After the longest spring break in school history, most Casady students finally returned to campus mid-August to start a new school year. Students have had to adjust to major changes in the traditional school day: wearing masks, copious amounts of hand sanitizer, plexiglass, and social distancing. However, not all members of our community have returned to campus. Currently, four percent of Upper Division students are participating in the Flex Learning Program for various reasons. Because we don’t have the opportunity to see them every day, I felt it was important to learn more about them and how they are adjusting to their new learning environment. I spoke with three students – Kylie Fleetwood (’23), Zain Malik (’21), and Caroline Naifeh (’24) – all three of whom have had different experiences with the program.
Across the board, the students felt that the school has improved on the Flex Learning that had to be hastily put together in the spring. Zain Malik said, “In the spring, many of the students and teachers weren’t familiar with these new technology platforms. Now both students and teachers are prepared. We have definitely changed from the spring for the better.” In addition, students noted that they have fewer live classes now than in the spring, which forces them to be more self-disciplined and set their own schedules. Kylie Fleetwood finds this useful: “I don’t have constant video calls, and this extra free time gives me a lot of room to get work done, which is very helpful.” In fact, the flexible learning environment and the additional free time were consistent positives that the students identified during their interviews.
Not surprisingly, there were a few disadvantages associated with the Flex Learning Program. Despite their daily check-in with Mrs. Infantino at 12:15 p.m. where she provides chapel announcements and updates on what is going on around the campus, the students lack the human interaction that only in-person learning can provide. At one point, Zain mentioned that during a Harkness discussion in his English class, he noticed how much fun his fellow classmates were having and wished he could have joined them. In addition, all of the students identified science as a difficult subject to tackle remotely. Since they are not able to participate in labs, they felt like they missed some critical learning experience. However, they felt very grateful to Casady for the work the teachers have put towards communicating and helping them through this process.
As we navigate this unprecedented school year, many of us may find ourselves having to transition in and out of the Flex Learning Program for shorter periods of time. Caroline Naifeh is an example of this type of student. She did school remotely for a short two-week period, and she too observed some of the same things about the program as the long-term students. That said, she found the transition to remote learning to be relatively easy and noted that her teachers did a good job of informing her on what she needed to do to keep up. According to Caroline, “in-person learning is definitely better. However, Flex Learning is not terrible, because it gave me a lot of free time.”
The 2020-2021 school year brings new and unforeseen obstacles to all of us students, whether online or in-person. However, as a Casady community, it is important to understand what our fellow students who are not on campus are dealing with as we navigate this year. Although Flex Learning may not be ideal, it seems to have been a useful option for some families, and Casady has done a fantastic job making it work for these students.