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Kids, teachers stressed by online learning switch


HUDSON–School by video screen “is not the same,” said Robert LaCasse, principal of Hudson High School, by telephone April 14. “You can’t get through all the curriculum online. It’s not possible.”

Students wonder whether this year they will get “skills necessary to go on to the next level” of their subjects, he said, though they “appreciate the teachers’ efforts.” Meanwhile, high school seniors worry about missing senior rituals.

Mr. LaCasse spoke about the results of an online survey that Student Council President Piper Nayowith conducted, an online meeting he had with students  and his own experience “working from home,” where his own children are.

The survey and its results appear below.

Ms. Nayowith, a senior, is also student representative to the Board of Education suggested and she and the board discussed the survey results at the Hudson City School District Board of Education meeting April 7. Some information for this story is based on a transcript of that meeting.

Addressing the issue of what students want the board to know about online classes, Ms. Nayowith said, “Students are really overwhelmed by all this. They feel like they’re getting more work assigned them than usual. They want structure in their assignments and classes.”

“A huge help for them,” students are saying, is when “teachers create a weekly schedule of assignments and when they are due,” especially when they “send it out ahead of the week,” no later than the Sunday before the week. Some teachers already do this, and the students “kind of want that with all the classes.”

Board member Sage Carter pointed out that such schedules could help families as well.

‘The seniors are really scared, really scared.’

Principal Robert LaCasse

Hudson High School

A lot of students, Ms. Nayowith continued, “don’t feel like there’s communication between teachers and different departments.” Ms. Nayowith said she once got a video call from one class at the same time “half the students” were on a video call for another class.

Students also want their video classes to be in normal school hours. Many of them have jobs that qualify as essential, and by 5 p.m. they are working.

Board Member Linda Hopkins, who teaches at Taconic Hills, said that in that district, “the response was much higher” when classes “had a specific time frame.” In addition, that district has designed a schedule where course lessons take place remotely in longer sessions on fewer days than when they took place in classrooms.

Ms. Nayowith also said “a lot of kids expressed thankfulness… that the teachers are being supportive. They know they’re putting effort into this, and they know this is crazy for everyone.”

But she said students say they’re overwhelmed, unmotivated and they’re experiencing a decline in mental health.”

When board member Charles Parmentier asked what the district is considering to help students with the stress, Superintendent Maria L. Suttmeier replied, “Our counselors are in touch with our teachers and students. I think the key to reducing some stress is by letting the steam out of the kettle.”

Ms. Carter suggested exploring how much of this survey’s results applied to junior high and elementary grades as well.

“A lot of adults would say the same thing” on the survey if they had it, Dr. Suttmeier said. “There’s a lot more questions than there are answers. We have a lot of teachers who also are parents. They’re trying to figure out how to structure teaching their students” while overseeing their own children’s lessons. This is happening to us, not because of us.”

Interviewed a week after the meeting, Hudson High Principal LaCasse said, “Our first and foremost outreach is making sure our students’ needs are met,” including their meals, adding, “Additional social-emotional challenges arise out of separation from friends, sometimes separation from family members, and sometimes loved ones being sick.

“Switching to an online school is stressful. It’s still a struggle for the kids because it’s so difficult. With primary grades, it’s extremely difficult to do online learning,” he said. Now, with students’ meals come papers from their teachers.

Mr. LaCasse called classroom lessons “synchronous” and distance lessons “asynchronous,” with more leeway to “work at a different pace.

“The cancellation of the regents exams helped in lessening stress,” Mr. LaCasse said. Legally everybody will be considered as having passed the Regents. However, some students wonder how well they will have really mastered the subjects.

“The seniors are really scared, really scared,” Mr. LaCasse said. “They’re afraid they’ll miss their senior moments: the trip, the graduation ceremony, awards, the prom, even pranks. They’re really worried.” Deadlines for colleges and scholarships are mostly not a problem, because most are online anyway. And at this time of the year, many have been accepted to–and some have chosen–colleges. But colleges themselves are adjusting to the same shock conversion to online learning; how starting at college will proceed is uncertain.

“We’re figuring out how to give the seniors their moments,” said Mr. LaCasse, who asked for suggestions.

Survey questions

Hudson High School Student Council President Piper Nayowith prepared and tabulated the following surveys of Hudson High seniors:

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how stressful was completing school work before the closure?

(With 1 the least stressful and 10 the most stressful)

2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how stressful was completing school work since the closure?

3. Do you feel you are managing your workload successfully?

4. What do you want the Board of Education to know about your experience during the closure?

Eighty students responded to this survey by Student Council President Piper Nayowith. That’s about 20% of the High School student body, said High School Principal Robert LaCasse.

For questions 1 and 2:

• 11% of the respondents reported stress levels of 9 or 10 before the shutdown; 57% of the respondents reported those levels since the shutdown

• 22% of the respondents reported stress levels of 8, 9 or 10 before the shutdown; 73% reported those stress levels since the shutdown

• 67% of the respondents reported stress levels of 1 through 5 before the shutdown; 15% reported it in that range since the shutdown.

To Question 3: 1

• 8.2% answered Yes; 39.8% answered No; 42% answered “Somewhat”

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