Covid-19 turns campus life on its head; throws wrench into academics for remote learners

NEW+MAN+IN+TOWN.+Dr.+Jeff+Stichler%2C+new+principal+at+Caney+Creek+High+School%2C+stands+for+a+portrait+before+officially+taking+the+reins+after+Trish+McClure+retired+at+the+end+of+last+year.+

Photo by: Omar Perez

NEW MAN IN TOWN. Dr. Jeff Stichler, new principal at Caney Creek High School, stands for a portrait before officially taking the reins after Trish McClure retired at the end of last year.

In the recent events of school districts worldwide having to adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic a question has always been brought up about how the teachers feel about the transition from in person to online, and what problems are most commonly faced.
“Covid has made things hard. I have always enjoyed teaching math, and I know Covid makes it harder on students to learn,” algebra teacher Roger May said, “Yet it also makes it hard on me.
“Trying to balance my online and (in-school) kids between what to teach them and when to, does get stressful. My biggest issue is the lack of interaction with online students. I know I’m not the best at answering emails, but so are some of my students. That lack of interaction is really the hardest part.”
Other issues that are mentioned by students and teachers is some teachers have a harder time trying to move full lessons online, along with Canvas and the single-sign-on service sometimes completely shutting down.
“Even with the issues with Canvas I think the kids online listen to me better than the ones in person,” physics teacher Gabrielle Beaty said. “But the problems with Canvas are a little frustrating when things lock before I wanted them to, and assignments just don’t show up for some students.”
More common issues that are talked about also include that some students when doing online school don’t really learn anything because of cheating and not being able to communicate.
“Online work and grading is not the hard part,” cross country coach Lindsey Carlson said. “The hardest part is students actually showing up to do stuff or for my P.E.classes turning in their few assignments.”
There are some students that weren’t able to access the internet or weren’t able to turn in some assignments on account of not having internet access causing them to be behind on assignments.
“Sometimes the internet stops working so some of my assignments are counted late.” sophomore Titaina Cossie said. “I don’t have technology issues often but I have had issues with Canvas.”
This brought up how students felt about the change and how it has affected their learning.
”For the most part I dont have trouble but there are times where it just stops working for the day and I can’t do anything that whole day and then the next it’s as if nothing happened,” sophomore Eden Bolanos said. Students were concerned about how the change has affected their learning. Teachers knew about canvas before the pandemic but it was never enforced.
“I have to sit at my computer and struggle all day,” Bolanos said. “I had no previous knowledge of Canvas and so many others people online did not have any knowledge.”
The district previously recommended teachers use Canvas, but it wasn’t widely adopted in use.
“Canvas has always been used as a resource but not as a priority, due to the Covid- 19 Canvas is now a new norm for students and teachers.” AP World History teacher Karen Solberg said.
Concerns over Canvas’s stability have been brought up with concerns ny students and teachers regarding different students access to the internet.
“Not everyone has a device that can navigate Canvas like Chromebooks,” Solberg said. “So I think it becomes frustrating.”
At the beginning of the school year CISD handed out Chromebooks and hotspots for students in need of technology aid. CSID ended up not having enough, later into the school year this was fixed and some chromebooks were returned and sent out again to help other students.
Because of the advantages and disadvantages, some say there is rising of capabilities for new teaching opportunities which leads teachers to improvise and be creative
“Something amazing about having online learning is that it can be flexible and can prepare students for time management,” Solberg said. “It can become hard for a student or teacher to understand, if you don’t have the time to learn or explain. Preferably I would choose in person learning for the interaction with students.”
It isn’t just about academics though.
This year with the pandemic on the line, there have been new restrictions, like mandatory mask usage, staying 6 feet apart, and staying away from large crowds to avoid being exposed.
Some sports have had their own struggles this year when playing as a team, since social distancing is a top priority.
One of them would be volleyball, who recently had to delay and cancel games due to a quarantine put in place after freshman Mackenzie Pollard had tested positive for the virus.
“I felt like I was going to get judged,” Pollard said. “And that everyone on the team was going to hate me”
Pollard reported the results to both the school and her coach, which as a result, the volleyball team had to go on a mandatory quarantine, which kicked their start of the season to the side.
“The freshman team wasn’t happy about being quarantined because they wanted to play and still be able to attend school, but everyone was very understanding and cooperative.” Volleyball coach Heidi Otto said. “Safety is the number one priority and due to this everyone has been on the same page, we are happy to do whatever we need in order to ensure the safety of our school and our season.”
After the quarantine, the volleyball team took more precaution to ensure the safety of all members to continue the season with no issues.
“When i came back we then had to wear masks during our games,” Pollard said. “What makes me happy is that i am still on the team and being part of a sport i love.”
Football has experienced their own struggles along the start of their season, but football being a much larger group, the CDC recommends that all players bring and use their own equipment to ensure the safety of others, along with keeping all players six-feet apart during games and practices or limiting the number of participants.
“COVID has affected the game of football greatly,” Head Coach Kendall Hineman said. “Practices have changed- kids cannot share water bottles, and if an athlete is not participating in practice they must be wearing a mask.” Hineman said.
Although keeping all students safe in school is easy, the way things work at home are much different, and COVID-19 being their biggest opponent.
“We cannot control what they do when they go home, but we talked to them every day about making smart decisions and wearing masks wherever they went.” Hineman said. “The biggest struggle is never knowing who or when it could hit, we could do absolutely everything right and we could still face an outbreak.”
Even though this year has been difficult and full of struggles, sports like football and volleyball had many obstacles to cross, but ended their seasons safely and proudly.
“Sadly, this is a new normal, but we got through the entire season,” Hineman said. “I believe we got very lucky.”
In the days since three major pharmaceutical companies released data showing the effectiveness of their Covid-19 vaccines, people have questions: When can I get it? Is it safe? What will life look like after I get it?
There have been questions asked on how the vaccine will affect others if they had the virus without knowing it so they say that if a person has had the virus without being aware of it and they receive the vaccine it is a possible chance they could have stronger strains of the virus.
There is some level of uncertainty surrounding the effectiveness of a brand new covid vaccine. Pfiser and BioNTech are manufacturers of the novel vaccine and have been deep in the works to get FDA approval. Some are not so excited.
“I will not get the vaccine before I know the results of other people just because to be safe,” junior Evelyn Popoca said.
Before schools had started back in session there was a debate going around if the heat or the cold would either help prevent or kill the virus but that was just hopes from the company that was producing the vaccine.
“There is no definitive answer if we can do away with the face coverings as well as the social distancing (once the vaccine is approved,” CISD Coordinator of Health Services. Barbara Robertson said.
There are those who also feel other preventative measures like masks are useless.
“I believe that the mask wouldn’t protect us because it is kind of like the flu and they wouldn’t block off any viruses,” junior Zane Skiles had said. “So, I believe we shouldn’t have to wear them.”
More than four dozen studies have shown masks to be 95% effective or more when worn properly, especially if all parties are wearing masks. Other measures to prevent spread include social distancing at lunch where masks aren’t worn while eating. Although there are limits to that as well.
“We can’t have the patios open because we can’t control it and people don’t keep it clean,” Associate Principal Nancy Kahn said.
Senior Angelina Deleon says she understands the layout but prefers not to be crammed in one space with that many people.
“It’s an OK idea the way the tables are arranged,” she said, “but maybe they could add some seats outside for more space so everyone is not in just one space.”

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