Virtual school brings new challenges for Huskies

September 21, 2020

As with everything else since COVID-19 hit, every high school including John W. North changed the manner in which they teach and connect to students. Teachers and staff members have been extremely busy trying to figure out and adapt to distance learning. 

International Baccalaureate(IB) and Advanced Placement(AP) testing will most likely be changing a lot this year; no one is sure whether tests will be taken in person or virtually, or whether certain requirements will be changed. Many seniors never even got to take their Scholastic Aptitude Tests because they were cancelled, rescheduled, and then cancelled again. A few of the programs that have undergone some changes since COVID-19 are the IB program and Advancement Via Individual Determination(AVID). The IB program is one of many academic programs that North offers, in which students take IB classes their junior and senior years. The IB organization for the 2020 testing season decided to eliminate all tests and instead give students IB grades based on their predicted scores and internal assessments. The College Board that runs AP decided to hold online exams last spring. These exams however were met with some pushback because the online software had problems with accepting students’ work which led many to have to retake their exams. 

Shortly before the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year, the Riverside Unified School District (RUSD) gave students the option to choose between three learning options.   North and many other schools in RUSD’s district lost students to the first of these options, a virtual program that RUSD is offering for those who want to spend the year completely online. The approximately 1,000 students from North who chose to do the virtual program were not guaranteed teachers from their school and were instead officially enrolled in Riverside Virtual School(RVS). 

Quite a few students chose the home-based learning option, with their curriculum monitored mostly by their parents but supported by an RUSD teacher. Students who chose the at home learning option had to give up their spot if they were in certain programs, such as IB or some extracurriculars. 

For those who chose the hybrid/in person program it is not certain when they will be able to start going back onto campus. Right now everyone is learning virtually. However once students are able to return in person, the plan is to stagger two groups that will go to school on different days.  Everyone will be split into their group by last name at first. They will start by going once a week, then twice, then three times, and finally every day. Students, teachers, and staff members who go back to school in person will still have to wear masks and socially distance in their classrooms. 

“I find it more convenient because I work better alone and with my own work space … it feels better than school. Although going back to school is what I intend to do because going to AVID class is comforting because of some of my classmates. I did find technology frustrating at first because trying to have my computer not overheat was hard and teachers Wifi is usually lagging so it’s hard to understand at times.” said sophomore Nicholl Stearns. 

 Schools also lost a large number of teachers this year due to many being moved over to RVS, so many have had to take on extra classes that they either have not taught in years or have never taught before. The teachers were first asked to volunteer to be moved to the virtual school, and after not enough teachers volunteered, many junior teachers were mandated to teach there instead of at North.

Distance learning not only makes it more difficult for students to learn, it is also hard for teachers to teach especially because they are only used to in-person teaching.

“Distance learning definitely makes it tougher to teach. We do a lot of group work, presentations, and debates in the class, and being virtual presents many challenges to these types of activities,” said history teacher Scott Zyber. 

Technology has been extremely useful and extremely frustrating during this time. Technology has helped teachers and students communicate effectively, yet it has also been incredibly difficult to figure out for some teachers and students who haven’t really embraced technology for homework and studying tools. 

“Distance learning has made it harder for me to stay motivated because I can’t see my friends in person. My energy gets drained from looking at the computer all day and staying in the same seat. It also doesn’t make it any easier because of how confusing technology can be.” said sophomore Kayla Lopez. 

North’s students will have many challenges to overcome this year with distance learning and COVID-19. However with teachers and staff members doing everything they can to create a new learning environment, students can continue to learn even through the difficulties.

 

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