great way to do activities.”

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