School vs. Pandemic

Students from various schools reflect on the reopening process.

School+vs.+Pandemic

Enaya A., Junior Editor in Chief

It’s been almost a year since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Life has resumed in a temporary sort of normal, whether it’s all happened so fast or it’s been the longest year of our lives, or both at once! When lockdown began, institutions scrambled to adjust, putting up an admirable effort. Different schools adapted in unique ways, and now that we’ve settled in, it’s worth looking into the similarities and differences between how schools handled the massive and unprecedented shift to virtual school here in Doha. 

Three students reflected on the strategies their schools used to continue with their education, representing the Parkhouse English School, the American School of Doha, and Doha College. 

The immediate reaction to COVID-19 across the board was to close down all schools in March, as the Qatari government mandated.

“It was confusing at first, but I got the hang of it after a week,” said the student from Parkhouse. 

The student from ASD agreed, stating, “I also got more free time, so it wasn’t terrible.” 

“The teachers were supportive and kept us going well,” added the student from Doha College, also known as DC. “At the end of the year, they took [an average] grade based on our grades from the entire year.”

When schools opened in the fall after the chance to prepare over the summer, they did so with very abnormal, or rather extraordinary, measures. “We opened with 25% capacity,” the Parkhouse student explained. “We were also divided into groups A, B, and C between each [foreign] language — and [we] were to come on separate days. In each language [group], we were split up into two. I’m currently in Group A French 1.”

ASD had a small grace period of virtual school in September for only about 4 hours daily, which the student representative was grateful for. “It would have probably made things worse if they made us sit in front of the computer for like seven hours a day, five days a week, right from the get-go.” 

At DC, when it was safe to open using an A and B cohort system, students would “receive home learning tasks they would do during class,” as the DC student put it. This contrasts with ASD’s approach: holding mandatory Zoom meetings for every class. Perhaps keeping student time online to a minimum at ASD would boost student physical and emotional health, rather than keeping students on and off Zoom throughout the 7 hour school day. 

Still, schools prioritized protection from infection, and rightfully so. 

The student from Parkhouse said the school measures were reassuring. “They understood that in times like these coping may be hard… they took our safety seriously.”

However, the student wasn’t completely satisfied. “In the beginning of the school year, we had 12 lessons a day and were given homework for each lesson to be given in the next time we were to be in school.”

Similarly, the student at ASD found it hard to return to school, clarifying, “For the first month or so of hybrid, we didn’t have pact days or morning breaks, so it was a definitely harder shift from virtual to hybrid than it otherwise could’ve been.” 

If there was one thing each student wished their school had done better, it’s that the schools “could’ve asked student’s opinions first before opening the school for a smoother transition,” as the student from ASD put it.

The student at Parkhouse, reflecting on the loneliness of the pandemic, said she wished the school would “allow us to pick one person we would wish to be put in with so that each person had at least one friend to talk to. Even if they want us to talk to new people, it’s nice to have someone you already know to talk to.” 

The student from DC declined to answer. 

All in all, administrations cannot be perfect, especially when facing a global pandemic. While this new normal isn’t optimal, given the circumstances, we have the advantage of optimism and safety for the months to come as school administrations work to the best of their ability.

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