EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Students and parents alike in Middlesex County school districts are finding it difficult to adapt to at-home learning in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In order to avoid spreading the disease, many schools all over the country have closed, and moved their curriculums online so that students can complete their school year. But the new format and sudden changes have caused new problems for parents trying to help their children with schoolwork, and students trying to complete it.
“It’s not easy at all, with three kids at the same time,” said Yajaira Cascuberta, a mother of two students at East Brunswick's Bowne-Munro Elementary School and one Hammarskjold Middle School student. I’m a little scared I’m not helping them as much as I should be.”
The fact that many students do not have as much contact with their teachers as they usually would have proven to be a challenge for many, students and parents alike. Students now have less concrete instruction than they normally would, and often find themselves turning to the Internet for help instead. Many parents have had to take on the role of “teacher” for their children, a position that many of them do not believe that they are prepared for.
Many teachers have opened their emails to their students, remaining in contact with them in spite of the distance and being open to any questions that they may have. This has proven very helpful to students who have questions about their assignments that they cannot find the answers to online. “My teacher’s good at answering when I send him emails,” said Javier Cascuberta, 10.
Online classes seem to have as many upsides as they do downsides for some students. “I know that it’s weird to not have a teacher constantly reminding you of assignments,” said Jolie Harmon, a senior at East Brunswick High School, “but I think it’s an extremely valuable lesson especially as seniors who will be attending college and have less guidance.”
An unforeseen circumstance of social distancing is the way it has affected students’ social lives. Seniors like Harmon have felt this impact the most - because of COVID-19, they may have to miss key moments in their high school careers, such as the prom and graduation. “For myself, I was just beginning my senior lacrosse season, I had college visits planned, fun senior activities, prom, and graduation to look forward to. Most of these events have been, or will be canceled. It’s trivial in the grand scheme of things, but it is disappointing after twelve years of working hard in school for these events,” said Harmon.
Others are managing just fine at home. “I just play video games when I’m not working,” Javier said of how he spends his time when he’s not doing his classwork.
Many families have had to find new ways to cope with online classes, and to make the days interesting for their children despite their isolation. Yajaira Cascuberta in particular has managed to spice things up for her children by holding “Virtual Spirit Days”, where she encourages them to dress up for school like they would on a normal School Spirit Week. “It’s a little fun that I have at the end of every day. This week was supposed to be Spirit Week at school? At the end of the day, it’s like a little reward. And they take pictures, and they have fun, too. I’m already thinking of spirit days for next week.”
How schooling under social distancing will continue is uncertain, but many families say that the East Brunswick school district has done a good job of moving their classes online. Said Harmon of the new curriculum, “I give major credit to the EBHS staff for their incredible efforts put into online school, between ‘Zooming’ with their students, posting hour long videos teaching us the lesson, and always sending us encouraging messages and positivity.”