School year opens with online learning

By Marcos Perales | Big Stick Editor |

COVID-19 has not stopped its global rampage. While vaccine development continues, there is no telling when the vaccines will be distributed, or even safe for all of us to make use of the vaccine. While we wait on things to calm down everywhere, the school district, like others around the city and state, has taken up distance and virtual learning to continue to educate students.

Nationwide, more than 184,000 in the U.S. have been reported dead because of the virus. As the virus rages on, students are left wondering if they will have a “normal” year. Younger students such as freshmen here at Roosevelt may have a chance of coming back in their later school years with almost no precautions. What about the seniors? This is their last year. It’s possible that the rest of the 576-member seniors class’s school careers will be all virtual.

On the NEISD website, it is said that as soon as it’s safe for schools to reopen, schools will resume in-person instruction and students along with their parents will have a choice of continuing learning from a distance. The first small groups are coming back to the physical campus starting Sept. 8 with lessons still remaining on zoom. 

“I don’t think anyone wanted to return to school in the fashion that we have, but for everyone’s safety I understand,” 11th-12th grade counselor James Spencer said. “I’m sure this year will be a learning situation for all, but it’s important that everyone continue to work past the frustrations and be successful.”

With classes starting virtual and the district employing a college-like block schedule, students are learning new skills.

Students’ computers are now their portals to their teachers and classmates. Photo by Marcos Perales

“I would rather be in class with my peers,” senior Enrique Castaneda said. “However, online school is helping students grow more responsible and is naturally teaching us how to adapt, which is needed after high school.”

With this change comes a chance in time management. Students used to get 4.16 hours per week per class, now that has been cut down to three hours of synchronous time for each class. The remaining time is built in for tutoring, practice and blended learning as students start to return. 

As part of the NEISD  phase in plan, there are five phases that will lead back to full in-person learning for all who want it. Phase one consists of plans that are all virtual, so students will not be on campus. Starting with phase two, teachers will be allowed to admit no more than five students per classroom. The district is currently planning to start phase two on Sept. 8, while preparing for phase three and four which provide some more in person options. However, phase three is not set in stone and there’s no guarantee that school will continue onward right away. At least 14 days will have to pass before moving on to the next phase.  The dates will change with the local and state guidelines if prompted to. 

The changes have had ripple effects as students have learned to register digitally and get new teacher classroom codes after schedule changes. 

“Everyone is in a little bit of a panic not knowing what to expect or how things will work with virtual learning….we are all learning together,” 11th-12th grade counselor Darla Harper said. “Registrations and schedule changes have been difficult because communication is vital…just trying to make sure everyone has access to each teacher’s Google classroom and Zoom links has been challenging.”

Even as students start to come back to campus next week, the procedures will be far from what they are used to.

“I’m sure certain aspects of schooling and life in general will be changed forever,” Spencer said.