Image of coronavirus with the text COVID-19 Teen Guide for Going Back To Class

Everyone feels differently about hybrid education. For some students and their families, a return to classroom learning comes as a big relief, while for others, the return is anxiety inducing. Many have questions about what to expect and how to keep themselves, their family and their friends safe, especially teenagers, who are used to spending their school day moving from class to class.

The goal of this guide is to identify and address some of the questions teens and their families may have, and help you feel safer and more confident in your decision to return or not return to in-person school. It is meant to be a companion to the COVID-19 Youth and Families Guide.

Perspectives on in-person learning 

What to expect in class

What schools are doing to protect you from COVID-19

Steps YOU can take to stay safe

Dealing with peer pressure

Taking care of your mental health

Vaccination Resources


Perspectives on in-person learninga teacher leans against a desk among students in the classroom

Some of the benefits of in-person learning include: More personal assistance from teachers, especially with challenging material. More social interaction with peers. Learning is more interactive and group-oriented.

Why returning to in-person learning is an equity issue

Many students receive vital support from wraparound services at schools and many families rely on these services for their children’s health and well-being. Children learn best in supportive and stable environments and some rely on mental health and speech counseling or subsidized school lunch that they receive through schools. Distance learning has impacted these services and made life harder for students who cannot access them. Over the past year many students who were struggling academically have fallen further behind, widening the Education Gap. A return to in-person learning means better access to supportive programs for those who depend on them, as well as more one-on-one help in difficult subjects.

What to expect in class

With teachers receiving early access to vaccines, Oregon high schools are moving from exclusively remote online learning to hybrid instruction, a combination of on-site and online learning, by the week of April 19, 2021. Comprehensive distance learning will continue for students who request it. 

  • Use this CDC checklist and this CDC tool to consider and prepare for in-person learning.

Hybrid Instruction

For high school students especially, returning to school is not going to be like it used to be. They will be learning at school one or more shortened days during the week, and learning at home the other parts of the day and other days of the week. At school they will attend up to two classes with two different teachers staying within a group of peers or ‘cohort’ of no more than 36 other students. Students will not be able to hang out with friends in the building after school. Each school is doing it slightly differently, depending on the number of students at school, but this is the basic outline. .

Cohort means a consistent group of students that stays together for a significant portion of the school day.

What schools are doing to protect you from COVID-19
Graphic image of an apple with the words Return to School Safely
Image courtesy of OHSU

There is an abundance of guidance available for schools, administrators and parents to ensure the health and safety of students and their families created by the Oregon Department of Education in coordination with the Oregon Health Authority. These guidelines include recommendations and/or requirements regarding: 

  • cohorting

  • environmental cleaning & disinfecting

  • increased airflow and ventilation

  • symptoms checks at the door

  • required masking

Steps YOU can take to stay safer at school and at home 

The most important tools for protecting ourselves and others continue to be: 

  • Maintaining physical distancing

  • Wearing face masks

  • Washing hands 

  • Getting a vaccine when you are able to

If you feel ill or have symptoms of illness, it’s important to stay home and away from others.

If you don’t feel safe returning to school, you may continue distance learning.

If you live with others who are considered high risk (for example, people who are elderly or have underlying conditions), here are some tips for keeping them safer:

  • Wash your hands immediately when you return home.

  • Avoid sharing personal household items.

  • You might consider wearing a mask in shared spaces when you are around individuals who are high risk.

  • Good ventilation can help. For example, open windows and/or use ceiling or window exhaust fans that blow air outside.

Dealing with peer pressurePicture of two masked students with backpacks sitting on stairs and looking at a book

What if other students or adults aren’t observing COVID-19 safety precautions? Being in school, students may encounter situations that are uncomfortable or that they have little control over. If you see someone engaging in unsafe behavior or feel unsafe for any other reason, leave or tell an adult. Or try some of the conversation starters on page 13 of our COVID-19 Youth and Families Guide

Taking care of your mental health 

Many of us have been living with fear and anxiety throughout the pandemic. For some people, being at home has been comforting; for others it has been very stressful.

After spending so much time at home, it will be an adjustment to be out and about and around other people again. It can be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting. Give yourself time and know that it can take several days or weeks before you start to get used to being back at school. 

It can be helpful to talk to someone you trust about what you are feeling. This can be a parent, a teacher, a relative, or someone from a support line like or call your nearest Student Health Center

COVID-19 anti-racism and harassment

Remember that race, ethnicity, and association with a country or region do not make someone more likely to spread COVID-19. Let’s support each other and share facts not fear or hate. 

Vaccination resources

Everyone in Oregon age 16 and older is now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. Read these Frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds. Currently the only vaccine that has been authorized by the FDA for use by people under the age of 18 is the Pfizer (or Pfizer BioNTech) vaccine. Sixteen and 17-year-old people should look for appointments in locations that have access to the Pfizer vaccine. Under Oregon law, minors 15 and older may give consent to medical treatment, including vaccinations, without the consent of a parent or guardian under certain conditions. For more, visit

Other Resources

Keeping healthy