Schools across the nation have closed their doors on account of the coronavirus and have made the switch to remote learning. Some have officially ended school for the 2019-2020 school year. Massachusetts has mandated that Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) close its doors until May 4, and as a result, students and teachers alike have been left to navigate unchartered territory when it comes to offering and receiving a public education.
As of Sunday, March 29, high school administrators received new guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) about expectations for work completion by students, and administrators are currently in talks with the teachers’ union about what remote learning at MVRHS will look like moving forward.
When DESE first released guidelines for schools prior to the week of March 14, students were not obligated to complete work for credit. Schools were expected only to supply learning “opportunities,” and to share resources for students and families as a way for students to remain engaged with learning and their school communities.
Principal Sara Dingledy explained: “For the first two weeks, no one had time to create a plan, and so the guidance from the commissioner was that until details were worked out with the teachers union about what work would look like during this time period, the expectation was teachers would present opportunities, and that the work wouldn’t count because a lot of students have Individual Education Programs who wouldn’t get support.”
When schoolwork became optional, students were left to decide whether or not they believed it necessary to complete work that teachers had begun posting online through platforms such as Google Classroom, and through video sessions with Zoom, for example.
Many of the students who take Advanced Placement classes felt they should continue to study and complete their assigned school work because of upcoming tests. “I only take AP and honors [courses], so I am prioritizing AP,” said junior Rachel Salop. “But it’s still hard to be motivated. I don’t have a daily schedule. I’m always up late and waking up at noon.”
For students taking college preparatory courses, some students are completing the work while others are not. Sophomore Kayleigh Bollin said, “I start at 10 a.m. and work on each class for a certain period of time, depending on how much work is assigned.”
For many students, it is very difficult to focus on school work while at home all day.
“I don’t do the work, but I do think school work is important,” Junior Fahron Hall said. “I just can’t do the school work at home.”
Some students have felt that doing school work provides them with a routine and adds structure to their days. “After I am done with the work, I feel like I’ve had a good day,” said junior Ava Maggi. “I want to do things like go on a walk and clean my room. I also don’t want to completely start over [with learning the curriculum] when I get back to school.”
The sheer amount of work some teachers are giving is resulting in students feeling overwhelmed and not wanting to complete assignments at all.
“I think some work is important, but some teachers are assigning work that is too difficult, and the difficulty or length of the assignments make them hard to complete,” junior Kaya Seiman said.
According to an email from Ms. Dingledy to teachers, the focus moving forward will be on setting up a schedule of sorts for teachers and students. Most likely this will include an expectation around weekly teacher-led engagement (the recommendation is currently one hour per week) as a way to frame and guide assignments, and about 30 to 60 minutes of additional assigned work per class for students to complete each week.
While underclassmen and juniors are trying to keep up with their work to avoid falling behind, seniors are left wondering if it’s worth completing all the optional work ahead of graduation.
“I have no schedule whatsoever,” said senior Chesca Potter. “For 18 years, I have never been able to sleep in, but now I’m sleeping until 1 pm. I’m honestly not motivated to do any schoolwork. It’s really hard for me to do this online school stuff, and I got into college already.”
“I just work better in a face-to-face way of teaching,” said Kaya. “It has been a struggle for me, but I’m working through it.”