The new school year has been underway for districts in Washington state for a few weeks now. Along with it come the usual concerns — understanding assignments, studying for standardized tests, preparing for the next stage after graduation.

But this year has also brought a new set of challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most districts started school online, and a recent uptick in infections has delayed plans for reopening.

That means students are also grappling with how to stay in touch with friends they don’t get to see in class, create a work environment in the same place they eat or sleep, and cope with hours of online instruction.

Education Lab brought together a group of experts on Wednesday to give students tips and strategies to help make this unusual year a little easier.

Abigail Brittle is a senior in the Shoreline School District. She is also an actress known for the TV series “Schooled” on ABC and “Everything Sucks!” on Netflix as well as the short film “In Her Demons.”

Lizz Dexter-Mazza is a certified dialectical behavior therapist and co-author of a social-emotional learning curriculum for middle and high school students. Dr. Dexter-Mazza is also a licensed psychologist and provides individual therapy to adolescents and young adults in Seattle.


Ritika Khanal is a junior at Mountlake Terrace High School. She serves as the op-ed editor of The Hawkeye, her school’s publication. She is also visually impaired. In addition to writing, she loves immersing herself in books and seeing the world from others’ perspectives.

Ellen Sklanka is a professional organizer and the founder of Renewal Organizing Solutions. She specializes in creating productivity solutions for children, young adults and students.

Michelle Baruchman and Jenn Smith, engagement editors for The Seattle Times’ Education Lab, moderated the discussion.