On July 23, Henrico County announced for the first time ever, students would not be going back to school in person. Instead, they would learn from their homes.
Back in the spring, students across the country worked virtually. Many had hoped that the fall would bring students back into the classroom, but that will not be the case.
Godwin principal, Leigh Dunavant, wishes to be in school but knows that it is safer if we are all at home.
“I was sad because, of course, I want us to be together in person, but I understand why the school board made the decision to go with virtual learning,” said Dunavant.
This fall, there have been many changes made to school. Students are going to “class” on their computers using software called Microsoft Teams and Schoology.
“All teachers [are using] Microsoft Teams for virtual instruction and Schoology [is] the learning management system that all teachers use,” said Dunavant.
In order to make sure the start of this school year was a success, Dunavant had to work long hours this summer.
“I work[ed] 10 to 12 hour days, Monday through Thursday, and about five to 10 hours on Friday and the weekend,” said Dunavant.
Making adjustments has not been easy for most. Spanish teacher Kathryn Meadows will miss seeing everyone at school.
“I speak for most teachers, the hardest adjustment will be that we don’t get to see our students in-person,” said Meadows.
Senior Amal Ali will miss the typical senior year activities but understands that closing schools was the best option.
“I was upset when we first got the news, but I recognized that it was a necessary precaution for the safety of our students and staff. It just was a little heartbreaking as a senior to see the last year of school change in every way we did not want it to. However, whatever is the safest and most practical option for the wellbeing of every Godwin Eagle is undoubtedly the best path forward,” said Ali.
Although it took some time, Ali got used to the reality.
“I made my peace with it eventually,” said Ali.
An important part of school for everyone is socialization. While socialization looks different this year, school counselor Nicole Hansinger assures students that classroom interactions can still take place.
“The virtual classrooms this year [allow] for break out sessions to engage students in small groups with their peers and allow for some great conversations,” said Hansinger.
Social media and other school wide platforms are also helping students stay engaged.
“With social media being such a big part of our lives, I think students will continue to connect through these means. Hopefully, they can utilize some of our Godwin pages on Instagram and Twitter to share the great things they are continuing to participate in. Schoology is the platform I know teachers [are] using most to connect with students, but there are also opportunities with teachers and staff through virtual meetings on Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, too. We are living in such a virtual world already and your generation is so great at connecting from a distance, so I feel confident that we [are] all find[ing] new ways of engaging and feeling connected from afar,” said Hansinger.
Hansinger also knows that mental health awareness is vital this year.
“Mental health is more important than ever. We want to be sure that students have the tools to cope with the stress that may come with this new school year in a virtual learning world. In our Schoology group, we [have] mental health resources, tools, and activities for students to utilize. We also are accessible to meet with students one-on-one through a virtual call at any time during the school days,” said Hansinger.
Students can utilize counseling resources available through request forms or Schoology.
“Students can still use our same appointment request form as in year’s past, and we will reach out to arrange a virtual meeting. Students can also reach their counselor through Schoology messaging or email. We will also be sharing even more resources on our School Counseling Website and [we have] our own Schoology group called School Counseling for all students to access resources and reach out to us,” said Hansinger.
Connecting through clubs and sports is important to many students. Freshman Sarah Mandeville is disappointed to not be able to partake in these activities.
“I am in the Godwin Color Guard, and I was saddened to hear that we would not be able to have Band Camp or our Marching Band season this fall, but I am hopeful that an opportunity will arise this coming spring to have Color Guard and Marching Band,” said Mandeville.
Mandeville, like many others, had hoped that this school year could begin in person.
“I was disappointed that we wouldn’t be returning to school in the fall after having an immediate shutdown back in early March. I wasn’t surprised though with the decision to continue Virtual Learning at home, but I was hoping the School Board would come up with a solution to safely bring students back into the school environment,” said Mandeville.
Many teachers have also had to make adjustments to not only their schedule but their children’s. Meadows was concerned about this, but fortunately, she found a solution.
“This was a major concern, however, my son will be attending a private school in the fall. They will be returning to the classroom,” said Meadows.
This year will bring many uncertainties, but Dunavant knows that when we come together as a community, we can accomplish anything.
“We’ve got this! Online learning [is] a unique experience for us all, but our teachers and students can do this. We will get through this time together and be stronger than ever,” said Dunavant.
photo Henrico County Public Schools