When Culver City High School, CCHS, decided to close its doors on the last day before spring break, it left its thousands of students unsure how learning would continue in the wake of COVID-19. When school resumed virtually, two weeks later, the result was a rushed, haphazard plan that raised more questions than it was meant to answer.
The onset of the new school year was meant to provide the administration with a prime position to try and rectify its mistakes. At least, that was the assumption. With the start of school upon us, CCHS’s new learning plan looks nearly identical to that of last year – and fails to address some of the most pressing concerns plaguing teachers and students alike.
Among these concerns is the question of how teachers would enforce participation in classes. Student participation took a heavy dip post-closure, and only got worse as the school year progressed towards June. Perhaps the biggest source of this virtual truancy was the school’s official policy on attendance. To be marked present, all a student had to do was check in with their teachers once a week, whether that be by email or Zoom meeting. In the event that students couldn’t accomplish this weekly check-in, no matter – it wouldn’t count against their truancy record in the slightest, and neither would they be punished in any other way.
The school still hasn’t announced whether it’ll be following the same attendance policy for this school year. Doing so would likely mean more dropouts for unambitious students, though at the same time, moving towards a stricter policy might lead to unfair punishment for those with complicated, COVID-impacted, home situations. The hope is that CCHS can address this concern soon, since as of now, little information has been provided.
Another concern is how teachers will be able to hold exams for their students. Certainly, fully open-note exams seem infeasible – how would that be managed, after all, in classes like history, where a large component is memorization of facts? Closed-note exams also seem impossible – online learning is replete with avenues to cheat, and proctoring technologies like ProctorU are rife with privacy concerns. CCHS has yet to address this issue either, though the current assumption does seem to be that the school is leaning towards being fully open-note. If this is the case, then the result will likely be major grade inflation, which is of course a significant problem.
CCHS has succeeded in solving one issue, however – that of providing internet access to students without a computer or phone at home. The school is currently lending Chromebooks to anyone who requires them, a policy that should prove helpful in increasing participation among disadvantaged students.
CCHS’s plan is still evolving, and new information will likely emerge as the school year begins. It still remains to be seen whether the school can fully transition to online learning for an entire semester – or whether education too will fall victim to the coronavirus.