I never, ever thought that I would miss getting up early and going to school everyday.

Coronavirus has thrown numerous curveballs at everyone over the past several months, one of them being the behemoth of “distance learning”. Understandably, teachers had multiple challenges switching to online platforms and modifying their curriculum. Some students, like myself, struggled with the absence of teacher and student interactions that are part of a healthy classroom environment.

There was a widespread lack of motivation due to the “Pass/Fail” system, inconsistent class assignments and schedules, and overall low expectations. However, I acknowledge that the district is required to meet the needs of all students and ensure equality while following the Oregon Department of Education’s (ODE) guidelines. I was pleased to hear that ODE has granted individual districts the ability to make decisions that will better meet the needs of Hood River County students.

I would love to be able to complete my senior year in the halls of HRVHS, but realistically, I’m not sure that will be an option. At this rate we will be resuming either distance learning or a hybrid schedule in the fall. As a student who had to navigate this past spring’s “distance learning”, I have some suggestions for the district that will hopefully allow for improved stability, clarity, and rigor for future students.

There is simply no substitute for classroom conversations or personal interactions. I think it is essential that students are able to meet daily with their teachers, and be taught whether it is in person or online. I’ve appreciated regular feedback from teachers in the past, and distance learning made this more difficult. With a more consistent class schedule and higher expectations, students would be more motivated to complete their assignments and actually progress academically.

Throughout the distance learning module used this past spring, assignments were typically given at the beginning of the week with the expectation that they would be turned in on a suggested date...at some point. Teachers were not able to mandate a due date because of the “Pass/Fail” stipulation that was in place.

This system is debatable from many angles; however, I believe it is ultimately detrimental to students’ learning process and overall work ethic. Students who invested time and effort into their education and worked hard for their grades are now made to feel that this dedication amounts to nothing. All of their efforts and commitment are diminished to a ‘P’ on their transcript. It would be one thing if every high school in the country was grading like this, but I feel it is a real disservice to hard working students trying to be competitive in the college application process.

I am grateful to live in a small community where educators and administrators want the best for their students. In the fall, I encourage the school district to ensure everyone has access to teachers throughout the day in a classroom setting (virtual or in person), return to the higher expectations that are required for academic success, and reinstate grades for the 2020-2021 school year.

Luke Southall is a senior at Hood River Valley High School.

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