Returning to Roxbury Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic


Photo courtesy of the Roxbury School District.

The start of our 2020-2021 school year has been interesting, to say the least. With the global pandemic still circulating, we had to take many precautions before we could start the new school year. Plans had to be made and approved, students and parents had to be informed about their options, and administrators had to decide how to move forward once those decisions were made, and most importantly, how to keep everyone safe while still being able to go to school. 

Nervousness was a given when starting this year—everyone was on their toes wondering what would happen when you put a bunch of kids in a building for four hours with a deadly virus spreading. These questions continue to circulate as we approach the colder winter months. As we head into winter, it is expected that the number will continue to grow. This may force a shift in plans, which we have already seen a few times this year. 

We began the school year in Phase I, which meant half-days at half-capacity. Despite some initial reservations from community members, this phase worked remarkably well—with very few COVID-19 cases popping up throughout the district. As a result, on November 16, the district moved into Phase II.

The Phase II plan changed our schedule from being four-our school days to our 7:25-2:07 school day. Lunch took place in the cafeteria, each student getting an assigned table. Students were allowed to their masks off only while eating and were not allowed to socialize with each other. This was the best way to ensure that students could eat lunch safely, without putting themselves or anyone else at risk. The second part of the Phase II plan was that, instead of having an asynchronous day when your cohort is not in-person, students would virtually streaming into the live class that is happening while the other cohort is in school. This way, the teachers could go through lessons faster since both cohorts were on the same page. This also allows students to learn more and hopefully get a better understanding of the information they are learning through the help of their teachers, whom they will be getting more time with. 

Then, due to a rise in cases in the district in the weeks before Thanksgiving, Superintendent Loretta Radulic was forced to close the doors of RHS and shift the classes to a virtual platform. We are expected to return to in-person learning on December 15th.

Impact of the Schedules on Students 

Students were asked questions regarding their personal experiences with the new schedule and the school year so far, their answers were all similar in one way—they all preferred our Phase I schedule over our normal one from previous years. The completely understandable reason being that they do not have to wake up as early and they get a day to mostly focus on homework. They were also asked about their least favorite aspects of our current situation. One student said, “I’m having trouble with the work,” another said, “Having a lot of work and having it due the next day or so” and finally, a third student said, “The workload is much heavier,” s0 clearly there is a pattern here.

While seeing these responses, you must also take into account that because teachers have significantly less in-person class time, they have to compensate for that through more homework and asynchronous work. Students’ responses also showed that they found focusing and the ability to absorb new information harder than years past. We still have a long way to go, but together we can work through it, and hopefully, in the end, we can go back to school normally. However, until then we must do our part and practice social distancing, wear our masks, and wash our hands.