Students and teachers at Zionsville Community High School have been forced to adapt to a new normal in and out of classrooms, but after a week of classes, some say the unprecedented transition has happened quicker and more successfully than expected.
ZCHS began its school year Aug. 10. A day later, students entered classrooms for the first time since March. Many students have returned to in-person learning under a hybrid model, while some have chosen to learn remotely.
Lily Cross, a ZCHS senior, said her generation is uniquely prepared for a school schedule that has elements of distance learning and in-person learning.
“I feel like, honestly, we are the best generation to do this,” Cross said. “We all grew up, even in middle school, using technology, and I think that we’re a very adaptable generation. We are good at going with the flow and doing what we need to do.”
Cross said her teachers have helped make the transition easier and that she enjoys the smaller class sizes that come with the school’s hybrid model that has sequestered students into two cohorts. Cross said her teachers, wearing microphones, will stop a lessen to ask in-person students and remote students if they have questions and offer breakout Zoom rooms for remote students to partner in groups for other lessens.
“It’s up to you,” Cross said. “You can sit through a Zoom and sort of pay attention, but I’d say it’s more like a lecture, where the teacher will give a lesson or lecture for 30 or 40 minutes, then turn the time over to you to work independently and get what you need done, so I feel that’s preparing us for college and online classes, even.”
Although Cross understands the relative risks of reopening schools during the pandemic, she feels safe due to the mitigation efforts the school district has employed. She said she is grateful to still have a senior year where she can see her friends because not all Indiana school districts have reopened with in-person classes.
Lindsay Alessandrini, a Spanish teacher at ZCHS, and Bob Brennan, an economics and AP microeconomics teacher at ZCHS, have experimented with different ways to engage students at the start of the academic year.
Alessandrini has used Zoom to allow students to pair together to practice speaking in a foreign language, giving them contact lists so they can practice together when needed. Brennan sets a tablet on a tripod in his class so that remote learners can see him and the class while he’s teaching
“That way when we’re talking, we all feel like we’re somewhat in the same room,” he said.
Under the school’s new block schedule, all students will take a student support class, allowing them to work on homework, get help from a teacher or relax.
Because of the rapid restructuring of daily classwork in March, Alessandrini said teachers were forced to explore methods of teaching, such as recorded lesson explanations, that were integrated into her current lesson plans, thus making the start of this semester easier.
Although Brennan said the reduced frequency of in-person classes with each student presents challenges, he expects teachers and students to continue to adjust and overcome the obstacles with time.
“I think that every kid I’ve talked to is just grateful to come into class and to see people and be social, obviously from a distance, to be able to just be able to be in school and have some normalcy,” Cross said.