After closing the state’s schools through April 30, Gov. Tom Wolf last week, ordered all schools closed for the remainder of the school year.
The decision, based on the COVID-19 pandemic, has wide-ranging effects for students, their families and teachers. From elementary-age children to seniors approaching graduation, the closing of brick and mortar schools means “distance learning” and online meetings with teachers for the rest of the academic year.
John Kopicki, superintendent of the Central Bucks School District, said the third largest school district in Pennsylvania had been preparing for the announcement, however, he noted in a statement, “the news is difficult to hear.”
Online learning and teaching, said Kopicki, will continue through June 15.
According to the district’s website, instruction will take place in two basic ways during what it calls, Phase 2 of its distance learning plan.
One is asynchronous, where students can access assignments such as assigned readings independently at any time and get teacher feedback later.
The second type is synchronous, where pupils log into assignments at a specific time, with “real-time” feedback.
“Teachers will perform regular check-ins and reach out to students as necessary to provide feedback on student learning,” the website stated.
According to Pedro Rivera, the state’s secretary of education, requirements for a 180-day school year, the minimum number of days for pre-kindergarten and the minimum number of hours for career and technical education have all been waived for this school year.
The unprecedented changes have thrown seniors’ plans, in particular, into a spin, as graduation ceremonies are likely to be canceled and proms have been nixed.
“It’s definitely a different year,” said Clare Gray, a 12th-grade student at Central Bucks High School West.
The 18-year-old is taking the disruption in stride, though. “I’m not too torn up about it,” she said. “I’m just vibing.”
For Gray, the “mandatory slow down” hasn’t been all bad. “Everything was moving so fast, now we have to relax a little,” she said.
Still, having to forgo hearing your name called and the traditional walk to the stage to receive the coveted diploma is tough. “It does kinda suck,” said Gray. There may be a walk down her neighborhood street to mark the milestone achievement, instead, if it all works out.
She is disappointed about her senior prom, which she already bought a dress for. “It would have been nice to have it, but, it’s retro and I can wear it any time,” said Gray, adding, “I know some girls who spent a lot on their dresses.”
Julia Leder is like a lot of students these days. She misses her social life.
“I’m not as bad off as seniors, but I miss my friends and I miss my teachers too,” said the CB West sophomore. Her cheerleading schedule has also been disrupted, which she hopes won’t put her and her team too far behind, “when we get back to normal,” said the 16-year-old.