The first quarter has come to an end and about 166 online students have returned to Lakewood High School. An additional six students asked to go from face-to-face learning to online learning. That means the school, which had only about 450 face-to-face students for the first quarter, now has a little over 600, with about 400 remaining online.
The district was allowing a maximum of 15 students in classes before, but now that some students have returned it’s been raised to 25 students in a face-to-face classroom. The administration said it was able to accommodate everyone’s requests.
“A lot of us are torn between being thrilled to see more students and being concerned that everyone is staying safe. In addition, having students change their schedules is disruptive to classes and gradebooks and so teachers have had to deal with that as well,” assistant principal Joey Serra said.
Serra said families had to fill out a form by Oct. 6 on the Pinellas County schools website to request that their children be switched from online to campus or vice versa. He then contacted the families to let them know if they could switch and when. Families didn’t need a particular reason to switch, but if a student expressed having difficulties with technology, Serra said he tried to address that first.
Sophomore Nate Sosa-Jones was an online student and returned to school on Oct. 27.
“I think it will be safe for students, or as safe as possible for students, if we all keep our distance as much we can and wear masks and stay clean,” Jones said.
Still, he said he worries about the larger number of kids in a classroom.
“The entire time this quarantine has been going on the focus of it has been to social distance, and I feel that more kids in schools gets rid of that rule. But I am coming back to school because I can’t take this online school anymore,” Jones said.
While some plan to return and already have, others feel that it is still unsafe and will remain online until at least second semester.
“My mom decided that it would be better to wait until COVID-19 gets handled, better because it will be so many students at school, it will be harder to social distance while in the halls and switching classes,” junior Layla Frazier said.
Junior Nia Mccord said she felt like she wasn’t engaged having to sit in front of a computer screen for six hours a day, she felt she could do much better than she was doing. Mccord was one of first students who have switched from online learning to attending on campus.
“I was so anxious to sit in the classroom and look at my teachers,” Mccord said.
She said being online was disorganized and getting her work done was hard because nobody was there to hold her accountable. She feels like everybody should consider switching if they’re having a hard time learning online.
“I thought online was more difficult, for me at least,” Johnson said. “The only thing I like from online was probably not wearing a mask.”
Principal Erin Savage said she is happy some kids are back, but she is glad that not everyone chose to.
“I do not think it is a good idea to bring 1,000 students back into the building while coronavirus is still active and has no cure,” she said.
Two cases of coronavirus – one a student and one a member of the staff – have been reported at Lakewood during the first quarter. Savage said the health of students and staff are the main concern.
“Plant operations will continue their nightly cleaning and disinfecting, and we will still focus on masks, hand washing, sanitizing and social distancing,” she said. “It is hard enough to ensure 435 students are wearing masks and social distancing. With (more) students it will be more difficult.”
If classes go above 25 students, some kids’ schedules will have to be changed. Serra said he will make the changes so that kids will have the same teacher just different periods.
“But a vast majority of kids and teachers will keep the same schedule,” Serra said.