Virtual Learning: A Historic First Week at Haverford

Elizabeth Wolfe, Editor-in-Chief

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The first day of school, which is usually a mix of anxiety and excitement, no longer had students stressing over a first day of school outfit or struggling to find their new classrooms. Instead, the first day was characterized by finding the right Zoom link, making the difficult decision of keeping the camera on or off, and participating in awkward breakout rooms.

This week, students began a historic school year filled with change and uncertainty. For the first time, all students at Haverford attended school from their homes and met teachers and classmates through Zoom. This was due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the health and safety hazards associated with reopening school. During the past week, there were 5,620 reported COVID-19 cases in Pennsylvania, and 291 in Delaware County alone. The prevalent number of cases and associated risk affecting the opening of school prompted Haverford to begin the year virtually, instead of the originally proposed hybrid model. Other high schools in the area also decided to begin their year virtually including Lower Merion High School, Harriton High School, Radnor High School, and Upper Darby High School.

All teachers put a great deal of effort into developing virtual classrooms through Canvas, which is now the main academic resource for Haverford. This paperless alternative allows for easy access to assignments while classes meet virtually. Zoom, however, has not always mirrored the same ease as Canvas. Despite its general effectiveness, Zoom meetings were occasionally plagued by muffled audio, poor internet connection, and faulty webcams.

Both students and staff are still adjusting to the new dynamic of being in a virtual classroom. Without video being required, Zoom meetings were a mix of animated faces and black screens displaying only a name. In addition, the social aspect of talking with friends and building new relationships has been restricted to randomly assigned breakout rooms. This method of learning has presented unique challenges; however, it is a new experience that requires everyone to work together.

There is still much uncertainty surrounding how the rest of the year will unfold. Everyone in the district is going to be online through September with the possibility of returning in October. However, plans for many activities after school are constantly being changed. The Central League recently released a statement announcing that the competitive aspect of fall sports will be postponed, and they are working on other solutions. The Central League did suggest that voluntary practices remain an option for teams. In addition, another extracurricular activity, competition marching band, has continued with their socially distanced rehearsals during this first week of school.

Drum Major Katie Gilroy wears a mask while conducting the competition marching band during a rehearsal on the first day of school. Elizabeth Wolfe

This virtual start to the 2020-2021 school year was unprecedented after students last physically attended school on March 12, 2020. After difficult COVID-19 decisions were made, teachers devoted much effort to creating cohesive online classrooms. This has ensured that no matter where students are “zooming” from, they are still able to receive a comprehensive Haverford education during this historic global pandemic.

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