Image courtesy of WSHS website
Empty school buildings, online classes, and independent work-all are part of the new learning plan for the fourth quarter.
In an effort to halt the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, all schools in Virginia are closed for the rest of the academic school year of 2019-2020 by order of the governor on Monday, March 23rd.
To make sure students can continue their academics for the rest of the school year, FCPS has developed their Distance Learning Plan (DLP). According to this plan, its goal is to continue “providing ongoing high-quality academic, social-emotional, and wellness support for students and families throughout the school closures in spring 2020.”
According to the DLP, students will continue their schooling for the rest of the school year through virtual class meetings and independent online assignments.
“I expected the school closure because I was following the news and saw how other schools were taking action,” said sophomore Natalia Vazquez.
Students in grades K-6 are being sent learning packets to supplement their studies, high school students will be using their FCPSOn laptops to complete online schoolwork, and middle school students will be completing their studies with a mix of both packets and online learning. During the weeks of March 23rd and March 30th, school staff were given specialized training and preparation for distance learning.
“Teachers and staff were given training on the Distance Learning Plan, Distance Learning Resources, Technology Training for use in Distance Learning, and Accommodations Training to support student needs,” said principal Michael Mukai.
According to the DLP, the school week has been separated into days for virtual online classes and days for independent or collaborative work. Mondays are reserved for staff meetings, collaboration, and planning activities. Students will attend virtual online 45-minute long classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with Tuesdays consisting of Orange Day classes and Thursdays consisting of Blue Day classes. On Wednesdays and Fridays, teachers will have office hours during which students can individually ask questions and get assistance, along with working on independent and collaborative work.
“I am going to miss seeing my friends in person the most, especially because I am moving this summer to a different state. Now with the closure, I probably won’t get to see them again,” said Vazquez. “But I am excited to get extra work time for projects and assignments, as well as starting school later in the day.”
For the fourth quarter, assignments will be graded for feedback purposes and put into the gradebook for students and parents to check the progress of the student. However, fourth quarter grades may only be counted if they improve a student’s overall grade for the year. Students have until April 24th to make up work from the third quarter.
In addition to changes in grading policies, there will also be no traditional final exams this year. Teachers may give an end-of-course assessment to determine the students’ mastery of the course content and skills, but it will not be considered a final exam that will count toward the final grade of the year.
This spring, for the first time, students in AP classes will take a shorter 45-minute, online, free-response version of the exam, instead of a traditional face-to-face three-hour-long exam. Only topics covered in school before it was closed will be on the exam.
“I don’t mind this version for some of the exams, but for others, I would’ve liked the older version,” said senior Haryard Brar.
For seniors, the most important change due to the closure of schools is currently the uncertainty of the status of their high school graduation. So far, FCPS has not stated any final decision for how the graduation issue will be handled, but they are looking into a variety of different solutions, including the possibility of a virtual, online graduation. As Prom and Senior Picnic has been canceled, many seniors are left feeling as if the COVID-19 pandemic has stolen from their senior year.
“I’m really bummed that we don’t get to experience all the things that we were looking forward to in senior year and that would have made high school more memorable,” said Brar. “I think that it’s really disappointing that we don’t get an actual graduation, but at least it’s better than nothing.”
With all these changes to daily life, students and staff alike are trying their best to look at the situation with a positive outlook.
“Life is about challenges. So many times in life, there are no right and wrong answers. There are often moments when there are no perfect solutions,” said Mukai. “The key is how do we respond in these moments in the face of adversity. I have faith that as a community we will take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and take care of this special place – West Springfield.”