ALX Kids: A journey through pandemic-era education

ALX Kids: A journey through pandemic-era education
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By Francesca Capelli

COVID-19 struck in March 2020, when I was in sixth grade. Originally it was only supposed to be a two-week quarantine for the teachers and students. Then it was five weeks, and then we didn’t return to in-person school until Aug. 23, 2021.

Schools shifted to virtual learning, with students attending class through school issued Chromebooks or other devices at home, using apps like Google Classroom and Zoom.

When it became possible to return to the building, masks and distancing were a big part of ensuring the safety of the students, and these strategies will continue to be used until it is safe to go without them. Throughout the one and a half school years of virtual learning and now coming back into school, both teachers and students have had to make multiple adjustments.

When virtual learning began in March 2020, teachers introduced Google Classroom to their students. This allowed them to give assignments and then have students turn them in at certain times and receive them directly. The positive aspects of this approach were that students were safe at home and it allowed them to create their own schedule of when they wanted to start and finish working.

Meanwhile, some negative aspects were that it was more difficult for students to ask their teacher questions or have a conversation with them if they were confused. Classmates were also isolated from each other, missing out on the social experience that comes with in-person school.

In seventh grade, things were different again. Students in our school had the choice to go into the building or stay home. The in-person and virtual students continued to use Google Classrooms, however the virtual students and teachers had a new tool for this year: Zoom. It was a good solution to the problem of not being able to talk to the teachers live. It also allowed for a little more interaction between the students.

Another thing that was different for everyone was test taking. Traditionally tests had been taken using paper and pencil, but this year tests were mostly taken online using Google Form, a great app that allowed teachers to write a test, customize it and then share it with their students via Google Classroom. Students remained on Zoom to allow the teacher to monitor them while they took the test, and students could then take the test and submit it to their teacher directly.

The benefits of this were that class was more similar to how it had been in the classroom and students were able to do more of the hands-on projects they missed the previous year. However, at home and in the classroom, there were often problems with the student’s or the school’s Wi-Fi which prevented them from attending class, and it also created an occasional lack of communication between the virtual students and their teachers.

Once again school has changed this year. With all students officially back in the building for eighth grade, the need for Zoom is no longer there. However, to keep students safe, there is a mask and distance policy requiring students and staff to keep masks on at all times except during lunch and students to keep a three-foot distance from one another at all times as well. Students are also back to switching rooms for their different classes.

On the plus side, there are no more Wi-Fi problems, and everyone can interact with one another. However, while students are back to a normal school schedule, things are not fully the same. We are distanced at lunch, and, for the time being, there are no field trips.

COVID-19 is a highly contagious disease that forced schools to close for student safety. Over time, the methods of handling virtual school changed. Each method has its positives and negatives and each challenged the entire faculty and student body. Schools will remain using masks and distancing until it is considered safe enough to remove them, and the teachers and students will work together to have an amazing year.

The writer is a student at Blessed Sacrament School.