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Gull Lake High School strives to optimize education during pandemic

Gull Lake high School (GLHS) has been changing their education programs to find the safest and most effective way to educate students. Gull Lake originally introduced the hybrid program on October 5 after being virtual since the beginning of the school year. The school switched back to virtual learning on November 16 and will return to hybrid again on December 9. 

Students get less time in school and complete more school work independently on days they are not in school.

“[Students] mostly express that it is hard to learn the material without having the class time to ask their questions,” said GLHS math teacher Annemarie Gerrish.

It is much harder to deal with mental health and schoolwork during a pandemic. Either my mental health suffers, or my grades suffer

MacKenzie morse

GLHS still must meet state curriculum standards but have less time to do it, leading to frustrations on the part of many students such as senior MacKenzie Morse.

 “The content is not being covered well, our information is being rushed through, and we are being overloaded with homework,” said Morse.

Along with students like Morse who are frustrated with the workload and the speed of the curriculum, GLCS teachers have had less time to cover the same state curriculum guidelines, and they acknowledge the pressure students are feeling along with GLHS Principal Don Eastman.

Students express increased stress over homework during Covid pandemic. Photo courtesy of Little Silver via Flickr.

 “We are still meeting all those standards, but you might not be getting it at a certain depth or you might not be spending the same amount of time on them,” Eastman said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges including symptoms of anxiety and depression. Some GLHS students have been experiencing these challenges.

“It is much harder to deal with mental health and schoolwork during a pandemic. Either my mental health suffers, or my grades suffer,” Morse said.

The CDC also stated that studies on students and employees show a loss of incentive since the pandemic began.

I cannot get the motivation to do assignments when I am not in school.

anonymous student

Increase in teacher-student contact is the best way to remedy this problem according to those same studies. GLHS plans to transition to full-time in-person learning to give students more face-to-face time as soon as it’s safe to do so–if possible in January when school returns from holiday break.

“We will merge group A and group B and come to school Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday,” Eastman said. “The plan is to take Wednesday off to make sure we are serving [virtual students] well, planning, doing professional development and giving students time to do their asynchronous work from home as well.” 

Eastman also said that for the most part, students who are struggling in school are the same ones who struggled before the pandemic, but they are having an even harder time now. According to teachers, many of these struggling students often don’t reach out to teachers when they are having difficulties.

“Students are not trained very well to ask for help, in my experience, and this is something I also need to work on,” said GLHS English teacher Ray Antel. “I try to increase the opportunities and methods that students can use to reach out for help.”

I am shocked and very pleased with how much teachers have learned in six months.

Don eastman

 GLHS will transition back to the hybrid program and with plans to soon getting to full time in-person school, but Eastman believes this might present a new set of academic challenges.

“We could have a hundred students and families saying they are not comfortable coming [to school],” Eastman said.

Also, some students and families do not have access to internet or technology, and GLCS has kept this in mind while implementing hybrid and virtual programs.

“We gave out hundreds of laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots to families. Teachers will be preparing to teach their class in their classroom and let students Zoom or Google Meet in from home,” Eastman said.

Gull Lake Community Schools has relied more heavily on technology to educate students. Photo curtesy of Julia Cameron via Pexels.

Since originally switching to virtual schooling on March 13, Eastman said teachers have had to learn a lot about Zoom, Google Meet and technology in general.

“When we were all sent home for what we thought would be a two week break, most of us did not even know what the word Zoom meant,” Eastman said. “I am shocked and very pleased with how much teachers have learned in six months.” 

Teachers have said attendance and participation are factors of poor performance from students in GLHS before, but especially during the covid pandemic.

The number one reason students are not passing is they are not coming to school, they are not getting on Zoom, and they are not doing their asynchronous work,

Don Eastman

“Students who are typically successful are able to do their work,” Eastman said. “Students who typically struggle are struggling at a higher rate. We see either large or no success with less middle ground.”

Through the Covid pandemic, Eastman said he believes we need to be there for each other through all of the stress and hard times.

“What is most important is taking care of each other,” Eastman said. “We are going to get through this. There is going to be ups, downs and struggles, so try to have patience with one another, be kind to one another and put yourself in other people’s shoes.”

Author Profile

Anna Clinton
Anna Clinton
Hello, my name is Anna Clinton and I am a Junior at Gull Lake High School. I have always had a passion for writing and love to implement that passion into journalism. It is my second year as an editor in the newspaper, but I am excited to start another year on the team!

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