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COVID-19 Forces Sequoyah School to Transition to Distance Learning

On March 12th, Head of School Josh Brody sent an email to all students and families notifying them that school would close on Monday, March16th in light of the rapidly spreading COVID-19 virus. The email stated that although the campus would be closed, classes would continue online. Brody stated that the decision was made in consultation from PASH (Pasadena Area School Heads) as well as in response to directives from health authorities to practice social distancing. 

This decision came only days after the school decided to postpone the upcoming tenth grade trip to Costa Rica. In an email sent out to tenth grade families, Director of Social Innovation RJ Sakai stated that the decision was made in conjunction with the school’s partners in Costa Rica. Sakai noted that this year’s tenth graders will still go to Costa Rica next year as 11th graders. Instead of the international trip, the tenth graders will take a three day trip along the coast of California to learn about our regional marine system in the time that the Costa Rica trip was planned for in Mod 7. 

Despite Sequoyah’s campuses being closed, classes will still take place online. Students and teachers will be using Zoom, a remote video conferencing program, to continue classes at a distance. Though Zoom does support some features that can help facilitate remote learning,  as teachers being able to annotate students’ screens as well as sharing their own screen, some teachers do have concerns about the idea of distance learning. Chemistry teacher James Roberts said that he does worry about keeping his class interactive and keeping students engaged, but overall does feel that the move to close school was “the right thing for us to do as a community.” Roberts also noted that, since ”so much of this school is 1-on-1 and community based” learning, “it’s going to be hard to keep that up.” Despite his concerns, Roberts is “optimistic” and “knows that great things are going to happen even under trying circumstances.”

Students have expressed mixed reactions to Sequoyah moving to distance learning, though many students agreed that they did not think that the school would close this early. Freshman Penn Neubert commented on the rapid, seemingly overnight change from the virus “being joked about to being very serious and actually shutting down our school.” Ninth grader Anna Bluestone also “thought there would be some more lead up. I thought there would be at least another week where it got worse and then we would close.”

Some students did express concern over switching to distance learning. Neubert said he thinks “it will be quite difficult because I’m a visual person and right now I have classes that are very visual like geometry and art.”

Many Sequoyah students, however, have taken Global Online Academy (GOA) classes recently where they have practiced distance learning. Senior Jude Davidge noted that his GOA courses “work out well” and thinks distance learning “will be fine.”

Though students and teachers have mixed views on how distance learning will end up playing out, everyone The Barefoot Times interviewed agreed that the school closure was the right decision. In 1918, the Spanish flu plagued American cities, killing thousands. During this time cities all took different approaches to protect their citizens from the virus. Philadelphia, for example, took almost no preventive measures: students continued to go to school, public gatherings were allowed, and so on. In St. Louis, a different strategy was taken: they closed schools, banned public gatherings, and took many other actions like those that are taking place now around the globe to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These contrasting practices and outcomes serve as an example that proves social distancing practices such as closing schools work and save lives and that Sequoyah’s recent measures will be beneficial to limiting the spread of COVID-19.