Virtual Learning Sparks Discussion Among HHS Student Body


Elle Cavanaugh

Hingham Public Schools switched to a Remote Learning plan on April 6. Students complete online assignments from home.

Elle Cavanaugh, Contributing Writer

Thursday, March 12 marked the end of the 2019-2020 school year at Hingham Public Schools…Well, not exactly. While it would later be revealed that March 12 would be the last day of actual classroom schooling during this year, that Thursday would also be the start of an interesting online substitute, which sparked a major conversation across the student body.

Initially, HHS would only have Friday, March 13, and Monday, March 16 off.

Once it was announced that school would remain closed for three weeks, the first wave of online schooling began with suggested enrichment activities. Teachers began to release suggested enrichment activities on Wednesday, March 18, and continued to do so for three weeks until Friday, April 3. Under the guidelines of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that stressed the importance of equity and parity, the work was completely optional,  but it attempted to keep students on track with learning. 

Sophomore Anthony Longo commented on the enrichment activities, saying that they were “manageable and many were enjoyable.” He added, “it was different, adjusting to an at-home setting without my friends, but it was fine for the most part.” Sophomore Dominic Kanter agreed, “I found it very manageable, and it was good to continue to learn a bit, but it was tough to really master and retain as much information as I would have in school.”

Many students were very appreciative of the teachers’ efforts with these activities, and HHS’s Student Council even posted a video thanking them

Student Council member, sophomore Kate Schembri, commented, “the teachers are really accessible and always available to answer questions, which I appreciate. I’m really impressed with the resources they’ve provided.”

The situation intensified once Governor Baker announced on Wednesday, March 25 that schools would remain closed until at least May 4. In response, Hingham Public Schools transitioned to a remote learning program, beginning April 6. Under this new plan, work would now be required, and students would either receive “credit” if they completed the work or “no credit” if they did not.

Sophomore Dee O’Donnell shared, “online school has had its ups and downs. Although definitely a transition, remote learning has allowed me time to try new hobbies such as learning to penny board and baking and cooking with my mom.” She continued, “I also appreciate completing school work on my own time, but it is sad not being surrounded by my classmates and friends.”

Freshman Kristi Phillips confessed, “as much as I miss my friends in school, the remote learning program has worked really well for me so far. My teachers have been very understanding and flexible.”

Senior Ruthie Kerber agreed, “It’s honestly not that much heavier of a workload and it is kind of nice to have everything be [credit/no credit] even if everything else about the situation sucks.”

Phillips added, “although I’m still learning the content, I enjoy doing it at my own pace from the comfort of my house.”

Junior Nathan Lavoie’s opinion on the remote learning is slightly differed from the others: “I think it’s nice to do it at your own pace, but the workload is a lot for me mentally and makes me miss being in the actual classroom.”

Irritation with online learning spans all grades, but it especially describes how the juniors feel. The spring is an especially difficult time for them, as many vital steps in the college application process occur during this time; with the added stress of being stuck at home, many juniors expressed their frustration: 

Junior Laura Kenneway explained, “it is kind of annoying for us juniors because we can’t get the direct help with the college application process.” Junior Sophia Rinaldi added, “the teachers have been working hard to keep us from falling behind, but we’re trying to figure out what we’re going to be doing for the rest of our lives, and it’s kind of tricky when we’re not actively ‘expanding our knowledge’ in class.” 

Another problem festering especially among the junior class, but also across the grades, is the issue with grading. Governor Baker announced Tuesday, April 21 that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, which presented Hingham with the issue of whether to stick to a credit/no credit grading system or switch to something else. 

Many students like sophomore Jade Weggeman felt strongly about receiving letter grades for their work in Term 3. Weggeman explained, “I wanted to keep my Term 3 grades because I was working really hard to improve my grades from the previous term and some of my class averages for Term 3 were the best I had all year, so I didn’t want that to go to waste.”

Some parents and teachers worry that with the credit/no credit system, students are not putting enough effort into their school work, but Schembri shares, “I think that remote learning has made me work harder because I want to be a person who still does good work even though it’s not going to be graded like usual.”

HHS Principal Swanson received hundreds of emails from concerned parents and students with opinions similar and different to those of Weggeman and Schembri. At the School Committee meeting this past Monday, April 27, Swanson proposed a plan which he believes “will serve the interests of our students in the best and fairest way possible” (Hingham Anchor). 

Swanson proposed to create one long term from January 27 (when Semester 2 began) until the end of the school year rather than keeping Term 3 and Term 4. Learning would stick to the credit/no credit system installed back at the start of school closure, but a student who receives “credit” would receive a 100% grade for the term, and a student who receives “no credit” would receive a 60% grade for the term. These Term 3 grades would factor into a student’s GPA but weigh only 20% of the final year grade. Grades from Term 1 and Term 2 would weigh 35% each, and the mid-year exam grades would weigh 10%. 

Swanson explained, “No student who earns ‘credit’ for third term will see his/her average suffer as a result of school closure. To the contrary, all students will be held harmless for the challenges posed by this unprecedented national emergency. If we can accomplish that with this plan, we will have achieved something we can all feel good about” (Hingham Anchor). 

After hearing Swanson’s proposal, Weggeman added, “I understand it is super hard to fulfill everyone’s needs and figure out a grading situation, and I like what they’ve come up with. I think it’s more helpful than harmful to the students and teachers.”

Swanson’s proposal and the fate of Remote Learning and 2019-2020 grades will be further discussed this upcoming Monday, May 4 at the next School Committee meeting. 

Much like this pandemic, there is a lot of uncertainty concerning the remote learning program and the grading system, but hopefully, Monday’s meeting will bring some long-awaited answers.