Distance learning is a hard, but necessary transition during COVID-19
By Elizandra Zelaya, Angelina Gonzalez and Morgan Dundas
For decades, school has been much more than just a basic education. Social skills, leadership roles, learning how to advocate for themselves and building relationships with their community. Now, students all around the world are being faced with finishing off their academic year behind a screen in their home. Summit Prep has always had a unique curriculum compared to other more “traditional” leaning high schools. Summit focuses more on providing students with a personalized, individually paced time to complete their work. In my opinion, students at Summit already had a form of their own virtual learning before the shelter in place order.
COVID-19 had a large impact on all schools around the nation. But, at my school, I did not see much impact as we already spent a large portion of our education through the computer. The transition was not as drastic as other schools.
Summit Prep had a very direct way to introduce the students to virtual learning. They focus on the same platform-based curriculum and held online classes every day, just as our original schedule, through Google hangouts. Along with that, they offer Google hangouts as a resource for all students to get in contact with their teachers whenever it is most convenient, outside of class time.
I have found Google hangouts to be quite easy to navigate because it gives me and my peers an accessible way to log onto our everyday classes and chat with our teachers and get any extra direction in our academic path. The way that the majority of other schools chose to approach moving their curriculum to online school, is not as personal and individually focused as Summit Prep. Not all schools have virtual classes every day, which in turn goes to affect their academics due to the fact that they don’t have the opportunity to interact with their peers and teachers which is a big support system to get through the school year. As much more time consuming for Summit Prep to be so interactive with their students, it’s a small cost to pay due to how much the administration cares about their students. I do not know everything about how other schools are handling it, but I know for sure more students are having a harder time with it because they are not used to learning through the computer as much.
Although the transition was not as hard, some families are struggling with getting their students online to do their work, as some do not have access to wifi. This makes me worry a lot because a lot of kids want to do their work but they do not have the tools necessary to do so. In fact, when communities found themselves “unable to provide virtual classrooms equitably to all students, some school districts chose not to require any continued schooling.” (Kelly 2020). My school already had the resources to provide their students beforehand to make this switch easier, however, that that isn’t the case for all.
I also worry very much about the students that rely on going to school to be able to get something to eat. One thing Summit should have done that other schools are doing is letting families come down to the cafeteria to eat if they need it. According to The Washington Post, “On any given day, the World Food Program offers a lifeline to nearly 100 million people. This includes about 30 million people who literally depend on us to stay alive. WFP’s analysis shows that 300,000 could starve to death every single day for the next three months … 21,000 people die of hunger every single day … In 10 countries, we have more than a million people who are on the verge of starvation as we speak.”
The other more “traditional” high schools continue to have the campus open for any other necessities that students need. They are also arranging for students to pick up hard copies of their work to ensure they are getting everything done. I think it would be very beneficial for Summit to have done something similar because a lot of students get frustrated being on the computer, but unfortunately, they are not.
It has been really easy for me to adapt to the virtual learning environment because I am more of a person that goes at my own pace. But I know for sure this is harder for others, which is totally valid due to the pandemic, no one in our world has ever been through anything like this and we’re all trying to figure it out in our own ways. This current situation impacts every person in such different ways. I hope all Summit students are doing everything necessary in order to pass the year. In Take Lee County, it was very new to them to switch to online education. However, according to The Rant, “On March 26 alone, the district reported it had connected with more than 11,800 students through online student-teacher interactions using Google Meet, Google Classroom and Canvas software.” This goes to represent that under the sudden change of circumstances, communities in nearby counties are adapting well in addition.
Our Executive Director recently let us know that the student reports have stayed the same as when we are in school, but she said many students are engaging and taking content. She quotes, “Our academic data has also been about the same so far, but partly it is hard for me to measure because we had Spring Break and then Expeditions. I’ve been really impressed that students keep passing content and engaging in classes and submitting high-quality work, and I’ll have to report back soon!” I really like the virtual learning platform, but I also miss getting the extra help after school through office hours.
Although COVID-19 has affected schools in our community, I feel strongly that everyone can still get their education and take care of their health at the same time. As this is a little hard for others, I believe Summit can push through and meet the standards it always does. According to The Washington Post, “The number of K-12 students in the United States whose schools have closed or are scheduled to shutter because of the spread of the novel coronavirus has surpassed 3.5 million — and more are expected.”