RHS Students Practice Socially Distant, Virtual Learning


RHS Student Miranda Verity (Junior) practicing social distance learning from her home after Montgomery County schools went online.

The Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) announced in July that the first semester of the 2020-2021 school year would be held online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similar to the end of the 2019-2020 school year, RHS students are required to access online classes through their laptops or other electronic devices from home. 

To enhance distance learning for students, many changes have been made since the end of last school year, including set times for classes, different ways of providing assignments and a new block schedule.

One of the biggest changes being the newly implemented block schedule, classes are now organized as A-days on Mondays and Thursdays and B-days on Tuesdays and Fridays. Students only attend classes for four hours a day, rather than the usual eight during in-person learning.

“I hated the idea of [the block schedule] at first, but after a few weeks, I realized that I can’t handle all seven classes over Zoom everyday; I think MoCo made the right choice,” senior IB student Jedadiah Kouadio said.

In addition to the new schedule, Wednesdays are left open for asynchronous assignments and check-ins with teachers. With Wednesday being a check-in day, students can complete work, get extra help and ask teachers questions about assignments.

“While I believe many use Wednesday as an off day and don’t bother to do their work, I still believe it is necessary. Personally, I have actually been using these days to do my homework,” senior Taisia Mertz said.

As there is no requirement to attend virtual check-ins, some students also use this day to relax if they are done with all their schoolwork.

“Some Wednesdays, I actually take that extra time to catch up. However, since there is no mandatory meeting to attend that day, I can be drawn to not do anything and watch movies and shows instead,” junior Julia Feller said. 

RHS students are also adjusting to a new workload. Compared to the last-minute distance learning set up last year, the quantity of work students are given has increased significantly. Last year’s final semester online was not so rigorous, but now, there are more difficult assignments for students to complete and seniors are trudging through the college application process. 

Over summer break, MCPS had time to come up with a more developed plan for online learning this semester. However, after two months of a low productive final semester and a three-month long summer break, students are having difficulty adjusting to the official online learning environment.

“I’m scared about not being able to patch up learning holes from spring semester,” Kuoadio said.

In addition to the changes made during online learning, MCPS has moved from Google Classroom to MyMCPS Canvas. RHS students have been using Google Classroom for school work and turning in assignments for years, so the change was met with some uncertainty. 

Canvas includes far more options for students to check assignments and announcements, such as modules, files, announcements, collaborations and additional plug-ins that teachers can decide to include. Canvas also allows assignments to be viewed weeks before the due date, which can help students stay organized. 

“I actually like that everything is in one place. I think once you understand how MyMCPS Canvas works you’ll begin to prefer it simply because it gives you a lot more options,” said Mertz.

Clubs and events have also become virtual, allowing students to meet for other purposes. With the new structure in place, students are attending live classes more frequently and seeing their friends and teachers again, even if it is through Zoom.

“While online school isn’t ideal, it’s what we, as decent people and decent citizens, need to do. I would love everything to go back to normal, but I value human lives over my own interests,” Mertz said.