On Monday morning, hundreds of sixth, seventh, and eighth graders filed through the doors at Grenada Middle School in north Mississippi.
Looking out of her classroom, math teacher Suzanne Alexander saw kids huddled together, giddy at being with friends for the first time in months. As she walked the halls, students she hadn’t seen since they moved to remote learning in March surprised her with big, enthusiastic hugs. When the bell rang at the end of the day, those same students hung out around classroom doors, waiting on friends—perhaps too intimidated, in normal middle school fashion, to be seen walking out alone.
It was, she said, a very typical first day of school. And that was the problem.
“Right now is not normal by any stretch of the imagination,” Alexander told The Daily Beast. “And they don’t even think about it. But