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How One High School Student Is Observing The World While Social Distancing

A female teenager sitting in front of a sign and a bicycle at a public park. The sign is a warning from the City of Reno and describes the park’s courts are closed.
Isabella LoConte
Isabella LoConte rode her bike to three local parks in Reno, Nev. on April 24.

During the pandemic, high school students across the state and country are social distancing at home, away from their teachers and peers. Isabella LoConte is a junior at the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology in Reno and a part of KUNR's Youth Media program. She recently decided to take a bike ride to a few nearby parks as a way of getting out of the house and shared her journey in this audio diary.

Today is Friday, April 24, and today I have decided to go for a bike ride. I haven't been on one in a really long time. It was probably freshman year, [and] I’m a junior now. It’s been a while, but I still remember how to ride a bike. So I’m dusting it off and I’ve decided to get out for the day. I’ve had some water [and] I’ve got my sunglasses on: let’s go!

There are three parks within biking distance of my house, and the first of these is so close that I can see the basketball courts from my backyard. Usually, this place would be full of families going on picnics and children playing on the big play structure, but the only people I see now are the occasional dog walkers.

This is the second park I’ve visited today. [There are many] more trees at this one and pink trees at that. It’s the perfect time of year when the little pink and white blossoms on these trees start blooming. This park is a lot smaller than the last one: it’s got a smaller field and a smaller play structure. Nobody’s on the play structure [and] nobody’s on the swings. There's a big rock with footholds in it for little kids to climb, but nobody’s on that either. I see two bike riders [and] five people walking dogs. [There are] more dogs than people.

When I came upon this park, I saw a figure jogging in the distance. She was walking. I vaguely recognized her, but not well enough that I would have been able to call her out and ask if it was actually her, because how awkward would it have been if it wasn’t? But as we got closer, she recognized me, too, and asked for me. Turned out we did know each other, and she was somebody I knew from school who I hadn’t seen in the last few weeks. We hadn’t been calling or texting or anything, but we chatted. We had a nice long chat, staying a good six feet away from each other, and she was on a phone call with another student. The three of us started having a nice conversation. It's been a while since I’ve talked to anyone other than my mom, brother, or dad, so this human interaction was [something] I really enjoyed.

This is the last park on my journey, but I’ve noticed something about all three of them: they all have the same signs.

"Courts are closed, during COVID-19 public health emergency, to ensure adequate social distancing occurs and under the authority of Governor Sisolak's Emergency Directive 007."

Every play structure, every basketball court, everything about these parks is shut down.

I see a dad reading the sign to his little daughter. I don’t know if she can read yet, but he’s tracing it with his finger, letting her follow along as he reads. I can almost see the disappointment on her face as she stares at the play structure but knows she can get on it.

KUNR's Youth Media program is a special partnership with the Washoe County School District to train the next generation of journalists.

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