Como High staff and students size up distance learning

By Eric Erickson

St. Paul Public Schools will start the school year with distance learning.

Before the pandemic, students and staff at Como Park High School would be preparing to congregate in classrooms. But since COVID-19, they have had to shift to adjust for the new reality.

Science teacher Robyn Asher was relieved by the School District’s decision. “Starting the year in distance learning has relieved so much of my anxiety around safety fears for our community,” she said. “We don’t know enough about COVID-19 long-term effects and the health of students, staff and families is most important.”

Jill Wielgos, an English language learner teacher, also applauded the school district decision. While distance learning was “adequate at best” last spring, it’s the best option for student and staff safety now, she contended.

“I’m glad they didn’t wait any longer in announcing the decision since it gives schools and families time to prepare,” Wielgos said. “Understandably, the district, teachers, families and students rushed to adapt last spring, and did a pretty solid job. But I’m hopeful that we’ll have more structure in place this fall with the time to prepare. We can control some aspects of this otherwise tumultuous experience, which should bring structure to our students’ lives.”

Many people would agree the desire for structure is strong and forsaking regular routines has been challenging for people in daily society, including those in our schools. As a junior last spring, Justine Wulff missed daily instruction and interactions since students weren’t required to be in class at designated times. She hoped to start her senior year with a synchronous schedule and at least some in-person learning.

“The decision to go all online for the beginning of the year was much to my disappointment, but I understand that the school year will have to be different than past years due to the pandemic,” Wulff said. “I’m hopeful students will still have the ability to learn.”

Initially, Delaney Register-­Brown was disappointed to get the news about distance learning. She has come around to appreciate the safety aspect, but her experience with distance learning at the end of her junior year was challenging.

“I found it very hard to feel motivated. I struggled to keep social contact with my peers, which made me feel really sad and alone,” Register-Brown said. “I’m hopeful that we will be back in school at some point this year, so I will at least get to have some fun, senior year experiences as opposed to being stuck at home.”

Senior Mabur Bility also supports distance learning for this fall, even though she longs for school routines.

“I was very happy with the district decision,” Bility said. “I have not been affected by COVID-19 personally, and I would like to keep it that way. It is the safest solution for all of us.”

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park Senior High School.

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