On Tuesday, September 8 Kenwood High began the 2020-2021 school year virtually like the rest of all Maryland public schools due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Schools across the state closed their doors and went virtual after March 13, 2020.
On Thursday, August 27 just a few days before teachers reported back to work in Baltimore County, Governor Larry Hogan made an announcement that schools could resume school in person. That announcement has created controversy and division because many people have different opinions on whether it’s actually safe to reopen schools.
In a school like Kenwood, even on a hybrid schedule where half of the students come per day, that could be close to a 1000 people per day in the building, which is more than what’s currently allowed under Hogan’s modified third phase of coronavirus recovery in which “Under Hogan’s plan, movie theaters and concert venues may open at 50 percent capacity, or with 100 people indoors, whichever is less. Outdoor events are capped at 50 percent capacity or 250 people” (Tan).
According to the Maryland Government website, Baltimore County currently has had over 16,000 COVID cases, which is the third largest in the state. However, many are wondering now with the Governor’s announcement if there will be discussion of reopening schools for face-to-face learning prior to the original January 29, 2021 timeline.
While teachers, administrators, students, and parents are all waiting on the changes and updates as things continue to evolve and unfold with the pandemic and potential return to schools, they’ve spent the past six days learning to navigate this new way of education. No matter the role each person is filling in this new world of virtual learning, it has had its successes and challenges; however, all are learning to build resilience and perseverance as we navigate these challenging times. English teacher Ms. Single has been impressed by her students’ dedication to make the best of the situation, “Many of the students are willing to go the extra mile. They really do seem to want to engage and work!”
Senior Sofiat W shares, “I miss my friends and teachers. I miss the diversity in my classes and being involved in so many things.” But as sophomore Harmonee W shares, “I’m going to make sure I stay on top of my assignments and reach out to my teachers for help to be successful this year.”
Just as some teachers are teaching at home alongside helping their own schoolage children with virtual school, some of our Kenwood students are helping younger siblings with their virtual schooling experience while they’re managing their own school workload. Junior Linda N is supervising her third grade brother’s schooling as she’s doing her own. “I often have to help my eight year old brother while in the middle of class so it makes it difficult to focus on my own work at times,” she shares. Some have really struggled with connection issues, more so with Google Meet than Schoology. Luckily for high school students, Schoology is a platform we’ve worked with the two years before the pandemic forced so there has been less of a learning curve. Throughout the first week, Mr. Powell and the administration team assisted close to 400 students in the front lobby throughout the school day to resolve connection concerns.
Kenwood’s administration selected the option to use a semesterized schedule where students attend four of their classes every day throughout first semester, and then take their other four classes every day second semester. “When the option was presented for potentially implementing a semesterized schedule, we talked with many stakeholders to gain their input. After receiving feedback from students, parents/guardians, and staff, all input was overwhelmingly in favor of the semesterized schedule. This was an opportunity to simplify teaching and learning for students and staff to allow focus on 4 classes versus 8. In this virtual environment, we wanted to support our students and staff the best way possible and were excited for the opportunity for students to see/connect with their teachers everyday. This type of schedule is also similar to a college type schedule and was another opportunity for students to understand what a college schedule may be like,” shares Kenwood Principal Mr. Powell.
BCPS has also designated Wednesdays as teacher planning and professional development days as well as for small groups for student support. On Wednesdays students will have time slots they’re assigned by their teacher to attend for support and the rest of the day will be to work on asynchronous work. Any days as occurred in the first week of school where there’s only four school days, students will then attend class on Wednesday like a normal school day.
Today’s generation of students grew up being told that “screens ruin their eyes and rot their brains,” shares junior Emily O, but students are now being told to be on a screen 3-6 hours a day for online schooling. The screen requirement for synchronous learning, which is when everyone is online with their teacher, is 3.5 hours a day, but then students are still often working on their computers for their independent asynchronous learning for an additional 1.5 a day.
For many students, school is where they get the majority of their social interaction and that loss of personal connection is what teachers and students both miss the most. Senior Quantay B misses being in the building. “I would rather be in the building as the presence of my teachers pushes me to pay attention and do better.”
The situation is not necessarily what many would prefer, but they are making the best of it. As Mr. Powell says, “My hope is for teachers and students to continue to grow from this experience. One major positive is that we all are learning more and more about technology and the different types of instructional resources available. We are all becoming more and more comfortable with educational technology and becoming experts together! I am extremely proud of our staff, students, and families as we continue to work through these times together!” Better together through all of this we will be and one day we will all hopefully be together in person again! Until then your Bluebirds will continue to make the best of a tough situation.
Tan, Rebecca with Erin Scott, Greg Schneider, and Dana Hedgpeth. “Maryland to enter next phase of coronavirus recovery Friday, opening theaters and concert venues.” Washington Post.1 Sept 2020. Web Accessed 15 Sept 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/coronavirus-dc-maryland-virginia/2020/09/01/2bd07af4-e85b-11ea-970a-64c73a1c2392_story.html