Changing Schedules at RHS


Photo courtesy of the Roxbury School District.

After the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools across the country in mid-March, districts had to decide how they would send their students back to school safely at the beginning of the next academic year. In Roxbury the process was a long one that involved the district’s board members, teachers, parents, and even students. With the recent increase in cases across the town, state, and country, schedules have changed yet again.

Some students have been able to quickly adapt to these ever-changing schedules with ease, but other students have found it to be frustrating and complicated. The “Phase 1” schedule consisted of “Virtual Mondays” and a hybrid schedule throughout the rest of the week. Students met meet for all their classes on Mondays during short, 30-minute blocks. Tuesdays through Fridays, students met meet for classes either in-person or virtually, the day depending on their individual cohort.

This schedule was easy for students to adapt to, as it provided some students with the normalcy of going back to school and others with the comfort of staying at home. The shorter 40-minute periods, 20-minute afternoon meetings, and asynchronous time also helped students ease through this transition. As we saw the first marking period come to a close, we also saw the end of our “Phase 1” schedule.

Since only a small number of students and faculty members had contracted the coronavirus after going to school, none of which were reported to have occurred in the building, the district felt confident in their ability to send students back for full days at half-capacity or for half-days at full-capacity. While some families decided to keep their children all-virtual or switch their children to an all-virtual schedule, others decided to stick with in-person instruction and send in their kids for full days of school.

Although “Phase 2” was off to a successful four-day start, that quickly came to a screeching halt. With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, cases were being reported in record-breaking numbers every day throughout the United States. Combined with colder winter weather, which then forced many into smaller, more enclosed spaces, Roxbury High School was faced with a choice.

On Monday, November 24th, the district announced that students at Roxbury High School and Eisenhower Middle School would not be returning to their respective campuses until Tuesday, December 15th. This was due to an increase in cases in both schools. While some were unsure if in-person school would return on the 15th, many were hopeful that they would be able to see their friends and teachers again before the upcoming winter holidays. As COVID cases continued to surge in the community, Superintendent Loretta Radulic announced on Tuesday, December 8th that all schools would be transitioning to remote learning until January 19th, 2021.

But how do students actually feel about the change in schedules? Why did they decide to stay at home or go to school? Seniors Alexia Arseniu, Monique Whitfield, and Sophia Moschella each chose to start their final year at Roxbury in a different way. One student has chosen to stay all-virtual for both marking periods, another stayed home for the first but came into school for the second, and the final student chose to go into school for both marking periods.

When asked why she chose to stay home for the first marking period, senior Alexia Arseniu cited a number of reasons. Ultimately, the health of herself and her family was her top priority. “I felt that it was a safe choice for my health and my family’s health, as well. I didn’t want to jeopardize anyone.” She says her experience “wasn’t too bad,”and she feels it has helped prepare her for college. Arseniu’s first marking period experience, as well as the rising number of cases in the country, helped her make the decision to stay home again during marking period two.

Similar to other students, Arseniu also preferred the “Phase 1” schedule above all others. When asked about it she said, “I felt very independent and was able to form my own personal schedule… Although we had to wake up by 7:30, I didn’t mind it because my afternoons were free to rest, catch up on work, and other things.” While she enjoys the current schedule, she finds it difficult to focus while staring at a screen for 50 minutes. However, she understands that teachers need as much time as they can get to teach their students.

Monique Whitfield, senior, stayed home for the first marking period after making a mistake on a Google Form survey. While Whitfield tried to make the best of her experience at home, she could only describe it as “miserable.” She stated, “I didn’t like the fact that everyone else was in school and I was one of the only ones home. It was hard to stay motivated and focused in class.”

After her initial all-virtual experience, Whitfield then decided to switch over to the hybrid schedule for marking period two. She enjoys the social interaction that she has with other students, even if it is limited, as well as being in a more focused environment. When asked which schedule she preferred, she was quick to respond with the “Phase 2” hybrid. Whitfield says, “Hybrid has been my favorite because it feels like you’re getting the most normal experience you can get during COVID.” As a senior, she also enjoys being able to go out for open lunch to help break up her day.

Finally, senior Sophia Moschella has selected hybrid schedules for both marking periods due to her difficult academic schedule. “I chose the hybrid option for the first marking period because I took two honors/AP sciences classes, and I thought it would be better for me to complete the labs in person.” Moschella also enjoyed the smaller class sizes, which allowed for more one-on-one student to teacher interactions. Seeing the other members of her cohort take the COVID safety precautions seriously also put her more at ease.

Moschella continued going to school because she felt “the benefits of staying in school outweighed the negatives.” While she feels the transition to our current all-virtual schedule has been “fairly easy,” she does cite one challenge. “The only setback is that it is difficult to understand the material in some harder classes, so I’m anticipating a slight drop-off in grades this marking period.”

Roxbury High School’s decision to offer options to their students has proven to be a smart one, as different students have different experiences with their preferred learning styles as well as differing levels of comfort when it comes to returning to school during a pandemic. While the school has had to endure changing its schedule numerous times, most students have been able to adapt quickly enough so their learning is not hindered. This will bode well for the district and its students if any new changes are introduced after the New Year and before marking period three.