Article by: Madelynn Keller
As the first semester of a weird year comes to a close, it’s clear that some people would have strong feelings about how Davie County handled their students’ education during COVID-19. Whether people felt it was dealt with correctly or incorrectly, no one can fault the administration due to how fast the decisions on the current and upcoming instructional year had to be made. But what are the actual concerns of the students now that they have experienced half of their school year under the all virtual/hybrid schedule? First, let’s take a look at the beginning of the effects of COVID-19 on Davie County Public Schools.
COVID-19 In Our Public Schools
Beginning March 14, the North Carolina Public School Systems were shut down due to rising COVID concerns. This left the public school administration to throw together the remaining school year’s curriculum online and hope for the best. By May, many changes were made both for exams and the ways classes were counted on high school transcripts. Kids in grades 9-12 were given the option to not count certain classes toward their grade point average, and North Carolina canceled all NC Course Finals and in-person AP Exams. This begs the question from many, what made the end of last year different from the beginning of this year? Was there a greater risk of students getting COVID-19?
Plans for the New Year
Before the first day of school, the Davie County administration had to make the decision, how should school look this year? Three different plans were made, they ranged from in-person, hybrid, and a completely virtual school year. It was decided that each school in Davie (later excluding elementary) would have its population cut in half by location and go in-person two days a week and virtual for three. Social distancing guidelines would be implemented on all campuses and buses, and lunches would be eaten in classrooms. Following this announcement, there was a choice left to students and families to stay all virtual that lasted only for a short time.
Neighboring counties such as Davidson chose to go with a hybrid schedule, but their students are permitted to go back to an all-virtual schedule at any time in the instructional year. While Forsyth County decided to stay all virtual for the start of the year then transfer over in late January to a hybrid schedule not similar to Davie or Davidson’s schedule. However, all school, middle school, and grade 3-5 elementary school students are expected to still take their end of course/grade exams, no matter what type of schedule they experienced.
A Simple Yes or No
The Weekly Talon conducted a survey from Davie High students on the recap of the semester and received 175 responses. The poll revealed that 30.9% of students believe the Davie County Administration didn’t do its best to meet the needs of Davie High School students. More hybrid students responded to this poll than all virtual students, this is possible because it is easier to reach out to in-person students, so there is a bit of a bias with the numbers.
Following the first yes or no question, the poll asked the people who answered ‘No’ to elaborate on why they chose said answer.
An anonymous sophomore answered saying, “The school [DCHS] did a lot for us, but at the same time I feel like safety wasn’t as much of a priority as it should’ve been. In addition to that, the mental health of Davie County’s students wasn’t as big of a priority as it should’ve been.” The sophomore goes on to say, “It seemed like the most important thing was getting us back in school ASAP, which I understand, but also it should be acknowledged that a pandemic IS happening. The safety of our students is threatened everyday AND people are going into quarantine left and right- especially [DCHS] sports teams.”
Many other students shared the same attitude. “Social distancing protocols weren’t strict enough, especially in the hallways.” Sophomore Naomi Sheets goes on to say, “At the beginning of the year, teachers told us to “give them grace” because they were learning new things and trying to get used to the way school was this year just like we were… Many teachers held a double standard on how much leniency they ought to be given compared to their students.” Another anonymous student added on to the safety risks of being back at school by saying, “Masks are still seen under noses and it makes me uncomfortable and teachers are doing indoor mask breaks which also make me uncomfortable…”
On the opposite side, some people have felt that the social distancing and mask protocols were too strict. An anonymous junior asked for “more masks breaks,” and another student, Landon Correll, expressed his displeasure with the COVID-19 protocols saying, “COVID is not crazy.”
A common argument being used against people who are uncomfortable in social settings due to COVID-19 is ‘Why can’t you just stay at home then? But due to Davie County’s set up of virtual classes, students who have found themselves at risk on a hybrid schedule aren’t allowed to revert to online instruction. Which could be seen as unfair to students and families who didn’t know when the option was presented to them, what hybrid learning at Davie High School would look like.
Another concern brought up by several students was the lack of synchronized learning between A Day and B-Day kids. Seth Hill said, “[Teachers] should have Google Meets every day so students could still have a somewhat consistent schedule.” Junior Riley Little followed what Seth had to say by adding, “I wish more of my teachers would have done synchronous learning.”
Schedules, Stress, and Grades
Another line of questioning asked from participants in the survey was: “Was your schedule beneficial to you?” Out of 175 responses, 67.7% of people felt their schedule, whether it be hybrid or virtual, was beneficial to them.
But later when asked, “If your given schedule wasn’t beneficial to you, which one do you think would have been more beneficial?” 50% of participants chose completely in-person classes as being more beneficial than a hybrid schedule, leaving 33.1% of people to say that hybrid classes were ultimately the best for them, and 16.9% of people said that all virtual classes were the best for them.
Understanding that there were some virtual students taking the survey, the data was looked at more specifically. 75% of virtual students felt that their schedule was the best for them.
Following the questions about the schedule, the Weekly Talon thought it was important to know how the stress levels and grades of our peers were doing during this unprecedented time. Poll takers were given a scale from one to five, one being not stressed at all this semester, five being extremely stressed this semester, and they were asked to rate their stress levels from this previous semester.
The majority of people answered that they were average or above averagely stressed this semester compared to normal semesters. Only five poll-takers answered that they were not stressed at all compared to previous years.
Common themes educators see in stressed students is slipping grades, this semester potentially being no exception. Students were asked if their grades improved, suffered, or stayed the same this semester in comparison to a normal semester. And to no one’s surprise, 50.8% of poll takers saw their grades suffer.
When asked why their grades seemed to suffer, students didn’t hesitate to answer. Many students blamed technological and scheduling issues on why they didn’t do well in their classes. Sophomore Summer Simpson said, “I feel like I don’t learn as well off of videos as opposed to in class.” This was a common sentiment held by Sophomore Jay Niland who said, “To me, it is much more difficult to learn online. I mean, we’re stuck with videos to watch to teach us new concepts, and most of the time they aren’t that beneficial.”
Other students mentioned the cramming of material into two in-person class days every week, along with the inaccessibility of some teachers. “My grades suffered last semester because I was not receiving the proper amount of school time to learn, most of what I learned this past semester was self-taught.” Sophomore Stephanie Bueno continued saying, “Towards the middle of the semester, the days I would go to school would be for tests and quizzes that would last the whole period. We would not have much time for questions.”
Despite these hardships felt by all of Davie County Schools Students this past semester, the struggle of the teachers was recognized. The last question of the poll was, “What was one thing that you appreciated that the Davie County administration or one of your teachers did last semester?”
Multiple teachers were mentioned by name in this last question. Teachers such as Mr. Barker, Mr. Ferebee, Mr. Robinson, Mr. Meeks, Mrs. Reeves, Mrs. Shue, Ms. Wilson, and more were credited for their hard work and dedication to their students.
The most common things students enjoyed from their teachers were:
- Classroom discussions being brought outside on sunny days
- Lenient deadlines
- Extra credit opportunities
- Instructional/Review Google Meets
- Someone to talk to
So on behalf of the Weekly Talon, I would like to thank all of the Davie County Schools Staff for doing their best this past semester. The staff at the Weekly Talon can only imagine how hard this adjustment has been, and we thank you for trying your best to transition both yourselves and your students into this foreign situation.