LCPS Adjusts Academic School Year After Covid-19 Sweeps the Nation

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Woodgrove High School during the school closure. Photo taken by Mia Cammarota.

Written by Mia Cammarota, Emma Tetreault, Ainsleigh Shipp, and David Hamady

The unexpected happened when COVID-19 swept the nation, forcing Woodgrove students out of school for the remainder of the 2020 school year. Gradebooks were frozen, on-line school was slow to begin, and everyday changes made by the state and national government altered the stereotypical high school experience. 

When LCPS made their first announcement of school closure on March 12, it was thought to be temporary, and there were no immediate online learning options for students because this circumstance was unforeseen. Loudoun and other school systems then had to scramble to create an equitable online plan for learning and to create Hot-Spots for students and teachers with no WiFi access. Two weeks after LCPS closed, Loudoun released an optional learning plan called “Continuity of Education” where teachers were trained to create weekly Hyperdocs to provide review activities for students. It wasn’t until April 15 when the county scheduled online learning opportunities for new material and synchronous learning opportunities lasting up to 30 minutes per week, allowing enough time for live question and answer sessions. 

On April 15, students began using the online learning program, Edmentum, in their core subjects. The system was adopted by LCPS because of its convenience for faculty and students, allowing students to complete modules and take mastery tests to measure student learning. The Public Information Office released the reasons Edmentum was chosen by saying, “Edmentum courses can be accessed by families regardless of teacher availability, student availability, or parent availability. Edmentum will allow for tracking of student participation in distance learning consistently across the division.” 

Core teachers are taking advantage of this new approach to distance learning. Biology teacher Candace King reflects on her own experience with Edmentum by saying, “Biology is required by LCPS to use Edmentum, so I am using it. I went through all of the assignments and created a pacing guide that breaks down the work by week so that students hopefully do not have more than 30 minutes of work every weekday. The pacing guide has places where students can submit questions or access additional resources as well. It is not nearly as much fun as being in the classroom in person and interacting with all of my students.”

Other teachers aren’t fond of Edmentum and struggle with the lack of enjoyable content and personal flair. Social Sciences teacher Kent Staneart says, “In the case of History, I don’t like it because it is impersonal and too basic. As a teacher, I think it completely takes away our creativity and style. Personally, I think I could create better and more creative content that could better reach my particular students. When we started with Hyperdocs, I was having fun putting together what I thought were more engaging lessons.”       

Making online learning connective between teachers and students is difficult but made easier by face-to-face discussion through weekly, synchronous Google Meet sessions. These meetings can last up to 30 minutes a week and classes follow an A/B day schedule to avoid conflicts for students taking courses at the Academies of Loudoun. The synchronous learning opportunities give students the chance to ask questions and experience live interactions with their classmates and teachers.

Academics weren’t the only aspect of a traditional school year affected by the early closure of school campuses. The class of 2020 is arguably the most affected grade level by school closure, as they were deprived of the most monumental moment of their high school career, graduation. This leaves many seniors without a sense of closure before moving on to the next chapter of their life. To bridge the gap between high school and graduation, the PTSO is making senior signs that can be purchased and displayed in the seniors’ front yards. The athletic booster club is doing the same thing, but for senior athletes. 

There will also be a virtual celebration on June 12 to recognize the class of 2020 on YouTube Premium. This celebration is not a graduation ceremony. Graduation is being planned, but the date is still to be determined because of COVID-19. 

Senior Class Sponsor Brianne Allis describes the virtual graduation by saying, “Each senior will be showcased by their “slide” in the celebration video. On the slide, each senior is able to upload a picture and answer a prompt about either their most memorable K-12 experience, give advice to future graduates, explain their future plans, or talk about how they have or will incorporate the motto “Work, Honor, Strive” into their lives.  The slides will be played along with speeches from Mr. Shipp, Mr. Bennett, Billy Hughes (Senior Class President) and the senior speaker, who is yet to be determined.”

Woodgrove juniors and seniors will also miss out on one of the most anticipated events of the year, prom. The Student Council put in a great deal of thought and effort into this event, which is attended by a large portion of Woodgrove’s student-body. 

“The Junior class council was planning prom and had been working on it since the beginning of the year. We already had the theme set to be Roaring 20s; the decorations and tickets were already designed and ordered. Pretty much everything was set to go before everything happened with the coronavirus,” says Student Activities Director, junior Charley Piercy.

When LCPS closed schools, sports were also cancelled for the remainder of the spring season. All spring athletes were affected, and seniors weren’t able to be fully recognized for their athletic accomplishments. 

Woodgrove student Bea Maulfair gives a freshman perspective by saying, “Overall, I don’t feel like losing my first season of lacrosse is the worst thing ever. I would definitely feel like I was missing out more if I was an upperclassman. It still stinks, and I’m upset, but I know I’m a lot better off than others who have lost a lot during this time.”

The closure of LCPS schools for the 2020 academic school year was totally unexpected, and the 2020-2021 school year still holds a lot of mystery as to what the new “traditional school environment” will look like. Several contingency plans for re-opening are still being discussed by the superintendent and school board at press time.