Editorial Board: Virtual Learning Days in 4th Quarter

February 25, 2021

The+Messenger+staff+engages+in+various+activities+with+their+extra+time+before+and+after+classes+on+virtual+learning+days.+We+applaud+RSD+for+sending+a+waiver+to+the+Department+of+Elementary+and+Secondary++Education+%28DESE%29+to+extend+virtual+learning+days+into+fourth+quarter.

Media by Connor Del Carmen, Julie Cooper, Marin Ellington and Arpitha Sistla

The Messenger staff engages in various activities with their extra time before and after classes on virtual learning days. We applaud RSD for sending a waiver to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to extend virtual learning days into fourth quarter.

After listening to feedback from the community, RSD will be continuing virtual learning days. Superintendent Dr. Mark Miles, recently sent a waiver to DESE to gain approval for virtual learning days in fourth quarter Dr. Lisa Counts, Assistant Superintendent of Supervision of Schools said. However, this waiver has not yet been approved.

Principal Dr. Steve Hankins said at the time of introduction of virtual learning days, the administration had approval from the Department of Secondary Education (DESE) for only third quarter due to the seven course block schedule. 

RSD first introduced five virtual learning days in the third quarter as a way to accommodate online and in-person students in one setting, allow for professional development for teachers and give students time to navigate their own shortened and flexible school day. 

In this time of instability, we applaud RSD for making the best decision for both students and staff.

At a time when social interaction is abysmal, the first few virtual learning days were the first instances where we met all of our peers, both online and in person, and interacted with them as if our lives were normal.

Many of our teachers use virtual learning days as review days for content, skills enrichment or asynchronous work, and we thoroughly enjoy the change in nature from the usual 90-minute lectures during block days. While many of our teachers have brought up how the short class periods strain instruction, we alternatively believe the strain has forced our classes to be more engaging and creative. 

Our teachers have had to compress and modify their usual curriculums, leaving little time for review and very few opportunities for students to pause and ask questions. Virtual learning days give teachers and students the opportunity to intimately “check in” with each other to ensure the best retention of information. Virtual learning days also allow for office hours, which was a part of our schedule in the first semester but not the second semester due to the block schedule.

The late-start feel virtual learning days have and their engaging content mimic a collegiate learning experience, with casual lectures and more flexibility in our schedules before and after school. In a year when many aspects of academics seem uncontrollable, this flexible time allows us to take back some control.

However, we understand some of the predicaments of such a short period of instruction. Thirty minutes seems too short for some lectures and too long for other small activities. We recommend that the virtual learning days schedule change to 49-minute classes, mimicking the old A day schedule of past years.

Back then, that specific amount of time seemed enough for teachers to squeeze in a lesson and an activity. While that would decrease the amount of time we have before classes start, it could allow for more productivity and a glimpse of our past schedule that worked well. In addition, if we are to have issues meeting state-mandated minutes of instruction, a longer virtual learning day could lessen the possible disparity. 

The instatement of the virtual learning days showed us that RSD does prioritize our social-emotional health, and we hope they continue to take that into consideration. 

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