In light of recent school closures due to COVID-19, Unionville High School has adopted a system of flexible distance learning to make up for missed class time.
Distance learning began on Monday, March 16 after several emails’ worth of explanation from administration. Several teachers in the building had handed out worksheets and resources in the days leading up to the closure, and many had explained how they planned to run their classes.
Each day, teachers posts announcements to Canvas, an online classroom that every teacher had already been required to use throughout the school year. Besides assigning daily work, teachers have office hours on Zoom, a video-conference service.
Teachers have two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon during which they are on call to answer student questions, lead discussions, or review problems. While teachers can not require attendance to Zoom meetings, they can encourage students to attend and participate in discussions. Teachers can also use Zoom to record their screen as they work through a practice problem or explain a graph, and the program has proven a valuable resource in this first week of distance learning.
A typical day of work varies from student to student, with some finishing their work in half an hour and others taking the majority of the day to finish.
Throughout this process, the district has made it clear that students’ mental health is a priority. Most teachers have released a statement explaining that should students have trouble completing any work, they should reach out to their teachers to work on a plan that would work better.
Overall, the message is clear: mental health comes first, schoolwork comes second. On Friday, students were encouraged to take a “half-day” and log off their computers around 11.
Furthermore, administration has scheduled to meet weekly with the Principal’s Advisory Council, a group of students who meet with administration to discuss student concerns and clarify confusion about school policy. Through this group, administration will remain up-to-date with how students are dealing with the change.
The school closings have been especially difficult for the Class of 2020 For seniors, the closures mean missing the chance to captain a sports team, play the lead in the musical, and potentially even celebrate the end of their high school careers.
Administration has been supportive in emphasizing efforts to offer the Class of 2020 the same experiences as other senior classes, including events like the Senior Stroll, Senior Dinner Dance, and even graduation. After Friday’s announcement that schools will remain closed until further notice, however, it is difficult to predict whether these events will even be possible. As college decisions are released, seniors will be unable to visit college campuses or attend accepted student events, which will only make the decision more difficult.
Despite the difficult circumstances, the students of Unionville High School, with the support of the administration and teaching staff, are making the most of the situation. Students have found creative ways to spend their quarantine. Between drive-by birthday celebrations and group Facetime calls, this generation is making the most of the technology available to remain connected and engaged.
On social media, students advocate safety measures to prevent the spread of illness, and a recent Instagram trend encouraged users to post photos of themselves in which they felt most beautiful and to tag their friends to do the same. In the midst of a general sense of panic, a familiarity with technology and a slightly nihilistic sense of humor will equip students to weather this storm.