Finding Student Voices in the Tumult of COVID-19 and Greenwich School Closures

First in a series chronicling student experiences with remote learning during the closure of Greenwich Schools, instituted March 12 to limit the spread of COVID-19.

By Lena Thakor

Coronavirus is here. Countless colleges across the country have closed their doors and sent students packing to learn remotely for the rest of the semester.

Purell and Lysol have become invaluable commodities and constant travel companions. Americans have been instructed by local governments to practice social isolation by refraining from congregating in large groups.

Freezers at Whole Foods Market in Cos Cob

On Tuesday, Governor Ned Lamont declared a state of emergency for the state of Connecticut after two state residents tested positive for the virus.

Lamont requested that events consisting of more than 100 people be cancelled as a means of mitigating potential spread of the virus.

Tuesday evening Superintendent Dr. Toni Jones sent out an email to all students and their parents attending Greenwich Public Schools notifying the community about the Governor’s recent decision, as well as the CIAC’s (Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference) decision to cancel all winter tournaments.

In her email, Jones addressed the possibility of school cancellations and the use of remote learning in the near future. Wednesday evening Greenwich Public Schools announced that Greenwich Public Schools would indeed be cancelled on Thursday and Friday, and as of now the plan is to use remote learning in place of real school for next week.

In all this tumult it is important to reach for students’ voices. How are the thousands of students at Greenwich Public Schools feeling about school cancellations?

The GHS students I interviewed resoundingly support the district’s decision to cancel school for the near future.

GHS senior Nyle Garg agreed with Greenwich School’s handling of the crisis.

“I’m glad school was cancelled,” he said. “In my opinion that was the biggest risk factor facing us as students.”

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Rachel Alliker, also a senior, said she agreed with the district’s decision to cancel schools and proceed with remote learning for the indefinite future. However she was dismayed with the CIAC decision to cancel all winter sport tournaments.

“I think they should’ve allowed the sports without many spectators – like swimming and waterpolo – to continue,” she said.

What Nyle would like to see is more action from Greenwich Public Schools in informing the student body of the nature of this virus. “I feel like there could be more information regarding the virus from the school itself,” he said. “A lot of kids don’t even know about the symptoms of it.”

Rachel agreed, saying the that lack of information and spread of misinformation is contributing to widespread anxiety.

“People are panicking,” she said. “There is hysteria because we know very little about this virus. The media is circulating so many different sides to one story so we really don’t know what the truth is.”

Student uncertainty also lies in the prospect of remote learning – which is scheduled to take off next week at Greenwich public schools.

Dr. Jones noted in her email that remote learning for 6-12th grade students would involve “content-specific activities.” She added that time would be allocated for students to directly ask teachers questions and for students to collaborate with their peers.

GHS junior Alexa Brust was confused about the logistics of remote learning.

“I’m still confused with how it is going to work. Are they going to stick to the 55 minute block schedule? Will all teachers rely on the same resources to contact their students? Will these online school days be legitimized by the state of Connecticut?”

Rachel reiterated these concerns, and wondered how remote learning could possibly accommodate the needs of all GHS students.

“How will this system accommodate students that rely on free and reduced lunch? What if these individuals don’t have access to meals? What about the students with parents who work and younger siblings? Will they be expected to take care of these siblings while also keeping up with the online curriculum?”

Alexa was perplexed over how testing would be conducted via remote learning.

“This is probably of the largest concern for a lot of us as we near the end of the quarter,” she said. “Students want a chance to improve their grades before the quarter closes.”

But for now it seems that students are most immediately looking forward to the upcoming two free days and what they perceive to be a more “lax” school week next week.

“I am looking forward to relaxing and reading and doing puzzles. I’ll probably clean up my room a little bit, maybe do a few scholarships,” Rachel said.

“I’m looking forward to chilling with friends. And finally getting some sleep,” Nyle said. “Wow I miss sleep. Anything to distract myself from what’s going on out there.”

Lena Thakor is a member of the GHS class of 2021. She is chronicling the student experience with remote learning during the closure of Greenwich Schools that began March 12 to limit the spread of COVID-19. Share your feedback with Lena at [email protected]