Backpacks and tennis shoes won’t be all that’s new for Fall 2023. Kids head back this year to a staggered scheduling plan for JCPS, a controversial and confusing gender identification bill and epic teacher shortages. We invited eight of them to share their back to school haul and honest feelings about their impending re-entry.
Written by Christine Fellingham | Photographed by Kylene White
This month, 691,667 K-12 students will head back to school in Louisville with new, staggered schedules for JCPS, controversial laws about gender identification and restroom use, artificial intelligence weapon detectors in half of the district’s high schools and, on average, $661 in new gear and supplies.
Returning to school is a mixed bag of realities. Beneath the sunny retail campaigns and sweet traditions surrounding new lunch boxes and meet-the-teacher days, lurk some very real, not-so-adorable stressors that range from anxiety around lockdowns and incredibly long bus rides to gender discrimination and pressure to keep up with skyrocketing back to school spending. Here, some grade school through high school age students share back to school buys and back-to-reality thoughts on starting the new school year.
Luciana Miranda, Eighth grader, Noe Middle School
Academic Pressure: “Eighth grade is time for perfecting my portfolio, keeping my grades up, preparing for state testing, which we have more of this year. I’m applying to Visual Arts at Manual and even if I think I have a good chance, I only have that chance if I do everything right. I have a good portfolio but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be.”
The Social Mix: “There’s always that anxiety around finding out who is in your class. Will I be in class with any of my friends or will I be stuck in a group without anyone I know?”
Lockdowns etc: “We are all old enough to know that there is a plan, but that it’s not perfect. We talk. We know that there are risks and that we are ultimately responsible for our own safety.”
Owen Lloyd, 10, Fifth grade, St. Francis of Assisi
BTS Style: “I’ve been asking to dye my hair for a year. I just got to do it. It tingled a little. It looked yellow at first. They had to tone it. I really like it, but I’m excited to go back to school with a different look.”
Growing pains: “We have a new teacher in fifth grade. She’s brand new to the school. I sort of know what she looks like, but I don’t know her.”
Trey White, Ninth grader, Louisville Collegiate School
Making the team: “For soccer, there’s a freshman, JV or varsity team. I’d be happy with varsity or JV. I try not to think about it because I can’t control it.”
Freedom: “In high school, we get more freedom. We get our phones; during study hall, we don’t have an assigned room. We can go anywhere and study.
Homework stress: “I’m not organized at all, so I’m mostly worried about homework. There will be a lot more of it. My plan is to get all of it done during study hall– to use every minute during study hall to get it done.”
Avery Lloyd, Eighth grade, St. Francis of Assisi
On eighth grade perks: “We get to wear different uniforms and different sweatshirts with all of our names on the back and we get to take two overnight trips.”
Science fair anxiety: “I’m most nervous about the science fair. We start talking about it right after school starts and it’s in January. I already know what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to split CO2 into carbon and oxygen.”
High School Applications: I want to go to Assumption or Manual … but I’m afraid that I’m not going to get into Manual.
Beckham Gravil, seventh grade, JCPS
BTS Style: Air Jordans top the shopping list.
Worries: “My mom’s not sure how the new schedules will affect sports. We’re still trying to figure out tennis and swimming.”
Vera Gravil, fifth grade, JCPS
Feelings about Fall: “I really love summer, but I miss my school friends. I can’t wait to see them.”
BTS Style: “I like athletic wear and anything I can wear with tennis skirts.”
Worried about: “I don’t know what the new schedule will be like or if we will have to go to after school care because all the times are changing.”
Byron Gravil, kindergarten, JCPS
On his first, first day: “I’m excited to go to big boy school, ride the bus and go through lunch line.”
BTS style: “I like my clothes to feel comfortable. If it doesn’t feel good I won’t wear it!”
Sebastian Miranda, Second grader, Norton Commons Elementary
Overall opinion: “I’d like more summer.”
BTS Style: “I like themes. This year, I picked Jurassic Park and anime and I hope I can find a lunchbox that matches.”
Biggest stress: “I might have to carpool this year because my mom might not be fast enough to make it back to my school after picking up my sister. I can go to my friend’s house. My mom is talking to his mom. But what if they’re not home?”
One Mom’s Back to School Woes
“This schedule change is what everyone is talking about,” says Luisa Miranda. “We had a routine all figured out. I would take Luciana to school (at Noe) while Sebastian slept in the back of the car in his pajamas. He would get an extra hour. Then we’d go home and make breakfast and get him off (to Norton Commons Elementary). Now, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I’ve signed Luciana up for the morning bus, but I don’t love that she’s going to be on the bus for almost an hour. And in the afternoons, I’m just hoping I can get from Noe all the way back to Norton Commons. I’ve already planned to take another mom to lunch because she is Plan B if I don’t make it back in time.”