Distance learning students feel less connected to Don Lugo

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Madison Bonadurer, a distance learning student, completes her school days in her work space. (Photo Courtesy: Madison Bonadurer)

Cheyanne Jauregui and Megan Robinson

At the beginning of this year, students had to start a strange new chapter in their high school journey by transitioning from classroom learning to virtual learning. They had two options to choose from when making the transition; distance learning or blended learning.  Students based their choice by determining which learning model worked best for them and their families in this unprecedented time of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Don Lugo has never had any reason to integrate the distance learning model in the forty-eight years it has been founded, until now due to abnormal circumstances. Distance learning students have less interaction with Don Lugo staff in comparison to blended learning students because they get issued teachers from all over the CVUSD district. The classes also have students from different schools within the district and distance learning students are not able to attend class with the blended model students which cause them to be more isolated from their Don Lugo peers and friends.  This begs the question, do the students that picked distance learning feel less connected with Don Lugo and more isolated?

I took school for granted, it was my safe place and I wish I had more of a respect for it. I wish I took more photos with friends and tried to simply live and enjoy myself on campus. I miss it all. ”

— Anonymous

Eight out of ten distance learning students that were interviewed feel less or not at all connected with the school. Jessica Martinez, a senior, explains, “In a way, I do feel less connected, this isn’t the learning model I preferred, I kind of feel like an outcast.” She continues to elaborate on how she feels more like an independent study student than an officially enrolled student at Don Lugo. This is because her classes are with teachers and students from different schools that she is not familiar with. They also feel more distant from their friends who are in the blended learning model because the pandemic makes it so they can’t see them as much and on top of that, they do not have any classes together. Nelson Oliveros, a senior, states, “I haven’t really been connected with my friends lately. I’ve just been flying solo most of the time.”

Distance learning students are going to be doing online learning till the end of the school year, unlike blended learning students. They won’t be going back to school if it opens back up again and with this comes so many things to be missed about the campus. Briana Lupercido, a senior, says, “I miss being able to see my friends, going to football games, and performing with my teammates.” Even just simply learning in the classroom is missed by these students, Marley Villa adds, “I miss actually being able to learn on campus”.”

It’s safe to say they all miss the connection they used to have with the school. At football games, there was euphoria in the air as the students cheered on their teams, a sense of unity. Being able to hug their friends as they passed each other in the halls, seeing the passion in their teachers’ eyes as they taught. Being able to stay after school for hours while doing something they all are passionate about from dance to football. None of these experiences could ever transfer digitally.

However online learning doesn’t stop students from trying to replicate these ideas. Distance learning students are trying their best to stay connected despite their circumstances. How do they do this? By getting involved in extracurriculars. Students elaborated on the activities that they enjoy joining, such as dance, Latino clubs, cross country, and yearbook. 

I miss the energy at campus, being able to take pictures of people and events for yearbook, the smell of food lingering in the hallways from culinary, my talks with Ms. Ragsdale and Mr. Cantos, the sporting events, and rallies.”

— Jessica Martinez

Don Lugo’s resourceful students also have other ways they have stayed connected with peers and teachers. Biray Sanchez Mora elaborates on how she is going to keep up with her friends, which will be by texting and setting up zooms with friends that are in the blended learning model while she is in distance. Jessica Martinez shares her thoughts on how staying connected is working for her. “It is hard but isn’t impossible, I’ve stayed connected in a way that we do homework together over facetime or get together in person catching up, while social distancing of course. It’s been tough just because all this online stuff drains you and sometimes where there’s days or even weeks where I don’t want to talk to anybody and just am in my little world.”

With the uncertainty of the future ahead, distance learners are trying their absolute best to stay a part of Don Lugo. Multiple students interviewed say that they miss being on the Don Lugo campus, and being surrounded by everybody that makes Don Lugo special. Hopefully, when students can go back to school safely, they can catch up on missed memories and friends. Nelson Oliveros reminisces, “Lugo is unique in its own way. It may not have the best of anything, but I love my high school. It’s a home away from home.”