The charge used to be “stay home” to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Nowadays, it’s “don’t give up yet.” The COVID-19 vaccine is here. 

A year ago, City Paper asked 14 Washingtonians how they were feeling. How did they balance hope and survival once the pandemic forced the District to shut down? All week, I’ll be checking in on some of them to learn how they got by this year. I’ve also asked them to send a few photos that sum up this year. 

Readers, City Paper is asking that you send us a photo or two that encapsulates the last year for you, and briefly explain why. I’ll share these images in Friday’s newsletter.      

A Mother of Three Young Kids

Twelve months later and Clare Berke’s 6-year-old son and 3-year-old twin girls are still learning from their Fort Dupont home. The kids learned what “coronavirus” meant when they couldn’t go to school and see their friends in-person. Like so many families, it’s been challenging to keep the kids engaged online. The most time the twins will spend on the computer is 30 minutes per school day. It’s not much, but the half hour became quite the accomplishment over the course of the pandemic.   

Berke captured a remarkable moment on camera when one of her girls, Olivia, was participating in class. Her kids go to a public charter school that teaches students to learn in two languages, English and a family’s choice of Spanish or French. Her kids are only really engaged when the teacher speaks English and they therefore understand what’s going on. “She likes to get up and dance with them,” Berke adds. 

The kids did get to see their grandparents in the fall. “She was just really excited,” Berke says of her mom. “[She was] crying about it sometimes, and afraid we weren’t really going to come and then we finally came.” And the kids will celebrate another birthday in the pandemic. Unlike last March, her son gets to have a sleepover this time. “They still say, though, ‘When coronavirus is over, can we go bowling for my birthday next year?’” she says.

Twelve months later and Berke is vaccinated. She became eligible because she’s a teacher. But most of her instruction is still virtual. She’s only back in school on Saturdays. (She works six days a week.) “My students attend class. They participate. We’ve got routines down,” she says. She teaches English at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, and expects her students to do as well on their exams as they would have any other year. She’s come a long way from the “mess” that was virtual learning last school year.  

An image of broken window panes on her door best describes the last year. One afternoon, in the early months of virtual learning, her kids ran wild when they were supposed to be napping. While playing, one of her girls pushed her hand straight through the glass pane. To fix the hole in their upstairs door, the family taped the glass together. “We still haven’t gotten it fixed. It’s just kind of symbolic of like the flawed year,” says Berke. As she tells this story she laughs. “If we worried constantly about what all three were doing and how it was happening, like we really couldn’t function. To function, we just do what we need to do and then like when things go wrong, just kind of laugh and keep it as a story.”

“What’s remarkable is kind of how normal it feels like now,” she continues. 

— Amanda Michelle Gomez (tips? agomez@washingtoncitypaper.com)

  • The daily case rate, test turnaround time, and positive case interviews are in the red, at Phase 0/1 levels, according to DC Health. To see today’s coronavirus cases and more information, visit our coronavirus dashboard. [EOM]
  • D.C. decreased the number of families in shelters by nearly 80 percent. Coronavirus changes—the eviction moratorium, boosts in unemployment benefits, and stimulus dollars to rental assistance—helped the mayor meet her homelessness goals. [Post]
  • Zoning commission approves a new inclusionary zoning program that forces developers to build more affordable homes in large projects. [WBJ]

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