By THE EDITORS-IN-CHIEF
WITH ONE YEAR passing since the COVID-19 pandemic first interrupted in-person schooling, JP Stevens has made substantial changes to its learning models to better accommodate students who prefer the school environment. While all students attended school remotely in September, a hybrid learning model was introduced on October 19; students who chose the in-person option attended school from 7:40 AM to 12 PM on all weekdays except Wednesdays, when school was held remotely while the entire JP building was deep cleaned. With the pandemic resulting in months of remote learning, JP began a return to normalcy through hybrid learning—a new format of instruction that has challenged the school community as a whole.
Through this transition to hybrid learning, the school has taken precautions to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. At the school entrance, a body temperature camera alerts security personnel if someone’s temperature is too high or if someone is not wearing a mask. Moreover, after all students and faculty leave, an electrostatic sprayer is used to disinfect surfaces. The safety of all students and faculty is the foremost concern of the administration, as all decisions are made with that in mind.
These careful precautions have allowed inperson learning to continue, and the return to a somewhat normal school day has afforded the school community many benefits, such as flexibility that allows the school to address student needs more easily. For instance, during “asynchronous periods,” classes did not meet on Zoom or Google Meet at their regular times; instead, students were assigned classwork to complete by a deadline. Thus, students were able to take a break from their computers, and complete classwork on their own time. Moreover, there has been a decrease in absences, as students can now attend class as long as they have an Internet connection.
During hybrid learning, technology has played a prominent role in easing the transition from remote to in-person school. The technological dependence caused by the pandemic has led to the discovery of resources, such as Zoom and Google Meet, that will change the future of education. “In the future, there will be frequent interaction with many different people through the technological infrastructure built during remote learning,” said Dr. Shallop. “This will create enriching experiences we may not have had before.”
While remote learning has introduced technological advances in education, the school has faced difficulties with the large amount of screen time students are getting. “Currently, I spend eight to ten hours a day on technology,” said junior Christie Chen. “In a normal school year, we would only use our MacBooks when we absolutely needed to because the majority of class time was devoted to discussing class material. However, now, all interactions are now through a screen, making it difficult to limit how much time we spend online.” Innovative modifications to a student’s daily routine can help curb the amount of time spent online, such as using pen-and-paper to take notes and spending time outside to disconnect from technology.
In addition to the concerns regarding screen time, the JP community has faced difficulties facilitating lessons and instruction in a personal way for students during hybrid learning. “Hybrid learning is a juggling act where I have to attend to a few students in class while still teaching my online class,” said Mr. Lee, the choir director at JP. “In-person students have to spread out so far that I can barely hear them, and online students often find it difficult to participate. We are making the most of it, however, and have emphasized community and connecting with one another over Zoom.” Although the hybrid format is a completely new model, teachers have demonstrated incredible resilience in finding ways to provide support to both remote and in-person students.
With in-person schooling resuming fully in September, JP is starting to adjust: during MP4, in-person students will attend school from 7:40 AM to 2:30 PM. Students will eat lunch at school, and socially distanced desks in the cafeteria will replace the traditional lunch tables.
In September, the majority of students will have been in the building for less than one year; one of the goals of the hybrid learning model, Dr. Shallop states, is to “reenergize the culture and revitalize the in-person interactions” for students who have not been able to experience JP culture to its fullest. Although the pandemic posed unexpected challenges, the JP Stevens community of staff, students, parents, and administration has demonstrated its resilience in finding solutions that prioritize the safety and the health of its constituents.