Off, On and Off

Looking into the rocky in-school experience for the Parker eighth graders


From in-school, socially distanced, and masked, to at home and online, the eighth grade class has moved their learning environment many times. Going into the 2020-2021 school year, the Lower, Intermediate, and Middle School students were granted in-school learning. Every day, the eighth grade would go with masks and social distance rules in place, like the rest of Middle and Lower School. Through the first half of the first semester, the eighth grade had four cases in just around three months. The students moved on and off online school, readjusting constantly. As they inched towards the middle of the first semester, the eighth grade teachers made the decision to move the class fully online.

Eighth grader Gemma Franco went online twice. “The last time I went online it was only supposed to be for two weeks, but now it is until January,” Franco said. “The first case that happened shocked me because everything was so different and everyone was adjusting to the new environment.” 

Eighth grader Jane Lennon said that finding out there was a new case was scary. “When I first found out, I didn’t know if I could have been exposed,” Lennon said.

 In the eighth grade four cases occurred, but three of them happened around the same time. “The first time my parents got an email during the night about the case and me moving online,” Franco said, “but I think the teachers and students transitioned well into online.” 

Eighth Grade english teacher David Fuder said the first transition was the hardest one. “We weren’t given appropriate time to prepare for the switch to remote,” Fuder said, “and teaching remotely using an in-person schedule had its difficulties for students and teachers alike.” 

 Lennon said it was annoying the second time because the grade had only been back for around a week. “I don’t know if when we came back from our two weeks online I really saw any change to make anything safer, but truthfully it was pretty safe to begin with,” Lennon said. 

Lennon says she would prefer for school to be in-person, but for the situation they were in, it made sense. “I think it was a smart choice to move online because the coronavirus is getting pretty bad, and our grade had a good number more cases than other grades in school,” Lennon said. Lennon still hopes to go back in January. Franco, on the other hand, doesn’t agree with the choice to go online because no cases were developed from school. “In the future I do hope we all go back because it will further everyone’s education,” Franco said, “and personally, it will help me learn more and be more productive.”

Fuder believes that teaching in-person makes communication and collaboration challenging due to masks and social distancing. “Being remote presents different distractions and tech issues,” Fuder said, “but I like the more intimate feeling that comes with remote learning.” While online, Fuder is able to see all of his students’ faces in close proximity, allowing their discussions to have greater depth and more effective communication overall. 

As of now, the eighth grade is scheduled to return to school in January after December break. Franco, Lennon, and Fuder all seem hopeful for a return but know it must be safe. “I’ll approach it with new ideas and plans for making it as effective as it can be,” Fuder said, “but regardless, this journey has been a reminder of how much I value the progressive nature of education that we had pre-pandemic, and I’m confident this experience will sharpen us as educators for the future.”