OPB today announced the launch of a new season of its “Class Of 2025” podcast, available now in Apple Podcasts, the NPR One app and at opb.org/classof2025.

Featuring six new episodes, “Class Of 2025” offers an in-depth exploration of some of the issues that Oregon middle school students are facing today, seen through the lens of the students themselves.

The podcast is hosted by OPB Education Reporter Elizabeth Miller, and edited by OPB News Editor Rob Manning. It is an extension of OPB’s long-running multimedia series “Class Of 2025,” which began in 2012 after the state of Oregon pledged that 100 percent of students would complete high school, starting in 2025. OPB began following a group of children in Portland from kindergarten as they started their educational journey toward high school, tracking their real-life progress, setbacks and successes along the way.

The students are now in middle school, living in a world where school and social drama meet a pandemic, online learning, and an economic downturn. Through six episodes, we learn what it’s like to be 13 in the year 2020.

“Class Of 2025” episodes include:

Episode 1: The Class Of 2025 and COVID-19

What is the Class Of 2025? Why are we doing this and how did we get here? And what happens when middle school runs smack into a global pandemic? Get re-introduced to this project, eight years in, and learn how students we’re following are having their lives upended by the coronavirus. They’re in the middle of middle school, and it’s even rougher than you remember.

Episode 2: When school and home collide – COVID 19 continued

The economic and emotional effects of COVID-19 are real, and they’re hitting the Class Of 2025 as teenagers with a renewed sense of their place in the world. They’re seeing their parents lose jobs; they’re worrying about vulnerable relatives and just trying to make it, day to day. We take an intimate look at students’ lives at home during a pandemic and economic catastrophe.

Episode 3: The year that screen time was all the time

Even before COVID-19 hit middle school, social media and friends were the focal point of these 13 year-olds’ lives. During COVID-19, it’s only become a bigger deal, with some kids interacting exclusively online with friends, and others who are less tech-savvy – or tech-interested – feeling quite alone.

Episode 4: Lessons from The Plague - new teachers in 2020

A social studies teacher describes teaching about the bubonic plague, on the last day before school was shut down for the coronavirus. And we hear how teachers scrambled to keep learning going, even as their ways of teaching became impossible. Hear the stories of a few teachers who were brand new to Ron Russell Middle School in southeast Portland. The students remind us that how teachers make us feel is as important as what they teach.

Episode 5: Boys “fall apart” in middle school

A school counselor told us that “Seventh grade is when boys fall apart.” We follow two boys who are examples of this: John, who was an outstanding student, is now struggling like never before in middle school; and Joel, who had been skating by under the radar for years, is really falling behind in seventh grade.

Episode 6: Rayshawn

Rayshawn is a 13-year-old African American boy whose family has had a pretty rough time with the public school system and with Ron Russell Middle School. We explore complicated racial issues in public schools in the predominantly white city of Portland. A bright spot from Rayshawn: distance learning has somewhat worked for him, getting him away from middle school drama.

These new podcast episodes, which are made possible by the generous support of OPB members, are available now in Apple Podcasts, the NPR One app and at opb.org/classof2025. More information about OPB’s “Class Of 2025” multimedia series, including news reporting, student profiles, videos and photos is available at opb.org.