After almost six months out of school because of the coronavirus, Eastern Iowa students were looking forward to returning to classrooms in September.
But when the derecho storm swept through Iowa on Aug. 10, decimating some school buildings, in-school classes once again were delayed in Cedar Rapids as the district worked on repairs.
Jefferson High School sophomore Ava Miles, 16, was enrolled in the Cedar Rapids district’s hybrid learning model. However, with the building severely damaged by hurricane-force winds, the high school started online-only instruction on Sept. 21.
“I was disappointed, but I understand there was no possible way we could go back with the damages,” Ava said. “I just had to rewire my brain to be ready to go back all online.”
Cedar Rapids high schools were going to be in a hybrid learning plan, with high schoolers in buildings two days a week and being taught online the other days.
Students were to be divided into two groups, by the first letter of their last names, to reduce the number of students in the building each day.
With the derecho, all high school students were moved to online learning until buildings are repaired.
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Elementary and middle-school students had the option of online or in-person learning, and most schools were able to reopen after the derecho.
Ava, who spoke with The Gazette before school started in August, chose the hybrid learning model because she believed she would learn best in-person.
Almost two weeks into a virtual trimester, Ava said she is surprised to find she enjoys online learning.
Ava’s classes each have between 20 and 30 students, and lectures are 90 minutes, she said.
Choir is a little different virtually. With about 100 students in choir together, the teacher leads instruction with student microphones off. Ava finds herself singing on her own at home.
“It definitely is kind of awkward,” she said. “It’s not really a choir and more of a solo singing class.”
The one class Ava attends in-person is band a couple times a week at Kingston Stadium.
All band members have a special mask that allows them to play their instrument and be socially distant.
Tyler Brueggemeyer, 15, also a student at Jefferson High School, said he isn’t used to sitting at a computer all day.
“Last week, my eyes hurt and I had a headache from looking at the screen so much,” he recalled. “I think it’s pretty boring.”
Tyler also was enrolled in the Cedar Rapids schools hybrid learning before the storm hit.
During classes, teachers divide students into virtual breakout rooms for discussion and group work.
Students are still getting used to this format, Tyler said, and are “more reserved.”
“It’s a little quiet,” he said.
Daniel Kenyon, 12, a student at South East Junior High School, is enrolled in online learning.
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The district was in online learning for everyone for three weeks, moving to the hybrid learning model for students enrolled in standard learning on Monday.
Daniel said he’s a little sad not to be returning to any in-person classes but is happy he doesn’t have to switch back and fourth from at-home to in-person learning.
“I know what I’m going to be doing for the next couple of months. A lot of my friends are in online only, so I’m not missing out on seeing them in person,” Daniel said.
Daniel said he also has headaches sometimes, which he attributes to being on the computer too long.
His classes are split up into A and B days. On A days, he has synchronous class — those that are taught live — in the mornings, and works on asynchronous learning — in which students learn at their own pace — in the afternoons.
On B days, it’s the opposite.
Daniel said he usually is done with school, including homework, by 4 p.m. at the latest.
Starting in a new school this year as a junior high student, Daniel said it’s been good to have new teachers for every class period unlike in elementary school.
“The teachers are interested in learning about people, since they don’t get to see us in person,” he said. “There’s not too much one-on-one time, but if you have questions the teacher is an email away.”
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