In March of 2020, Baltimore City Public Schools shut down for a week among rising concerns over the Covid-19 virus.
What was supposed to be an extra week of spring break quickly became one of the most unprecedented events in modern history. Suddenly the entire nation had shut down indefinitely to try and curb the rise of the virus. Mask mandates were quickly put into place, as well as statewide curfews, travel restrictions, and more. Still, life had to go on.
Baltimore City College, among other schools, scrambled to put together a way to teach students virtually for the last few months of the school year.
The first wave included moving back to google classroom, not marking students for absences, and many emails being sent out. Those last 3 months, while messily put together, still tried to maintain some semblance of normal for the students. This is where problems started to arise.
Many students recall not being able to access assignments, as well as lack of instruction and ways to contact their teachers. It was a logistical nightmare that ended with all students being passed regardless.
The next year was planned better. Students had a clearer understanding of what was expected of us, as well as a set schedule with “A Days” and “B Days”, ways to contact our teachers, and video communication software that was accessible to most if not all students.
Still, even with all of these improvements, online school proved challenging for students. That’s not to say that online learning didn’t have its own challenges.
As one student put it, “It was a complete disaster.” Many students felt as thing online learning wasn’t fulfilling their needs.
“Schoolwork being online made school seem like it wasn’t as big of a deal to me as it had been in the past, and because there weren’t huge consequences to not doing it, I just didn’t.” wrote one 11th grader.
Many students reported a complete lack of motivation, as well as how detrimental the lack of social interaction was. “I think the interpersonal connection and access to teachers that comes with in person is invaluable to me.”, wrote one student.
The lack of a space to talk to their teachers and peers added to the stress of being online in the middle of a pandemic. “It was lonely and [being] online took all the fun things away from school and just kept learning. I think the community at school improves grades and mental health but covid took it all away so a lot of people failed and had severe mental health struggles over the last year.”
Another unforeseen consequence of online learning was the lack of structure during the school day. While many were happy with the fact that they got to sleep in and start the day later, others were lacking the time management skills needed to adjust to this new situation.
“For me personally, I have ADHD and that makes it really hard for me to stay focused in a normal classroom,” wrote one student “Online was even harder because I was in my room with so many distractions, and the teachers couldn’t tell I was zoning out when they can in person.”
With that said, many were skeptical about coming back in person during a pandemic. “Though I don’t think it was the appropriate time to come back, because of the [whole] pandemic we are currently living in, I’m glad I’m able to have a somewhat structured schedule with things to actually do instead of expecting me to just turn on a laptop and call it a day.”
Many were concerned with how the school district would handle the pandemic and what being back in the building would look like.
When asked if they thought the school did enough to slow the spread of Covid-19, answers were varied—some said that the school did enough, while some said they didn’t. One student even said the school should mandate vaccines for people in the building.
Despite the challenges, many students are happy to be back in the building. “I slack off, procrastinate, and have the worst time management regardless of what type of learning I am in. That being said, I enjoy being back at school, creating relationships with the teachers, and complaining about after school activities because at least I’m there to actually engage with what I’m doing academically,” a student said.
Overall, though covid presented unique challenges to the Baltimore City College students and they handled it as best they could. After a year and a half online, many are happy and thriving with our new normal.