HHS North Remote Learning: A Student’s Perspective


Patrick Sweeney, News Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a dramatic change in the lives of the American people. Many things have changed in this country. Masks have to be worn in public and social distancing has to be followed. Social gatherings are limited and events have been cancelled. However, none of these changes have been as dramatic as the ones seen within schools. Friday, March 13, 2020 started off as a pretty normal day for most students at Holyoke High School North Campus. There was news about a virus spreading in China called COVID-19. There was also news that a person had brought the virus to our country. As I walked through the doors of the North Campus that morning, I was greeted by Dr. Mahoney, our executive principal. He stated, “Thanks for coming to school today.” Something seemed odd about that. I started to wonder how the virus would impact my future at Holyoke High School. The school day was not much different than any other. However, there was a sense of tension throughout the whole school. You could tell from the faces of the administration and teachers that something was not right. Towards the end of the day, we got word that we might not go back to school for a couple of weeks. I was in my United States History class at the time of the announcement. My class and the entire grade went down to the cafeteria and got packets put together by all of the teachers. The packets were intended to help us learn new material in the event of a school closure. We left school that day with many questions. That weekend, we got a call from the district saying that school would be closed for two weeks due to the coronavirus. We thought we would be going back to school in early April. Then, things in the country started worsening. People were dying and the country was shut down. We ended up not going back to school for the rest of the year. I have now started my Sophomore year online. Things are not much better in the country. Over 200,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. Consequently, online learning has become the norm for most students at Holyoke High School.

The teachers at Holyoke High School had a very short amount of time to prepare for the possibility of school closure. However, it did not appear this way based on the way they handled the situation. Everyone came together as a school and got the job done. The teachers prepared online classes right away so everyone could continue to get a quality education. There was a short transition time between in-person and fully remote learning. All of the teachers assumed that the packets they provided would carry us through the time of remote learning. What they did not expect was that we would be home for the remainder of the school year. They quickly adjusted to this. In early April, assignments were posted online. These assignments were optional but strongly recommended. They were posted randomly and some did not have a set due date. Once word got out that the remainder of the year would be completed online, teachers knew that they would need to develop a more organized system of grading and assignments to ensure that everyone moved on to the next grade. One current Sophomore at Holyoke High School North stated that, “…I think that one of the negatives of remote learning last spring was the fact that we were not prepared for the type of learning we were going to have to use now. So the teachers did not know how to properly use something because, how could they?” This student also stated that the “transition was quite stressful…” The teachers at HHS did not have any virtual sessions or classes during this time. They expected the students to get the work done on time. However, this was not the case. The teachers soon realized that structure was needed in order for all students to succeed. Some students had not done any work online since remote learning started. This need for structure was the reason why teachers changed course in May.

In early May, the teachers began a new phase in remote learning. This phase lasted six weeks, from May 4th until the last day of school on June 19th. Each teacher posted an assignment once a week for students to complete. The assignments were posted on Monday and due on Friday. Teachers held live or recorded classes once a week. In addition, the teachers held office hours a few times a week. This system was a much more structured form of remote learning and led to more students participating in live classes and completing work. A current Sophomore at HHS North, Angelina De Leon, stated that a “positive subject was the fact that the students were able to have more flexibility on their schedule. I also enjoyed how the teachers give out all the work for the week and doing it at your own pace…” She also implemented organizational strategies during this time. She stated, “…it actually helped me to rely more on my planner on what I needed to get done in my classes and checking off what I had gotten done. When you’re organized you have a greater chance of succeeding…” Another current Sophomore at HHS North, Jake Swindell, cited how the work “was just given to you on Monday and they pretty much said ‘ok good luck, we have office hours on these days you can check in if you want.’” He also stated that the teachers were not to blame for this, saying that we were under “bizarre” circumstances. Overall, students at HHS felt more comfortable with this system of remote learning. There were set due dates for assignments and things were more organized. Once again, the teachers proved that they could adjust to the circumstances and provide more structure for students.

Holyoke High School has begun the 2020-21 school year remotely. Most students are doing the fully remote option, while some are operating on an in-person model. After the 2019-20 school year was complete, teachers had to come up with another plan for remote learning. They realized that students would need even more structure in order to fully participate. They came up with a plan so all students could succeed. Remote learning now consists of live Zoom classes every day from 8:45 am to 12:50 pm. There are 10 minute breaks in between classes and students attend 4 classes a day. Each class is 50 minutes long. Teachers have virtual office hours on certain days of the week. This is helping students out in many ways. They are able to check in with their teachers if they have questions. Also, many students join office hours to get their homework done since they feel like they are part of a classroom setting. De Leon finds teacher office hours quite helpful, stating that, “Another positive part is how there are office hours for the classes & being able to join more than one class for help within the time period.” This closely mimics the traditional schedule at HHS North, making students feel like they are actually in the building. One current Sophomore at HHS North states that “we don’t have to constantly think about how we have to be careful so we don’t get sick. We don’t have to worry about what to do if we do get sick and how we could get all our work done.”  Swindell stated that, “we’re learning again and there’s a bit of normalcy to everything.” Students agree that there are a few negatives as well, such as not being able to see friends in-person. De Leon stated that, “A negative part of the remote learning is how students aren’t able to adapt to the remote learning, there are students that can’t concentrate well at home while doing online work compared to in school learning.” Overall, students are pleased with the schedule and compliment the teachers for all of their hard work. HHS North has done a fantastic job preparing for remote learning this year, which is evident by how smoothly things have gone over the first month.

Adjusting to change is a very difficult thing for many people. The obstacle of COVID-19 did not stop the teachers from providing a quality education for their students. All of this positive collaboration and teamwork helped everyone teach and learn at the same time. We would not be in the position we are in without all of the amazing work done by everyone at Holyoke High School North Campus. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.”