Transition into online classes increases communication, possible loss of educational experience

Ten days after a complete school shutdown was announced, classes sprang back to life online. During that 10-day period, the staff spent time preparing for the massive amount of resources the transition would require, principal Greg Giglio said.

“[Santa Clara County] had been working with and talking with the superintendents for all the districts that are inside of Santa Clara county,” he said. “The ultimate decision came from public health. It wasn’t a decision that we made or that the superintendent made or anything, it was a countywide decision.”

Although not in charge of the shutdown, in anticipation of one, the school had begun taking measures to allow for a smooth switch to online classes by telling teachers to transfer their work online, Giglio said.

Photo by Dexter Tatsukawa
The parking lots on campus are noticeably empty without students and teachers on campus. Currently, only administration, facilities and some members of support staff report to campus, daily. Both before and during the rapid developments of the pandemic, faculty and staff has prepared for online classes through technology assistance and cooperation with staff and students.

During the planning stage for the online classes, a major component of the plan became flexibility, Giglio said. 

“We had sort of two choices that we were faced with,” he said, “one was, let’s tell everyone, ‘We’re going to use this one platform and train everybody and get everyone going up on that one platform.’ Or, we could say, ‘let people use what they feel most comfortable with and that they understand because this is going to be a hard transition.’ There is good and bad with either one of those [options] but we decide to go with the second solution.”

When it came time, the switch to online classes was helped along by prior experience for many teachers. Math teacher Gary Auten said he had taken online classes himself and therefore knew what he could expect from the transition.

“There is a lot of communication that is required to coordinate this kind of effort,” Auten said. “And I think the school and district have done a great job. I know the district was already working on a program weeks before the announcement came so … the district was trying to think ahead [put] its resources in place.”

While impressed with the district and school’s handling of the situation, Auten also said he was pleasantly surprised by the ability of students to adapt quickly to the new structure of classes.

“I think students are learning how to be a little more independent and how to get things done more quickly than they did before,” Auten said. “So I think an unexpected benefit is the independence. I feel like there is an ability to do the work in a different way that’s providing students with additional ideas for how to be successful.”

Despite the benefits of online learning, Auten said he feels there will still likely be a loss of content in terms of what students will learn through the remainder of the school year.

“There is three months worth of content and, let’s just say, we lost half of it,” Auten said. “But if this extends through the first semester of next year, then I think that there are going to be problems that at least the math teachers are going to have to deal with in ensuing years.”

This loss of content is something that was not at first a realization for students, such as senior Timothy Pham, who simply just felt glad for the initial shutdown.

“I felt really overjoyed [hearing about the shutdown at first] because I thought it would only be temporary,” Pham said. “I was like, ‘Finally, they did it!’ because a lot of my other friends in other states, they’ve already had their schools shut down.” 

However, less than two weeks into online classes, Pham said the change in content coverage pretty quickly became apparent.

“Because I am taking three AP classes and the curriculum is getting cut, it kind of takes away from the class experience,” Pham said. “For other students like juniors, sophomores and freshmen, who need that prerequisite knowledge for their classes, let’s say Algebra 2/Trigonometry, they are going to need that knowledge to go on to Pre-Calculus Honors or Pre-Calculus … it really takes away from the learning experience for those students.”

Despite the drawbacks he is said he experiencing due to the school shutdown, Pham said he is grateful for those who are encountering an even more difficult time as a result of the pandemic.

“Shoutout to all the healthcare workers, grocery store employees and everyone else still having to go to work everyday,” Pham said. “They are putting themselves most at risk, which is really important. I also want to thank teachers because a lot of teachers are trying to do their best for online classes [and] they have never had to do this before.”