By Christian Beamish
With the duration of school closures remaining unknown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpinteria Unified School District campuses have closed for the week ahead of spring break and the high school has switched to online instruction. California Governor Gavin Newsome said Tuesday, March 17, that schools may remain closed until summer. While no firm announcement has been made, a prolonged period of school closures is a real possibility.
Carpinteria High School Principal Gerardo Cornejo said Monday, March 16, that CHS “was lucky to have issued Chromebooks (laptop computers) to all high school students at the start of the year, and we will be providing assignments through this week.” Staff have inventoried the laptops, Cornejo said, and have replaced the faulty ones. Approximately 23 students at the school lack home internet connections, and they have been provided “hotspots” via cell-phone data plans that enable internet access.
Many online instructional sites, including Scholastic and Google Classroom, have offered their materials at no charge to students and instructors to maintain academic continuity through this unprecedented time. Cornejo said of the coming weeks and months, “We’re taking it one week at a time.”
Students in Dual Language Immersion classes received homework packets ahead of the school closure this week, as well as access codes for interactive learning websites. Aliso Elementary School Principal Dr. Michelle Fox has also sent out online resources via the Parent Square messaging service to school families.
CHS senior Lexi Persoon said of the online classes, “I do OK with it,” but she acknowledged that “trying to figure out how to approach (online lessons) is different than in class.” Having had experience with online courses through concurrent enrollment at Santa Barbara City College, Persoon has familiarity with that style of learning. However, she says in online classes, “you don’t get student interaction—there’s a collaborative element (to the in-class environment) that’s important.”
Regarding the current recommendation for social distancing, Persoon said, “Truthfully, it’s been hard, you want to stay in contact.” She also said that she and many of her friends have been busy babysitting with so many children in the community home from school and parents still needing to work. In recent days, she has continued her lifeguarding position at Carpinteria Community Pool.
The classes Persoon has taken at CHS in Social Science and Anthropology taught by Gene Bisson have had an impact. “He’s gotten people to be more aware of the world. ‘You’re 18, you should be involved,” she noted Bisson telling her and her classmates. While COVID-19 does not appear to be a huge threat to youth, they must still participate in social distancing to prevent spreading the disease to others who may be more vulnerable.
Looking ahead, whether taking online courses or resuming studies in a traditional classroom, Persoon, an accomplished swimmer, water polo and tennis player, looks to continue her studies at Santa Barbara City College after high school graduation this June. She also plans to transfer to a four-year university to earn a degree and teaching credential.
“We have talked,” Persoon said of some of her fellow high school students, “and expect it to be around June until (the pandemic) dies down.” The toll of this time remains unknowable, and another consequence may be the class of 2020 missing out on the traditional celebrations that mark the important achievement of graduation: “Some of my friends in my grade are upset because if that is true, then senior events would be cancelled like prom or Senior Week.”