It’s that time again: Schools across the region are starting fall classes. With the diverse array of in-person, remote, and hybrid programs necessitated by the pandemic, the experiences of teachers, parents, and students alike are bound to play an important role in charting another unprecedented academic year.
For the fall semester, the Doane Stuart School in Rensselaer, an independent college preparatory school serving grades preK-12, has chosen a hybrid approach. Because of the size of the campus and the low student-teacher ratio, Doane Stuart wholeheartedly welcomed students back in-person on September 9 with a synchronous online option for families who wish to continue their children’s education from home.
For a student’s perspective, we interviewed Olakunsi Peters, a rising senior at Doane Stuart, on her experience with online learning, what it's like to return to the school this fall, and how it feels to be a graduating senior during a pandemic.
- Doane Stuart student Olakunsi Peters
What was it like to transition to online learning this spring?
Before the pandemic I thought online learning was for adults or undergraduates who had other duties that prevented them from going in person. But I was actually excited to keep going to class every day, and it was nice that we still had homework and quizzes.
I was able to study in the same way I did in school, just in the comfort of my home. It's amazing that everyone is still able to participate and share during class like normal. I’m honestly so grateful for technology like Zoom and Google classroom.
I would email my math teacher to ask for a one-on-one and she’d always respond so quickly. Our teachers are amazing and they actually care about our wellbeing. If we didn’t have that technology, I don’t know how we would be able to connect.
Are you joining classes in-person or online this fall?
I was online for the first week and will be starting in-person classes for the second week. This first week online though, I could see that my friends could talk to each other and I was able to talk to my friend from across the room just like we were together.
What does it feel like to be able to come back to school in-person?
Everyone is just so excited to be back. After all the time apart, we wanted to come in and hug each other, but of course we knew we couldn't. It’s amazing how Doane Stuart quickly adapted for in-person classes with things like one-way hallways and making sure we wouldn’t all be in the lunchroom at the same time.
What’s it like going into your senior year with so much change to the traditional classroom environment?
At first I wasn’t comfortable coming back in-person, but once I was able to see all the precautions the school was taking I became much more comfortable.
Doane Stuart really wants small classes so you can have one-on-one time with a teacher. In our classes, there’s usually only 7 or 8 of us so we can be spaced really far apart. For instance, this year I’m taking “Advanced Topics in Cell Bio” and it’s just me and my other friend in the class. We both love biology and learning new things and we have a great relationship with our teacher.
Has the pandemic played any role in what you want to do after you graduate?
I want to study cognitive science and neuroscience in college. Ms. Bracken, our college counselor, has done an amazing job of assuring us that even with the pandemic, the process is going to be the same. It hasn’t really changed at all where I would like to apply.
Before the summer, sometimes I was worried that a lot of things might change with the college process because of the pandemic. I am really grateful for Ms. Bracken, who has a Google classroom where I can stop in and have one-on-one meetings with her about how I’m feeling personally and talk through any concerns I have.
Even if the university I decided to go to made the choice to have remote classes, I would be fine with that. My sister goes to the University of Rochester and I saw how quickly she was able to adapt to online learning. In New York, I think a lot of colleges have been really understanding.