West Essex’s approach to online learning in line with other N.J. schools

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Photo courtesy of Jessica Lewis/Unsplash

West Essex is not the only New Jersey school district to move to a fully online learning environment; other New Jersey high schools in the area are adapting similar approaches.

By Ava DiGiacomo, News Editor

As schools across the state, including West Essex, begin to transfer to online learning, students and staff try their best to adjust to the major switch. Students and staff are forced to give up their everyday routine of teaching face to face in a classroom, in exchange for a completely different learning system. 

West Essex Regional High School’s approach to online learning is a regular half day schedule. During each designated block period, teachers are available to answer students’ questions. Students do not have to log on at a specific time unless told to by one of their teachers. 

James Caldwell High School has taken a similar approach to West Essex, where students do not have a specific time they need to log online. Unless there is a test or a virtual meeting with a teacher, James Caldwell junior Emma Stoneweb logs online anywhere from 9:40 to 10 a.m. to begin her school work.

“I have about four to five classes of work that I have to do each day,” Stoneweb said. “So far for me I have only used Zoom for math but I know a ton of other classes that are using Zoom and Google Hangout to represent a classroom. Usually my teachers just make videos.”

Similar to West Essex and James Caldwell, Hanover Park High School uses Google Classroom to replicate typical work throughout a regular school day. Hanover freshman Anthony Locascio said he’s has been forced to substitute his daily routine of waking up for the bus at 6 a.m. every day.

“My sleeping schedule has been messed up. I’ve been waking up from 7 to 10 in the morning each day,” Locascio said. “Right when I wake up I start doing my work. I have to submit all my work on Google Classroom by 10 p.m. or else it’s considered late.”

Differing from the other New Jersey high schools above, Montclair Kimberley Academy has yet to begin online schooling. Students and staff have been on spring break since March 12 and will not begin online school until March 31. Spring break for MKA was originally scheduled for the 13th, but students and staff were given off on the 12 and 13 as a result of the impending effects of COVID-19. Cat McLaughlin, a junior at MKA, said she’s done some online school work even though she has been on her spring break.

“Since I was scheduled to have tests on the 12 and 13 and labs due, I was able to get some sense of what online learning was going to look like for me,” McLaughlin said. “The test that I was supposed to have for my history class was turned into a paper on our unit, which I was given two days to write.”

Although MKA has not officially begun online schooling, they have been updating students and staff via email about how they are planning on simulating a typical school day. Starting April 2, the Upper School will be doing real time online classes.

“When we begin online learning I will have to be up for an 8 a.m. start time, I assume, unless I have a free first period. This will go until 2:20 if it is like our regular school day,” McLaughlin said. “I have been getting emails for teachers telling me to sign up for different websites and textbooks. However, we have not been told yet what platform we will be using.”

West Essex, James Caldwell, Hanover Park and MKA are all taking similar approaches to online learning, using sites such as Google Classroom, Google Hangouts and Zoom to substitute for a classroom experience.