Students Critique, Suggest Improvements for Distance Learning in S.F.


Webinar participants on May 28, 2020. Clockwise from bottom right: La’Jaya Smith, a senior at Life Learning Academy; Abigail Ault, a junior at Lincoln High School; Daphne Magnawa, Public Press director of membership and community; and Lila LaHood, publisher of the Public Press.

The San Francisco Unified School District has announced that fall classes will begin on Aug. 17, and administrators are in the process of planning how campuses will function as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. They are challenged with figuring out how to keep students safe and make classes engaging whether they are held remotely or in modified classroom settings. 

For our Public Press Live panel this week, we heard directly from students about what life has been like for them under the shelter-in-place order. We invited Abigail Ault, a junior at Lincoln High School, and La’Jaya Smith, a senior at Life Learning Academy, to share their experiences with distance learning and to talk about how they and their friends have coped socially and emotionally during the coronavirus pandemic.

Both said they sometimes struggled to stay motivated and to keep up with assignments without the camaraderie and emotional support they used to draw from seeing their friends in school every day. 

“It’s that social interaction that’s supposed to help us as humans — but we’re not getting that. We’re all ‘from home.’ We’re distant from everybody. So, I’m a person that likes social connection. And if I don’t have that, I’m kind of all over the place. So that’s definitely been the hardest for me.” – La’Jaya Smith

“Definitely towards like this last week when grades were officially like, you either pass or you fail — and if you’re passing in March, you’re passing. So I was starting to think, ‘I’m not going to need any of this. And there’s no point in doing it.’ And what my friends did was I told them this. . . and they all decided that we should have a homework session, where we split up the work and just did it all together rather than separate. And that kind of helped. Plus, there’s the fact that we have next year, which is also motivation.” — Abigail Ault

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A segment from our radio show, “Civic.” Listen daily at 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. on 102.5 FM in San Francisco.