A new wave

358 students to return face-to-face for third quarter


photo by Andrea Izaguirre

Sophomores Dylan Grossenbaugh (left) and Victor Jimenez (right) discuss an assignment in English. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged in classrooms.

After a semester defined by desk partitions, face masks and laggy video conferences, 358 students have decided to return to in-person learning for the third quarter. The semester proved to be untraditional and difficult for students and staff, whether it was in a Webex call or a socially distant classroom. 

In a county-wide survey, all virtual and hybrid students were required to pick their education method for the third quarter – Seminole Connect, Seminole County Virtual School (SCVS) “Save my Seat,” or face-to-face learning – by Nov. 9. Surveys were collected early to allow for time to rebuild student and master schedules. 

“I chose to go back because I feel like I’m not learning as much as I would if I was at school,” freshman Beck Livesay said. “Distractions at home make school more difficult than it would be normally.”

Seminole Connect and SCVS “Save my Seat” were offered only at the beginning of the year, with SCVS requiring semester-long enrollment. SCVS “Save my Seat” allowed students to still be registered at their zoned school, despite not attending classes there. Now, 21% of all virtual students are returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms, doubling the number of those that returned in the second quarter. 

“I’m very excited to see new faces at the beginning of the second semester,” science teacher Tawni Small said. “I feel like with the craziness of this school year, I’ve struggled to get to know students in my classroom and online.”

The high volume of returning students calls for adjustment to schedules, student-to-teacher ratios and staff. Although stress is anticipated, administration feels that everything will be back on track within weeks of the second semester.

“The second semester will absolutely feel like the first day of school,” English teacher Suzanne Sink said. “We know that there are going to be a lot of big changes and adjustments.”

While many modifications are on the horizon, teachers feel that one thing should remain constant: course material. Throughout the first semester, all assignments and lessons were Canvas-based, and Small feels that should not be changed. 

“My class is going to remain Canvas-based throughout the year,” Small said. “This is to create a sense of community in my course. Students have spent the semester getting used to the course layout and information, so I may as well continue to use those tools.” 

However, a large cause for concern is the rising number of coronavirus cases. According to The New York Times, contraction of the virus has increased by 41% and deaths have increased by 32% over the past two weeks in Florida.

“I’m concerned for my safety since the third quarter starts right after the holiday season when people travel,” sophomore Soli Flores said, who is returning from virtual schooling. “Cases are continuously rising. It’s scary.”

Even so, administration is confident in their ability to keep everyone safe, as they feel they were successful in keeping students healthy and comfortable throughout the first semester. Principal Robert Frasca is optimistic about what is to come on Jan. 4.

“I don’t anticipate any major changes in our safety plans,” Frasca said. “In the first semester, I didn’t know what to expect, but our students and staff did a great job of making this difficult situation into something really positive.”