Governor Pete Ricketts earlier this semester issued an order stating that Nebraska schools must operate without students until May 31, meaning Westside Community Schools will remain closed for the rest of the school year.
The closure was a surprise to some, but most students expected school to be closed. Eighth grader Aubrey LeClair didn’t expect the length of the closure.
“I was expecting the school to close, but not for this long. I’m kind of annoyed though because I am over being stuck at home,” LeClair said.
This was especially a surprise to the few students outside of the country, such as Charlie Yale, who had recently been attending school in Switzerland.
“It’s crazy being away from all the news for three months and coming back to a global pandemic freak out,” Yale said.
Because of the shutdown, students across the district are being instructed using technology and corresponding with their teachers to learn. Kim Eymann, WMS’s principal, noted that online learning was quite tough to set up.
“At the beginning, a huge challenge was getting everyone the appropriate technology and making sure students have access to wifi. Our technology team has worked really hard to make sure that has happened,” Eymann said.
Students seem to have mixed feelings when it comes to online learning. Seventh grader Reuben Marehwa said he is okay with distance learning, but added there are definitely challenges.
“If I have questions, I have to email my teacher and they don’t always respond soon,” Marehwa said.
Other students said they enjoy online learning because they can get their work done quickly and not have to spend seven hours in a building. Students can work at their own pace with online learning. Charlie Yale, an eighth grader at WMS, said he liked discussing topics with his teachers in person when school was in session, but said e-learning allows more freedom.
“I like the independence, but I know that there will be others who won’t be able to learn very well without structure and a routine,” he said.
Teachers’ lifestyles have been drastically changed by the shutdown. Seventh grade social studies teacher Mrs. Johnson said it’s not easy working from home.
“Working from home has been challenging. I miss interacting with the students each day. I love teaching history and sharing my passion for the subject with my students. This is so much more difficult to do from home,” Johnson said.
Making online learning better for students is a goal.
“As a Social Studies department, we are trying to use platforms that the students are familiar with and chunking the content into small pieces that are easy for them to understand,” she said. “We also try to offer the students the opportunity to learn and process the content in a variety of ways to meet their learning style. As a team, we’ve created personal videos for the students and posted questions on Flipgrid to give them a space to interact with us as well as with each other.”
Principal Kim Eymann also said she wants to remind students that this closure has a profound effect on teachers.
“Teachers are working extremely hard to make this the best experience possible for our students. It’s not been easy for anyone,” she said. “As a teacher, it is hard not being able to work with students in person, and that produces a huge worry and stress for teachers… I would much rather be in school and have our students in class, but, because of the situation, online learning is the best thing we can do. It is so important to continue to use our brains as much as possible and continue to grow as students so they are ready for the next level of class.”