By John W. Davis, Contributing Writer
INGLEWOOD — When the new school year begins in the Inglewood Unified School District Aug. 24, students will be going online due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The district will be following a virtual distance learning model, which means that students will miss out on the familiar back-to-school activities.
And for high school seniors, it could be that they will miss out on the “senior experience,” which for many is the highlight of their education career.
Some Inglewood seniors talked about what a senior year of virtual learning would mean to them.
Gilbert Ochoa was looking forward to his senior year, but he didn’t picture it with virtual learning.
“I feel like we were all not prepared for this. It was totally unexpected,” he said.
Saying he remembers when distance learning began on March 13 like it was yesterday, Ochoa is realistic about starting his senior year at home learning online.
“I did get used to the idea that this is how my senior year is going to be,” Ochoa said. “It’s not going to be traditional, at least not in the beginning.
Looking back on last March, he added, “The first few days [of distance learning] I wasn’t able to manage it. … However, I managed to do things myself.”
Ochoa is an emerging leader in the district after representing the student’s perspective as a member of the Inglewood Unified Instruction Sub Committee Task Force, which is helping the district prepare for the upcoming school year.
Like Ochoa, Ricardo Williams isn’t happy starting his senior year at home.
“If you would have told me at the beginning of my junior year, that’s how it would have ended, I would have told you that you were crazy,” Williams said. “School is where you get to be with your friends and be in your own skin.”
Both Ochoa and Williams wish they were going back to school in August. They’re longing for in-person education because they love the social aspect of being able to engage with staff and students.
However, they’ve both learned a new level of independence, which they consider a positive result of virtual learning.
Ochoa said he liked “the idea of you being able to do more research and learning on your own.”
His Inglewood High classmate, Williams agreed.
“The pluses of virtual learning is I can do it on my own time,” Williams said. “I can set timers and reminders to be able to do it.”
But not every student has adapted well to distance learning.
“I speak for a lot of the students in the school,” Ochoa said. “I have heard so many stories about how they feel stressed and overwhelmed.”
Williams explained that virtual learning has not worked out so well for some Inglewood High School students because they have distractions at home. He said school is an escape for some students, in particular for students who have additional responsibilities of taking care of family members, including younger siblings, at home.
Williams is an advanced placement honors student with a 3.5 grade point average. He wants to attend UCLA and major in music composition.
Ochoa is also an advanced placement honors student with a 4.5 GPA. He is also enrolled at El Camino College, earning credit towards his associate’s degree before he even graduates from high school. He is undecided on a college choice but wants to study astronomy or pre-med.
Ochoa’s ultimate goal is to become the valedictorian of Inglewood High School. He’s hopeful he will be able to give his speech in-person about the trials and tribulations the class of 2021 had to endure to cross the graduation stage.
But June is still 10 months away. As he found out his junior year, a lot can change in 10 months.