Milestone changed: starting junior high during COVID

Remote 7th graders haven’t been inside the school building


Photo by: Haley Duncan

Taylor Duncan, 7th grader, said the transition to seventh grade has been an easy one.

Starting junior high is a rite of passage — a milestone for every student. It’s what students look forward to when they are young: one day, they will make it to junior high. But COVID-19 changed everything for everyone in the world and that includes seventh graders at J. Frank Dobie Junior High School. Many 7th graders are still working from home and haven’t even stepped foot on campus because their parents chose to keep them in remote learning. 

“I was really scared about going to middle school and seventh grade because we would be starting it online so I wouldn’t be able to talk to anyone and also, it’s middle school,” said Taylor Duncan, a 7th grader who currently attends school in person. “But now I am really kind of relaxed about it because it’s not that difficult. For me, the transition has been a smooth one.”

But things are smooth for everyone and if they are, they might not have started out that way.

When COVID-19 changes hit SCUCISD

In mid-March for Spring Break 2020 when COVID-19 began spreading locally and Schertz-Cibolo Universal City ISD prolonged Spring Break and then made the switch from in-person to remote schooling, things were very different. Teachers were asked to keep things simple for their students and lessons were given on Mondays for the whole week and they were due on Sundays at midnight. Students who couldn’t do online learning had their parents contact their teacher/teachers and provide non-tech assignments. Grades were more lenient and so was attendance.

The current seventh graders were still in the sixth grade at intermediate schools in our district and that meant that things were more simple. They didn’t have as many teachers or responsibilities.

But beginning in the Fall of 2020, things have been very different. The reasons vary from districts having more time to prepare students and families for online learning to state requirements for student learning and attendance.

Lessons and assignments are posted each day for each class and students are normally required to submit assignments by midnight.  Teachers follow the district grading policy for missing, late and failing work, meaning that all assignments that are not turned in by the due dates, normally by midnight each day, get grades of missing are zeroes in the online grade book.

This school year began on August 13, 2020 with all students starting the year remotely. On September 8, 2020, the day after Labor Day, students whose parents chose for them to come to school in person, began attending in person. The experience has been different for every student, and sometimes it can change daily. 

Students and teachers have been adapting and making changes as they go through the year.  “It wasn’t hard finding my classes and for the most part I like my teachers,” said Sam Koast, 7th grader.

The first day of seventh grade

One the first day of remote learning, every student had the opportunity to join a Zoom meeting to virtually meet and greet with all of their teachers and other students in each class. Students were required to look up each class on Google Classroom to get the times and Zoom links and they followed an abbreviated class schedule. Not all students were able to join all Zooms in time. Still, many Zooms were held and students and teachers enjoyed getting to know each other for the first time.

Gabriel Salanguit, 7th grader, said he had most looked forward to going to junior high so that he could go to different classes and enjoy various electives classes. When COVID-19 changed the beginning of his year, he was disappointed. “I didn’t like remote learning at all. Some of my grades got lost and it was harder to manage,” said Salanguit. “When I am old and look back at junior high, I will think about how different this was than my parents’ experiences at my age and how we had to wear masks and sit in the cafeteria with dividers between us when we came back to school in person. It’s sad to me.”

Before COVID-19, students were accustomed to going to classes and having teachers manage their time and activities, so for many students, time management is a challenge. When students work remotely from home, much of learning and the process of getting it done is left to them to manage.

Challenges and distractions are everywhere when working on schoolwork from home. There are technology glitches, Netflix, video games, snacks, pets, siblings, parents and more. “My biggest issue was my internet and my biggest distraction was my pets,” Taylor Duncan, 7th grader, said. 

Motivation is a big challenge for many. “My biggest issues were probably the fact that I had no motivation to complete my assignments,” said Sam Koast, a 7th grader who is currently attending school in person.

Making the decision to learn at home

The reasons why students and their parents decided to choose to stay in remote learning vary widely. Some are afraid of catching and spreading COVID-19. Some prefer to manage their schoolwork at home. 

Some seventh grade students at Dobie Junior high seem to think that online learning was a great thing to experience. 

 “If I had the choice I would go face to face, but I feel like that’s not the best idea right now and I’m pretty content using google classroom and doing distance learning,” said Daniella Acosta, a 7th grade online student. “I think my teachers were pretty nice and my classes are doing good. “I understand the material and everything’s going smoothly.”

Looking ahead

On October 4, parents and students were able to choose to change their learning plan again. That change will take place at the beginning of the second nine weeks, on Monday, October 19.