Secondary Schools & COVID
St. Louis- As COVID-19, despite the state’s effort, continues to grow in infection rates,students and teachers in middle and high school fight the virus every day in the classroom; be it virtual or in person.
Last summer when the pandemic first began, many schools were sucker-punched with the fact that they were going to be forced to close their doors. Many schools like the Clayton school district closed almost immediately and moved online, despite a few days off as a result of the sudden change in curriculum. This is the same for the majority of schools in the St. Louis area,and while the school boards did their best, especially given these unprecedented circumstances;the school system suffered as a result.
Teachers especially had to adjust to these new changes, most notably this semester given the schools have had an opportunity to regain footing, change, and add rules for the protection of their staff. Teachers also have to adapt to these new technology requirements, with some districts using technology like Google Classroom, Blackboard, Canvas, and other websites to deliver their online classes. This of course completely changes the curriculum, forcing many teachers to reinvent the way classes are being taught, both in person and online. There are also new health precautions that they have to take: masks on at all times while on campus, distance from students and other faculty, and lots of hand sanitizer to name a few. Kelly Sherman, a teacher at John Burroughs School, notes that: “I’ve never experienced anything like this, it’s hard to balance it all. Things are very different and stressful especially given that I have never taught this way.
It’s hard to connect with the kids and even learn names like this.” Teaching, an already a difficult job, with COVID has become all the more difficult; and even for the sake of the students,learning safely is not learning easily.
Students as well struggled to adjust to recent changes due to the virus. Students from Maplewood, Clayton, Florissant Valley, and Ritenour school districts have noted that the schools in general since the beginning of the outbreak have definitely improved their methods. However it is difficult for certain classes like P.E. to remain safe when, for some districts, keeping a mask on is not required during that class. While every student interviewed insists they feel safe on campus, many of them feel that other students make it difficult to make sure they social distance properly. A St. Louis middle school student notes: “It is way more difficult to make connections with teachers and classmates. It’s hard to even get a hold of teachers due to the internet and their emails being overloaded all the time. And Zoom makes it hard to engage with the classes.”While many students enjoy some perks of online learning like extra free time and ability to wake up later, every student interviewed agreed that they would never again want to learn this way.
When the school system is confronted with COVID, different schools have dealt with it in different ways. But what all St. Louis students and teachers can agree on: is that the pandemic has had a drastic effect on their ability to learn and teach, and not for the better.