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Students grapple with varied approaches to distance learning

By ATHENA FOSLER-BRAZIL

Across the country, schools are adapting curriculums to be taught entirely online, and students are adjusting their weekdays to get school work done at home. With little state-mandated policy regarding distance learning, schools have been left to their own devices to come up with a schedule that encourages productivity at home, but allows for flexibility in unprecedented circumstances. 

Courtesy of Pixnio

Following Carmel High’s March 13 closure, an adjustment period allowed teachers time to get experience using the various online tools that are now the only channels of communication between teachers and students. On April 1, CHS principal Jon Lyons also sent out a daily schedule that students and teachers are being encouraged to follow.

The schedule includes “classes” for each day, and Lyons has recommended that students and parents adhere to the structure he set up. For instance, on Mondays, students should work on their electives from 9 to 10:20 a.m. After that, students should study history from 10:30 to 11:50, then lunch, then Visual and Performing Arts, ending with English from 2 to 3:20 p.m. Each weekday includes different classes, and the time is structured to be reminiscent of a typical school day, but with class meeting just two to three times weekly.

While many say the structure has been helpful, most students and teachers have adopted parts of this schedule and ignored others, creating a routine that works for their specific classes, activities, family obligations and personal needs. 

CHS junior Noah Fann says the schedule has helped provide some structure to his days, but he doesn’t necessarily follow it rigidly.

“I don’t follow it day-by-day,” he says. “If one morning is science or something, I don’t necessarily do my science work that morning.” More than helping him organize his days, the junior says that the schedule has helped him organize assignments and improved the way teachers have been delivering content and help.

Carmel High senior Madi Schmidt notes that staying on top of the various platforms teachers utilize has been the most challenging thing, but that she and her family quickly fell into a daily routine that they set for themselves. 

“The routine that has been implemented along with our daily tasks that need to be completed, like chores, spring cleaning, walking the dog, etc, has really helped me transition almost seamlessly and feel very fulfilled, productive and successful,” Schmidt explains. 

Every school has structured their days slightly differently, some opting to try to keep weekdays as similar as possible to students’ former schedules. Other schools are allowing teachers the autonomy to decide when their classes meet.

At Pacific Grove High School, class meeting times are determined by individual teachers, and classes can decide as a group what times throughout the week they want to meet via Zoom, Google Hangouts or the multitude of other online platforms available. 

According to PGHS senior Isabella Rowntree, success in online classes can vary greatly based on the teacher’s technological literacy. 

“Some teachers just don’t know how to use Google Classroom because they didn’t learn to use it at school so there’s a lot of miscommunication,” Rowntree says. 

For those teachers who utilized online resources before the lockdown, transitioning to remote teaching has been easier. ASB president and PGHS senior Adrian Clark adds that the inconsistencies between teachers’ levels of technological savvy have made staying organized more challenging. 

“Some of these schedules could become more manageable if the school just used one platform like AP Classroom or Google Classroom to increase communication with students,” Clark says. 

Monterey High School students’ days are structured slightly differently, with office hours being offered daily instead of scheduled classes. According to Monterey senior Braden Schnute, office hours are held multiple times a week for four sets of classes at a time, reminiscent of their usual four-period block day schedule. Homework is assigned by teachers on Fridays, and students are able to attend office hours throughout the following week if they need help. 

“The fact that they give us all of our work at once and on Friday allows us to plan over the weekend how we want to approach all of the work we got,” says Schnute of Monterey’s system, which he supports overall. 

Monterey senior Leah Stewart observes that many of her classes have her doing senior projects instead of daily assignments, and the flexibility and creativity afforded by independent projects has lent itself well to remote learning. 

Furthermore, Monterey High has given students the option of taking classes on a pass/fail basis, instead of getting letter grades, and has implemented a “no harm” grading policy, where students’ grades cannot drop lower than they were before the school year’s third quarter. 

Carmel High’s grading policy is set to be rolled out to students and parents on Wednesday, May 6. 

Across districts, students, teachers and administrators are trying different strategies to keep weekdays structured and get work in on time. For most, this means tailoring the days to fit their professional and academic obligations, while also making time for themselves.

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