The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year has been like no other with students participating in virtual learning in response to Covid-19. While students are not able to attend a physical classroom, several administrators have been balancing a new work schedule of virtual meetings and activities inside of Mt. Hebron.
Administrators have been able to work inside of the building a few times a week, with their additional work being done at home.
“Every administrator takes a different day, so everybody works from 7:30 to 3:30,” said Principal Dr. Joelle Miller. “It gives them some normalcy. And we have mail, we have packages, and on Wednesdays, if any kid needs to pick up any materials, we like to be in the cafeteria on Wednesdays, and that’s how I get to see kids.”
Dr. Miller’s job has changed with online schooling. Where in-person schooling had her interacting with students on a daily basis, she now spends most of her time in meetings.
“It’s lonely,” she said. “You get your energy from the children, from the students. I don’t have that.”
While she has stated that she wants nothing more than to go back to in-person learning, she does not know what is going to happen. Howard County has not shared what their plans are for semester two of the school year.
Being an administrator in a new environment can provide several foreign challenges, including how to get in contact and connect with students who are harder to reach.
“I think, being an administrator, I’ve always wanted to lend my hand to help students and staff. It’s just harder in a virtual format. So I pick up the phone a lot more — as many phone calls as I can — because sometimes it’s just easier to explain than in an email or in a Canvas message,” said Administrative Intern Mr. Jonathan Dupski.
Mr. Dupski enjoyed visiting classrooms during his day and conversing with students. Now with school being online, it is harder to make a connection.
“You don’t interact as much,” he said. “I try my best to interact over Google Meet, but I was at Hebron for one quarter last year and then transferred to Bonnie Branch Middle School for the remainder of the year. So now being back, trying to build those connections again is just difficult.”
Assistant Principal Ms. Katie Clark expressed concerns that with a lack of motivation, students might become lost to the system and drop out.
“I think that’s been the biggest challenge is that connection piece and really trying not to lose kids, to make sure that they’re staying involved in school even though it’s really hard right now for people to be motivated to stay in school,” said Ms. Clark.
In 2019, the average percentage of students who dropped out of schools in Maryland was 8.42%. That percentage has been slowly increasing over recent years.
There are positives, however. Many students who were struggling in an in-person school format have found success online.
Ms. Clark said, “You can see the transformation in kids that really struggled here in a building with 1700 hundred kids. [They] are doing really well virtually, so there are some positives to it.”
During this virtual school semester, administrators want to help students as much as possible.
When asked about what advice she had for seniors, Dr. Miller stated, “I feel like this year, even though we can’t do things in school, there is nothing preventing my community and my parents and my kids from organizing things. So don’t rely on the school to celebrate your senior year. You should be celebrating.”
While students may not be frequently seeing their administrators right now, it is important to note that they are ready to support the student community’s needs, whatever those might be.