After Coronavirus related delays, Lawrence Public Schools was back in session on Tuesday with a catch: the first six weeks are completely virtual.
Students and teachers have had to rapidly adjust to using new programs and methods of instruction. After using Zoom in the spring, Lawrence Public Schools switched to WebEx, a similar virtual meeting program, for the fall semester.
Some students were surprised at how much they enjoyed the transition to online classes.
“It’s actually gone much better than I thought it would,” sophomore Caitlin Sand said. “I like the flexibility. For some classes having 30 minutes of lesson and 25 minutes to work alone is really nice. I think the lows really are the awkwardness in some of my classes being online makes people less likely to answer questions. The silence is the worst part.”
Unfortunately, chaotic experiences were common for some.
“The first week of school was all over the place,” senior Reece Wohlford said. “I get bad headaches from the screens, and there’s a learning curve with how to participate in WebEx without awkward pauses and confusion with mics. But aside from that, it left me feeling pretty optimistic about the school year. I think we’ll all get better at it, and it gives me way more control over my routine.”
It didn’t help that many teachers and students dealt with technical difficulties.
“First day of school was overall smooth. I didn’t have any problems,” senior Sam Mandago said. “Many teachers did have technical issues on their end though which slowed the lessons like disconnecting mid class and their presentations glitching out.”
Many students felt satisfied with how teachers handled the new technology and the problems that come with it.
“I remember yesterday I had trouble turning in an assignment, and today I had trouble screen recording,” junior Kolton Laytimi said. “But both teachers helped me as soon as I reached out. It seems as though all of my teachers know what they’re doing, trying their best to help, and great at giving out directions so I understand what I’m doing. My English teacher introduced useful digital annotating apps, so yes, I think I definitely learned something useful.“
Making connections through a screen is a lot harder for some people.
“It’s been OK,” freshman Brendan Symons said. “I enjoyed meeting and getting to know all my teachers, but there hasn’t really been any opportunities to get to know anyone in my classes.”
Creating normalcy remained a challenge.
“The teachers are working very hard to accommodate these circumstances but it still doesn’t seem normal to me,” senior Emma-Francess Smith said.
The length of school has been a struggle for a lot of students. They aren’t enjoying the seven-hour days after shorter days in the spring.
“I feel like it has been a big change, and I feel pretty exhausted,” junior Bryan Zeckser said. “It’s definitely something I’m going to have to adapt to overtime, especially since we haven’t been in school for six months.”
However, students are taking a positive outlook on the situation and are looking forward to what online school may bring.
“I’m looking forward to any projects that get me out of the house and require creativity,” junior Asha Hansen said. “I am also excited to see how we will be doing labs in forensic science.”
Students will attend online school for the next six weeks. Afterward, the school board will review whether or not the district should move to a hybrid model mixing online and in-person instruction. Regardless, education will look different for students throughout the 2020-21 school year.