By Ceylin Erkan ‘23
After a much needed few months of respite, the start of a new school year brings new hopes, possibilities, and excitement for many students on the Close. Students wait eagerly to reconnect with friends and meet their new teachers, ready to take on another year full of learning.
This year, in an effort to protect everyone’s health, NCS will start the 2020-2021 school year with a “remote-plus” learning model. To summarize, after participating in an orientation week at the start of September that includes in-person meetings with homerooms, students will engage in community events and online learning using the Zoom video conference software, and asynchronous instruction will be delivered using discussion boards, group work, and independent assignments. Though it sounds similar to the learning model established in the fourth quarter of the 2019-2020 school year, this model includes a new daily schedule that better suits online learning and community events. Moreover, considering class experiences this past spring, teachers have designed innovative courses that are more efficiently taught in an online learning environment.
This education plan, involving many adjustments and improvements, presents different challenges for students across all grades. The freshmen, along with students who are new to NCS, are not able to have a usual start to their upper school experience and meet their new classmates in the same way. Sophomore year is when most students start to figure out what they are more interested in, and their lack of the full experience in classes may prevent them from knowing what they truly enjoy and prompt them to choose classes later on that might lead them on a path that isn’t necessarily right for them. Juniors have to start their college application process doing virtual college tours and the challenging coursework may be difficult to learn remotely, and last but certainly not least, seniors are not able to enjoy a usual senior year full of vibrant school traditions.
However, the remote start to the school year comes with as many opportunities and advantages. Classes being online and sports not being offered in-person during this time, students have more free time, which can help them stay on top of their schoolwork and do activities they enjoy but usually don’t have the time for. “I think that the new model is a very creative and effective solution to balancing schoolwork and proper rest from electronics. I also think that the new model provides an easy and effective integration back into in-person school in a way that maximizes cleaning and learning. While I recognize there are some challenges with this new schedule, I think that the new model works best for NCS” says Sigrid Drefke, a sophomore. Fiona Herbold, a junior, says, “I appreciate the administration’s decision to go remote for September. While I understand that this new model can add academic stress to our lives, being remote helps me feel less worried about who I’m being exposed to and how my classmates are handling their health. There’s so much less control in a hybrid/in-person model, and that can be just as stressful for students, especially for those who are high-risk.” Ally Wilkinson, a senior, says, “Obviously I’m upset about not getting to experience the fall of my senior year in the same way, but I’m willing to sacrifice that to make sure we keep our teachers safe. I also am super impressed by scheduling this year which allowed most people to take the electives they signed up for.”
The remote start may seem intimidating for some given the challenges of distance learning, but the 2020-2021 education plan has incorporated very effective ideas, possibilities such as shifting to a blended-learning model later in the school year, and solutions to problems experienced past spring. If we try to take advantage of the opportunities and stay optimistic about how the rest of the school year will unfold, I’m sure we can make this year another one to be proud of.