The impact of COVID-19 on East Grand Rapids

Graphic+made+by+Becca+Meyer-Rasmussen+%2721

Graphic made by Becca Meyer-Rasmussen ’21

Full Online Students/Anecdotal Lead

Anabel Bee ‘21 wakes up every morning at 7:20 and joins her first hour English class from the comfort of her own desk. Throughout the day zoom meetings connect Bee to her in-person peers but also serve as a reminder of this year’s abnormality. This is a new reality for the many students who have chosen the hybrid plus option. Bee opted for full-virtual learning to most effectively mitigate the spread of the virus. “I don’t have any health problems but I am able to do all online so I thought it would just be better to go all online and not have to risk getting Covid,” Bee said. “If I’m able to, why not mitigate the risk?” Fostering community among hybrid plus learners is one positive aspect of the program. “I have started talking to a few new people that I don’t normally talk to because I’ve learned they’re hybrid plus and so we have like a couple of group chats and we chat a lot about when things are due,” Bee said. “We help each other out.”

Underclassmen

For incoming freshmen, transitioning from middle school to high school was especially difficult with unforeseen challenges due to Covid-19. “I think [the transition] was a little harder because stuff was pushed back, like the visit to the high school in eighth grade that got pushed back to the summer,” Alex Collins ‘24 said. Lila Nargi, also a freshman, had a similar experience. “I think it was harder because we don’t really get to tour the school and nobody really told us what high school would be about.” As the first semester of the 2020 school year winds to a close, Nargi reflects on her first year of high school amidst a pandemic, “[School] is going pretty well I mean I’m not doing amazing in all my classes but most of them are easy…I think it’s harder to learn on Zooms and stuff so I think that has impacted [this year] a lot.”

In-person School 

Students who chose the in-person learning model have adjusted to new norms within the classroom. Instead of lining up by the door before the bell rings, students practice social distancing as teachers sanitize the desks. Celia Bell ‘21 believes that students and staff have done a good job with these mitigation efforts. “I think my teachers are doing really well with cleaning the desks. I know when I’m online and there are students in the classroom the students are ending the zoom earlier so they have time to clean the desks and do the sanitary processes” Bell said. Although the in-person learning model is a step towards normalcy, Bell is disappointed about missing out on her senior year experiences, “Everyone’s saying how much fun their senior year is with the football games and everything and homecoming getting canceled definitely wasn’t fun,” Bell said, “It’s just kinda sad.”

Weigel

This school year administrators have dealt with added pressure due to the pandemic. For Mr. Weigel, it has been challenging to give students a “normal” school year without putting them at risk.“We continue to want to provide every opportunity that we normally would for our students in the safest way possible,” High School Principal Craige Weigel said. “There’s been some things that we’ve lost out on but we’ve done our best to think of other ways to recognize our students and to support school programming.” Another challenge for administration was coordinating the various learning models with students and teachers. “It’s been really challenging for our teachers to navigate through the in-person simultaneously with our virtual students,” Weigel said. “It was difficult in the hybrid model, it’s difficult in this model, and I think that’s added a lot of stress to education, in general, trying to meet all those needs and demands.”

Teachers

One thing consistent about the pandemic has been inconsistency. With a wide range of learning models implemented this year, teachers at East Grand Rapids are faced with unfamiliar challenges when combining virtual learning and in-person classes. “[This year] has been incredibly difficult, incredibly challenging, and very taxing on everyone involved,”  World Language Teacher Sra/Mme. Ibara said. “You just don’t feel like you have any stability.” One notable obstacle was adapting to new technology such as Canvas and Zoom. “The first month to six weeks of teaching was incredibly stressful because no one knew what they were doing. You were trying to teach a lesson and figure out the learning platform and figure out zoom all at the same time,” Sra./Mme. Ibara said. Despite these challenges, Sra/Mme. Ibara has hope for the rest of the school year after seeing the comradery radiated by her classrooms. “Every day I look forward to seeing students,” Ibara said. “I think for me the resilience and the flexibility of the students is the best thing about this year so far.”

Quarantined by School 

One challenge this year was properly dealing with students who tested positive for Covid-19. Although the number of cases was minimal, many students were affected due to mandatory quarantining. Junior Tori Shannon was one. “I think quarantining was the right decision. Quarantine and online school taught me a lot about time management, so my days are more organized now.” After the school went virtual for two days the week of October 26, some students had different opinions about the best way to take precautions. “I think the school handled online school appropriately, but I think we switched back to full in person too soon,” Shannon said. Brooklyn Oosse ‘21 also had a different perspective, “I understand quarantining if they were within six feet close contact but then once they go get a test and it’s negative then maybe treat those kids differently because they’ve proven they don’t have it,” Oosse said. As the number of cases continues rising in the United States, East Grand Rapids is left to wonder how the global pandemic will continue to affect our small community.