With the coronavirus pandemic making significant changes in our world, schools reconfigured how they operate to provide a safe environment for students, while still providing quality education. Adapting to the new online platform of learning and teaching proved to be essential in such odd times. To make things even more challenging, teaching students both in the classroom and online became yet another task for teachers to learn. But Pinnacle High School (PHS) teachers stepped up to the challenge to make sure their students received the best education possible.
As the school opened up for in-person learning in late February, teachers adapted to the hybrid learning model for the second time this year.
“The numbers seem like they are down a lot compared to how they were before [in the fall semester] and studies show the spread in school is pretty minimal due to social distancing and masks,” Mr.Rider, PHS Chemistry teacher, said. “My biggest thing is that I wish teachers didn’t have to teach both [online and in-person] at the same time.”
Although teachers love to see the classrooms filled with people again, reopening brought issues of teaching students in two very different teaching environments simultaneously. With teachers vaccinated, many felt ready to come back to school, comfortable with the procedures in their classrooms. A recent Blueprint Magazine poll showed that over 50 percent of PHS teachers who responded indicated that they liked the timing of the reopening. English and AP Seminar and Research teacher Mrs. Wood described teaching online and in-person as not hard but rather, too frantic.
“It’s juggling the technology, using both of my computers, making sure that all the kids can hear me, taking attendance, that all kind of adds to the work,” Wood said.
Unlike neighboring districts, Paradise Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) gave families the choice to stay online or return to school in-person. Of 542 families that responded, 54.2% decided to stay online, while 45.8% decided to come back in-person. Each option provided families the opportunity to choose the best learning environment for their student(s) in such unprecedented times.
Freshman Gigi Sykora chose to return back to school and felt happy to return.
“…I like being at school and seeing my friends. I also focus better at school than online,” Sykora said.
Junior Kaitlyn Fratantoni decided to stay online due to high-risk family members and making it safer for her to stay online.
“There are perks to staying home and learning is different, but I’ve been able to adjust to it, so it’s been ok for me,” Fratantoni said. She also discussed the negative aspects of remaining online. “I haven’t met my teachers or other classmates during the junior year, so that’s probably been the hardest part of staying online,” she said.
Monitoring the health of students and staff became a priority for a safe reopening. Moreover, Mr. Morales, PHS nurse, stressed the importance of taking precautions at the school. To keep the school open, the distancing of students and staff remained a priority.
“The District and Pinnacle collaboration has provided a safe environment for both students and staff,” said Morales. “The lack of a significant COVID outbreak has shown the distancing and masks work. There are the enter/exit pathways determined and in place in the halls and on the stairs. Also, there are limited numbers of persons allowed in my office and the administration offices. The school/district has attempted to limit class sizes and distances in the classrooms.”
Returning back to school proved a better option for some students. Some students’ grades even improved since their return back to school. Morales shared benefits of students coming back to school.
“It has been proven the ideal situation for student learning is in person. The socialization between people cannot be understated. There is a need for us to have a healthy interaction with one another,” Morales said.
Protocols in place also prove to keep the cases in school down.
“If a student has COVID symptoms, they are sent to the campus health office. They are assessed and placed in a quarantine room until picked up by the family,” said Morales. “If an exposure to a positive case is discovered those within 6 feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes within 24hrs are sent home and quarantined until testing negative.”
PHS principal Dr.Smith also regarded the reopening as in a positive way.
“[It’s] going well. Our protocols have been effective so far. Teachers are asked to space students out in class as much as possible. It’s not perfect but seems to be working.” Dr. Smith said. “I hope that a sense of normalcy can be returned soon. But for now I am happy to see students and feel a sense of normality and consistency since the reopening.”