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Covid Restrictions Reach Franklin Center

English teacher Kristina Osborne's College English class learns in the basement lecture room due to a bigger class size to better fit Covid guidelines. (Photo by Hayley Rae)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Assistant Editor

In the town of Rocky Mount, minutes from campus, sits the Franklin Center, where teachers like Kristina Osborne are trying to make it through this unusual year same as everyone else. However, they have a couple more hoops to jump through.

“Many of our regulations are the same as the high school campus,” began Osborne, an English teacher. “Students have to check in at the high school and obtain their green ticket before we can admit them to class. We also follow seating regulations and mask protocols. The Franklin Center, itself, has mandated masks and instituted deep cleaning daily in order to combat any potential spread.”

Part of the seating regulations Osborne mentioned is having decreased class sizes to allow for better social distancing. Since the School Board decided to decrease social distancing from 6 to 3 ½ feet, that allows for more students than before, but not many.

“For the hybrid schedule, class sizes are smaller but our class sizes are smaller anyway. English class is normally limited to an average size of 22-24 kids, Mr. Buckman’s government classes reach higher, but with the lab constraints we have for biology, we can only sit 18,” explained Biology teacher Amy Chattin.

Some Biology students at the Franklin Center will find themselves learning with another teacher this semester as a way to decrease class sizes, but this had already been occurring pre-pandemic.

Students in Biology teacher Tina Young's College Biology class sit three and a half feet apart. (Photo by Hayley Rae)

“Bio 101 and Bio 102 are each one semester long. As the master schedule is generated, students are placed by the computer into classes that fit the master schedule and their educational needs. For example, if a student has one teacher in the fall for Bio 101, they may have a different teacher in the spring for Bio 102,” Biology teacher Tina Young stated. “This is very normal and happens frequently.”

For the short time students were learning in-person last semester, these class limits came in handy. However, that was only for a couple weeks, as most all instruction took place virtually. While students learned the same material as they would have on campus, instructors found that being at home had its challenges.

“The thing I miss the most is that in a face-to-face class it’s much easier to have discussions in depth and this is particularly for what I teach,” Government teacher Andy Buckman explained. “I teach about American politics, and it’s very important and helpful to be in a room with people so I can see how they’re reacting to what I’m saying, and people can spontaneously ask questions. I think there is simply no way that human beings can communicate as effectively virtually as they can in person. But at the same time, under the circumstances of the pandemic, I fully understand and appreciate why virtual learning is important and necessary.”

Osborne also faced some problems, but she chose to view them in a humorous manner.

“The only issues I've faced are technology issues,” she recalled. “Zoom has crashed in the middle of me lecturing, my cats have jumped on screen occasionally, or I've had to remind my husband that ‘Yes, I'm talking about commas for the fifth time, go away!’. For the most part, I've tried to keep my sense of humor and be understanding, as well as asking my students to bear with me because I'm learning and adapting to a new situation, just like they are.”

Some teachers took initiative and found a way for their students to experience in-person instruction despite the restrictions.

“I’m a very hands-on teacher, and virtual learning doesn’t let me do that,” Chattin said. “So, Ms. Young and I have started offering Saturday lab sessions every other Saturday for students to come in and get the lab credits they need.”

The English and government classes couldn’t exactly do this, so these teachers are more than ready to come back to class starting Feb. 15.

“A great deal of what I teach is about how human beings are intrinsically social meaning human beings interact with other human beings in order to meet many many different needs and many parts of our life experience really depend on having human interaction,” Buckman replied. “I’m tremendously excited to have students come back, even if it’s on a part time basis. It allows me to get to know my students personally much more easily than through virtual communications and to me, that’s at the heart of what happens in classrooms.”

Many students are just as eager to return.

Biology teacher Tina Young teaches her College Biology class while wearing a mask. (Photo by Hayley Rae)

“I like that the Franklin Center is a diverse environment, and the teachers are wonderful! I'm not gonna lie, there have been a few bumps along the way while taking Franklin Center classes virtually: it has become extremely difficult to learn,” junior Madison Hodges recalled from her previous semester as a 100% virtual student. “I feel like returning to school on a hybrid schedule will help me learn a lot more than the way I was learning being completely remote.”

Even though this school year has been unlike any other, Franklin Center teachers believe it hasn’t been all bad.

“If anything good comes out of this, it’s the fact that we’re learning how to think about things differently, which may continue. We might have to revert back to virtual, but I’m excited that we’re going to start seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. I’m just so tired of looking at a screen,” Chattin finished with a laugh.

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