(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)
Cleveland Charter High School

Students and teachers react to school closure and distant learning

Just a few weeks ago, the idea of school closing for the rest of the semester seemed absurd. However, due to the exponential increase in the number of cases throughout California and the country as a whole, the Los Angeles Unified District closed schools starting March 16.

As of April 13, what was initially predicted to be a two-week closure has officially turned into remote learning for the rest of the semester and even summer school. 

“The facts and circumstances will continue to change, but we will not reopen school facilities until state and local health authorities tell us how it is safe and appropriate to do so,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner said, according to his official statement through LAUSD.

Albert Fuentes, a 12th-grade teacher at Cleveland High School, believes that online learning simply cannot replace physical school for two big reasons.

The first is that there is more to school than just academics, such as social learning. Immersed in an intellectual environment, students learn how to interact with teachers and peers, make friends and learn how to navigate through different human relationships.

The second reason is the obstacles remote teaching creates for those with technological challenges and the lack of interpersonal connections through the screen. 

Since online learning is not something schools are used to, being thrust into a completely foreign way of learning and teaching in a matter of weeks is a difficult transition for many.

“The extra time for oneself is nice, but I miss directly interacting with my students,” Fuentes said. “My method of teaching is engaging and personal, and that’s really hard to translate over Zoom.”

Karen Park, a junior at Cleveland High School, feels similar.

“It isn’t the same as learning in a classroom, most people are muted or have their cameras off [during online classes] so it feels awkward and like not everyone is engaged,” Park said. 

However, she does acknowledge that there are benefits as well. For example, Park finds that she now has more freedom and time to do things and get enough sleep now.

In fact, many students have found this quarantine/school closure to be a blessing in disguise, despite the incredible boredom and lack of social interaction.

The stress and pressures of school have eased, and there is plenty of time to catch up on sleep or try a new hobby. Students are also able to spend more quality time with their families, an opportunity that many people may not get on a regular basis.

Similarly, Fuentes also believes we should utilize this quarantine in the best way we can, and remains optimistic.

“I don’t mean that this has to be the productivity Olympics, I mean that I hope that everybody can become a bit more reflective, slow down, and think about what’s really important in their lives,” Fuentes said. “If there’s a silver lining to this disaster, that would be it.”