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Photos Document Remote Learning at a Chicago Elementary School


As COVID-19 began spreading through the United States in 2020, Chicago Public Schools, like many school systems around the country, decided to have all of its 350,000 students attend class remotely from home. Chicago-based photographer Ludvig Perés picked up his camera and began documenting this radical change to the lives of students, teachers, and their families.

Perés has focused his project on Mozart Elementary, a school in the heart of the Latino community of Logan Square, a neighborhood on the northwest side of Chicago. Mozart has an enrollment of 566 students.

A music class projected on to the walls of an empty Mozart classroom. Since its closure the halls and classrooms of Mozart Elementary stand empty with only a handful of people working there in-person on a daily basis.
Anita Del Valle in her home. Having had one of her sons recover from Covid-19, she is now extra cautious when leaving her home and is relieved her children don’t have to attend in-person classes.
Anita’s son, John Del Valle, 13, during one of his classes, projected on the wall is one of Mozart’s empty classrooms. With most extra- curricular activities and extra help services canceled John isn’t able to get the extra help he needs and has to rely on his parents to help him with schoolwork.

“In order to do this project I have been working with an organization called CPS Lives, which has granted me full access to Mozart Elementary,” Perés says. “CPS Lives is a non-profit organization that pairs Chicago artists with Chicago public schools to create a window in to the nations third largest school district.”

Dual language teacher Marilyn Esquilin teaching one of her classes. Teachers only visit their classrooms at Mozart on occasion to either teach from the school or to get supplies they might need to teach a class.
Mozart students in class, projected on a Mozart Elementary wall.
Computers and internet access had been supplied to all students at Mozart by the start of the fall semester. However, for families with little prior experience with computers, accessing classes and adjusting to remote learning proved to be a big challenge. Connectivity and technical issues are still apart of the new daily routine for some.

“What I want to convey with this project is the sense of longing many students have in this time, a longing for things to go back to how it was before the pandemic, for school to return to being in-person again,” Perés tells PetaPixel. “I want to convey the restlessness many students feel attending classes in front of a computer for whole days, five days a week.”

Leonardo Marin, 10 in his home during his last class of the day.
Odali Marin, 7, in her home during class time, projected behind them are photographs of Mozart’s empty classrooms. Mozart Elementary is a dual-language school and Leonardo and Odali are one of Mozart’s many Spanish speaking households.

Deisy Velasco in her home. Deisy quit her day job to take care of her seven children full time. Like many other families, the Velasco family had to make radical changes when the pandemic hit and lockdowns came into effect.
Wyatt, Ohzaryd, Atharyuz and Fantayja Velasco during their classes. Fantayja, who is in 5th grade practices math at an 11th grade level. She helps her siblings whenever she can to help take some of the load of her parents.
Athziry Velasco being helped by her mother, while Wyatt is being helped by his father. Athziry suffers from chromosome deletion and epi- lepsy, and is in need of constant support to get through her school days.

To visualize the remote learning, Perés chose to use projections to bring the virtual classrooms into the real classrooms and to bring the empty classrooms into the students’ homes.

It’s “metaphorically bringing the students back to the school and the school back to the students,” the photographer says.

Oscar Velasco in his home. Oscar works night shifts to support his family. He helps his children with their schoolwork in the hours be- fore he leaves for work.
Art teacher Rebekah Jacobi teaching her kindergarten class.
Alexis during his kindergarten class.
Blanca Beltran in her home. She stays home and takes care of her kids Yaretzi, 13 and Alexis, 5. Alexis who is in kindergarten takes up most of her time as he needs constant attention to keep focused in class.

“With this project, I also want to show how remote learning has affected the personal lives of many of these students, and how their families have dealt with the challenges imposed on them as a result of classes being conducted remotely,” Perés says.

A student laying on the floor during class. With school hours remaining the same as before the pandemic many students find themselves fatigued, distracted and unfocused on class after months of virtual learning.
Students in class. Many students, especially younger ones, have a hard time sitting in front of a computer for hours on end.
Students in class. Many students, especially younger ones, have a hard time sitting in front of a computer for hours on end.
Antonio Chavez in his last class of the day, projected next to him is an empty Mozart classroom.
An empty classroom at Mozart Elementary after the end of a class.

You can find more of Perés’ work on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: Photographs by Ludvig Perés and used with permission