Absent Students Need Support

Opinion

Talk to a few Berkeley High School (BHS) students who have had to quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 test, and they’ll each have a different response as to how they’ve kept up with their classwork while out of school. Even well into the second semester, rules around how and when students make up missed classwork while absent vary from teacher to teacher. By implementing a more uniform and straightforward method of assigning work, teachers can ensure quarantined students are able to learn new material and complete classwork. 

While creating a clear protocol for how students can complete assignments independently may be inconvenient for teachers, it will require less time and effort from them in the future. Under a clear, structured system, students will already be caught up  on work when they return. This saves time for teachers and spares students the heightened stress of missing so many classes.  

Putting a system in place that would benefit both students and teachers could be extremely simple. Hazel Wolff, a BHS freshman, was absent for five days, and was only able to complete work after reaching out to her teachers, most of whom only sporadically update Google Classroom. Consistently updating Google Classroom, a tool already available to teachers, would allow students to complete assignments while quarantined at home. Procedures could also include posting weekly class content on schedules, therefore explaining what will be covered each day. Additionally, teachers who already hold office hours could start to host them on Zoom, which would allow both absent and present students to check in and individually receive support. 

Of course, last year, during distance learning, it became apparent that some subjects and lessons are challenging to replicate in an online format. Participating in science labs, using woodshop tools, and developing film all require hands-on learning, which cannot always be done at home. Teachers may improvise by recording labs or holding occasional, in-person office hours when students return, allowing them to use the tools available at school.  

Communication and implementation of systems that allow students to make up missed classwork is vital to support quarantined students. Teachers must communicate regularly and consistently about their policies around missed assignments, and students must be assertive when arranging times to receive support.  

The Omicron variant is teaching us that increased student absences may be inevitable, forcing everyone to continue to adapt. Students must know what is expected of them before they find themselves missing school.