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Local students speak on attending school from home
Students throughout the county, state and country have been making the transition from attending class on campus to doing school work from home.
This week, students in La Joya ISD, Sharyland ISD and Mission CISD have “returned” from Spring Break only to find their classrooms in their living rooms and kitchens. Districts have been working daily to keep their students on track to complete their courses and finish the school year while slowing down the spread of the Coronavirus.
Isabella Serna, a fourth grade student at John F. Kennedy Elementary in the LJISD, and her sister Lisa Ann, a first grader at JFK, have been enjoying class in their pajamas. Still kept on a schedule, they do work out of paper packets and iPads in their kitchen throughout the day.
Isabella, who’s favorite subject is grammar, was looking forward to taking the STAAR test this year, and was disappointed when she heard it had been cancelled. Working from home has been a challenge in some aspects.
“I’m a little mixed up on math,” Isabella said. “We have books, but we need specific books to be able to test on Reading Renaissance – we don’t have those.”
Lisa, who prefers math, misses school. She does enjoy spending more time with her sister and mother.
“I’m happy because it’s fun, we get to watch TV and stay in,” Lisa said. “But I miss my friends.”
Isabella said that she misses the in-person interaction that comes with attending school. She does appreciate that her mom is able to help her more with certain subjects.
“When my teacher has us take a test, if we get a hundred, we get prizes,” Isabella said. “My mom gets to help me with the math – my teacher, she sometimes doesn’t have time because she has to work with other kids at the table.”
Both girls understand that the Coronavirus is the reason for their new school environment, and Isabella expressed their initial fears over it spreading.
“I was very scared about the Coronavirus, I thought that everyone was going to die and thought we can’t get out of the house unless it’s in like a 9-1-1 emergency,” Isabella said. “Because then it was in McAllen, and I was like ‘oh my God!’”
Lisa and Isabella’s mom, JoAnn Alaniz (the Wellness Coordinator for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD), has been acting as their temporary teacher. While working out of the packets remains steady, the online links being sent to her haven’t all been working properly.
“Everybody’s lost, we’re all lost,” Alaniz said, noting the teachers have only had a few days to get everything together. “They were very organized when I went to pick up the packets – I went at 8 in the morning, and they got the packets very quickly.”
“It seems that they want to do the tablets more than they want to do the books,” Alaniz added, speaking on Isabella and Lisa’s generation using a new curriculum centered around technology. “If they use the tablet, they’re so much more engaged than they are with their books.”
Alaniz also said they were privileged to be able to access technology that other students in the district don’t have.
“We’re a little more privileged than most – I don’t need access to the food, I don’t need access to the internet,” Alaniz said. “We are very blessed, in that sense.”
Alaniz has been looking for more books for her daughters, as they usually donate the books they’ve already read to the Peñitas Public Library.
“We have some books here at the house, but they’ve already read them,” Alaniz said. “I’m trying to get more access to more books online, and that’s what I’m getting from their teachers.”
Alaniz has also had to adjust to her additional role as she takes care of her daughters at home.
“It’s been a challenge – I’m not a teacher,” Alaniz said. “I’m all about staying on a schedule, and I’m flexible, but I need that flexibility so I don’t feel cooped up.”
As a Wellness Coordinator, Alaniz is working on finding resources for her district’s teachers and administration to access not only physical exercise, but mental health as well.
“It’s not just about exercising,” Alaniz said. “It’s so they can stay mentally balanced. I exercise, and it’s not even helping me [right now]. Usually I exercise and that’s my time to meditate, but even when I’m running, I’m thinking of what’s next on the schedule. It’s not just about exercising, it’s about staying busy mentally.”
Elementary students aren’t the only ones experiencing an unexpected shift this year. Laura Ramirez, a senior at Pioneer High School, has been making the adjustment to school from home with her three siblings.
“At first it was a little hard, because you have to get used to having good time management,” Ramirez said. “You don’t have a teacher there to watch you do the work or hand out the work, it’s more about self-responsibility.”
Ramirez, who excels in basketball and volleyball, also participates in RGVLead, HOSA and FarmTech. Going into Spring Break, the impact of COVID-19 was nothing she and her fellow seniors expected.
“I think it was kind of a shock,” Ramirez said. “I knew the virus was a problem, but I didn’t know it would reach the extent of us not being able to go to school, not able to go out and now we have curfews.”
She noted that being younger, her generation has the tendency to not take things of this nature too seriously until it happens to them.
“It’s not fun, it’s not like ‘oh, now we can hang out with our friends,’” Ramirez said. “Now we’re here alone, we can’t go out. At the beginning, I don’t think people understood the severity of it, so they were still going out, and that just caused more people to be exposed. Now, I think since everyone’s been quarantined, it’s been helping.”
All of her and her siblings have been completing work online through Google Classroom, Khan Academy or Zoom. Ramirez misses the school environment, seeing her friends and learning from several different teachers.
“It’s more individual, I don’t think anyone expected it to change so fast,” Ramirez said.
To pass the time when they aren’t working, she and her siblings have been painting, watching movies and playing video games. Ramirez said her class had all been looking forward to the end-of-the-year activities like awards and presentations.
“Especially with prom and graduation, now it’s questionable if that’s even going to happen,” Ramirez said. “It’s not that big of a deal to me, but I know a lot of people in my grade are very concerned about it, because they say graduation and walking the stage has been something they’ve been wanting to do since they were little.”
“They’ve dreamed the dream since they were little, like senior prom is a big thing,” Ramirez added. “They’re kind of upset or worried that it’s going to be taken away from them, that it’s not going to happen.”