The sun hasn’t yet risen, but as a computer turns on, a room is suddenly illuminated. It is 6:00 a.m. and Ms. Adair is beginning her online English class. She has volunteered to teach early morning classes to students currently living in China and South Korea: 19 of them in total.
This September, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most students have come into school for the first time since March; meanwhile, some have chosen to join in from a distance. They will be viewing their classes through the screen.
For those arriving in person, there have been many changes put in place for the safety of students. Everyone’s temperatures are taken before they enter the building. Paper documents are avoided in favor of digital ones. Masks are required indoors, and social distancing is maintained wherever possible.
There have also been changes to the schedule for the day. Classes have been extended in the replacement of SOAR. An additional ‘homeroom’ time has been added on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Lunch has been extended to 40 minutes and is held outside when possible.
Some teachers have built time into their classes for a ‘mask break’ outside, where students can be outside with their masks off, while socially distanced, of course.
High school principal, Mr. Intlekofer, has said that the administration began planning for this scenario as soon as the school went remote in the spring of 2020.
Eighty students, or about 25 percent of the total student body, are online, and classes range from having one or two students online to about half.
To accommodate these online students, the school has purchased additional supplies, including new webcams and computers.
By all accounts, it seems that there have been few or no major issues pertaining to the technology needed to have students join class online.
Some classes are being taught early in the morning to accommodate international students who could not return to the United States and are currently in different timezones.
History teacher Mr. Uitermarkt explained a strategy he uses to keep online students engaged, “If they do group work I try to pair them with an in-person student, and the results have been good."
Mr. Intlekofer expressed that “The major challenges have been logistics,” which have been causing the most difficulty in planning this school year. He also believes that the school’s teachers have handled this new scenario well.
Over the summer, there were some problems with organizing students’ schedules. Mr. Intlekofer
credits Dean of Students, Mrs. Schwab, with solving the schedule problems.
Mr. Uitermarkt conveyed that he thought “teachers have had to learn this really quick” but also that, “The school’s done a really good job in planning this out.”
Many of the concerns about this pertain to the school community. Mr. Uitermakt wondered “How do you have community and social distancing at the same time?” and stated that, “Education should be social.” Mr. Intlekofer expressed concern with how this year’s freshmen will integrate into the school community.
Teachers have had to adapt and come up with creative new ideas for how to manage their dueling classes. Mr. Intlekofer stated that “My biggest concern is the teachers being able to keep this up long term.”