New school year kicks off with distance learning format

Sara Marquez and Valeria Luquin

Freshman Andrew Arevalo logs in into Schoology to work on the instructional assignments of his advisory class. (Gabriela Gomez)

At eight in the morning, sophomore Sarah Sifuentes rolled out of bed half-asleep for her first virtual day of school on Tuesday.

“Since we’re not leaving the house, it’s harder for me to actually get up, get some motivation and set up a schedule for myself,” Sifuentes said. 

After having a glimpse of distance learning last year during the middle of the spring semester, there were mixed emotions from students, teachers and parents on beginning this new school year fully online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With a new and improved distance learning schedule, students will have an advisory and three classes a day from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. 

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has set alternating synchronous, meaning live in-person instruction, and asynchronous, meaning at your own pace, class schedules for the fall. On some days, students will attend periods one, three and five and on others, it will be periods two, four and six. Every Monday will be an instructional support day, which will end for students at 12:10 p.m.

Along with the classes, there is also a new 30-minute advisory period where students will hold discussions on a variety of topics such as growth mindset, do team-building activities or discuss career and college options. Depending on which session they are scheduled in, advisory is held either before or after lunch. 

“We are receiving new updates constantly,” math teacher Lori Seo said. “I feel overwhelmed but I look forward to new ways to deliver lessons and interact with students.”

Schoology is the main platform used this semester both for educational purposes and communication with the LAUSD families. Teachers have the option of using other platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom. Parents are recommended to open their Parent Portal with LAUSD to stay connected and updated. If there’s any trouble, parents can always contact the Parent Representative Magaly Ruiz.

This is a 2-way street,” Magnet Coordinator Leah Pevar said. “Teachers and administration need to send out frequent communication and parents and students need to read those communications.”

On Aug. 18, the official start of the new school year, students signed onto Schoology at 9 a.m. to watch an Organizing for Success video as well as some helpful tips on how to prepare for online classes. 

“The first day was confusing to me only because I thought we were going to have a Zoom conference with our homeroom teachers,” senior Ashley Pedraza said. “Remote learning wasn’t the way I wanted to start my senior year but I know we need to social distance and stay safe.”

On Wednesday, students again were asked to log onto Schoology at 9 a.m. to watch an LAUSD Digital Citizenship video and answer a discussion question. The first two days of the new school year were based on these instructional videos. 

Aug. 20 marked the first day of using the fall schedule for remote learning. Students met with their 1, 3 and 5 period class. Today, students met with periods 2, 4 and 6. Students got to meet and introduce themselves to their new teachers during the first days of instructional Zoom meetings. 

“This year’s online academics have for sure been way more organized than last year, so it was a smooth transition from summer to online,” sophomore Giselle Khalil said.

Unlike this past spring when grades could not drop below what they were on March 13 and no student could fail a class, this year, students are in control of their own grades. Teachers can now grade as before on an A-F scale and will be taking attendance each day, including in the new advisory class.

“Expectations will be very different,” Pevar said. “Students will be held accountable for completing work and signing in and all the types of things associated with in-person class. Students will not be able to coast through the semester without failing.”

Although distance learning is a safer way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many students aren’t too happy to begin the school year entirely online. Many also have stated that it becomes difficult for them to sit in front of a screen for so long.

“I don’t look forward to being online because I personally don’t think I can focus as much at home as I do at school,” senior August Defore VII said. “I feel like the teachers are definitely making an effort to give students a learning experience despite the conditions right now.”

Gabriela Gomez and Nancy Medrano contributed to this story.