Photo: West Contra Costa Unified
Graduation 2020 at Richmond High School

Like students throughout California, students in the West Contra Costa Unified school district headquartered in Richmond have been grappling with distance learning instituted in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It is possible or even likely that distance learning will be a prominent part of the school landscape this fall as well. With that in mind, we we are bringing you these students’ reflections on their experiences with distance learning and being out of school generally  — what worked and what didn’t. Friday is officially the last day of school in the district, but some of these interviews were conducted earlier this semester. Students’ remarks have been edited in some instances for clarity.  


Nayeli Mercado, 15, sophomore, Richmond High

Before distance learning, my mental health was never great, but it was controllable. Although, once quarantine started, where we don’t go out, I feel way more mentally exhausted. Along with that, I’ve been really emotional. I get really sad over little things or angry at things I shouldn’t get angry about. I used to complain about school a lot but I kind of miss it now. I miss my friends, teachers, attending class. I miss school in general.


Alizei De Leon, 15, sophomore, Middle College High

I have about the same amount of homework, or maybe a little less since some teachers are trying to make this easier. I also don’t have to study as much for tests anymore since some teachers have canceled tests for the rest of the year…I spend about three to four hours on homework per day, unless I’ve already finished all my work that week. I’m getting through my classes, but I know that I will forget most of this information throughout the summer.


Veronica Contreras, 16, sophomore, De Anza High

What I miss is the support that school actually gives. The way distance learning is set up at De Anza is we have two Zoom classes every day in which they assign work that is due a week later. On Thursday, we have one class and on Fridays, the Zoom classes are just clubs or extracurriculars that want to have a meeting. I personally feel that I am not learning in these Zoom classes.

 


Irene Kou, 15, sophomore, De Anza High

It feels like there’s more pressure to want to stay silent and even if you do ask for help, most questions are not fully answered due to the lack of the in-person and hands-on experience.

 


Katherine Henriquez, 19, senior, Richmond High

I feel that I’m not getting as much work done and have fewer resources around me. It makes me feel more stressed because teachers aren’t there and you have to wait for their response which might take days because they have other students to respond to as well… I also miss seeing my friends and meeting new people at school.


Edwin Garcia, 17, senior, Richmond High

In the midst of all this chaos and struggle, it’s been very hard to stay motivated to do work and keep up with new assignments…Covid-19 also changed the process of enrolling in college as I’m not able to go to the campus for tours or if I need help I can’t ask my teachers. Additionally, financially college has also become more frightening because of the financial crisis that’s spreading across the world. For now, I’m staying calm but the effects of quarantine are beginning to take a toll on my mental health.


Ricardo Castillo Fierro, 17, senior, Richmond High

Every day, I feel less motivated to do my work. At first, when this distance learning started. I thought the work was going to be easier. Then, as time passed everything just fell apart. I’m behind in all of my classes and it’s nearly impossible to catch up. I can’t do the work on my own. I want to learn with my classmates. Distance learning changed a lot of things for me. I wasn’t able to spend time with my friends and my last year of high school wasn’t what I expected at all…It’s one of the reasons why I lost motivation in school because we aren’t going to be able to graduate on stage.


Yvette Garcia, 18, senior, Richmond High

I lost a part-time job due to the virus. I would work around 24-28 hours a week. I would contribute to my family’s expenses by giving $120 a month for the electricity bill in order to help my family. Not being able to help with the bills makes me feel useless because I know my family needs that extra help…I also just miss being out in public with friends and doing outside activities (and) how it could take my mind off of things and just let me relax a little and enjoy the way things used to be.


Yashika Joshi, 17, senior, Aspire College Prep Academy

Distance learning has been difficult. It’s been hard to manage, teaching yourself through assignments…I try to do my work when everybody is asleep at night. If I was at school, I would’ve learned much more due to a teacher paying more attention. Teachers are assigning work on a daily basis, with 45 minutes to hour-long assignments for each class, all due at the end of the week. The workload has increased a lot. Some teachers have reached out (checked in) but not often.


Dana Reyes, 18, senior, Middle College High

I am taking both college and high school classes. My classes are all being taught virtually, through email, or through Google Classroom. I have pushed my self determination to the max and I’m experiencing something very strange. I am still receiving the content but now I have to work twice as hard to understand the material. I sometimes get discouraged and unmotivated but I still try my best to finish early even though teachers and staff have been very flexible and understanding with due dates.


Mekayla Saechao, 16, junior, Richmond High

Distance learning for me so far has been difficult but manageable. Most of my classes consist of completing work that is posted on Google Classroom with a Zoom meeting every other week. I don’t believe I’m learning as much as I would have in school because I’m not getting a lesson from my teachers every day. My teachers have helped a lot by answering questions about assignments quickly…To tell you the truth it is a lot to manage since I’m not physically at school working with my classmates and teachers. But being at home in my comfort zone has helped me become more organized with my work.


Jennifer Diaz Lopez, 18, senior, Richmond High

I have been overwhelmed with the amount of work that I receive, which has changed ever since the pandemic began. Most of my classes are being taught through videos. The majority of my teachers upload videos in which they explain the week’s assignments, while other teachers upload files and text through Remind. My teachers have only reached out when I ask for extensions. I honestly have not learned anything since classes went virtual, because I’m a student that needs to interact and engage with physical activities.


Olinda Raquel Figueredo Orellana, 14, freshman, Kennedy High

It’s been really stressful because most people just want this whole thing to be over and I’m one of them but overall I just feel like it’s not going to happen since so many people still go out. Freshman year wasn’t what I expected because of the whole social distancing. I mean it kind of ruined the high school experience.


Monishlla Maharaj, 18, senior, Richmond High

Although I have assignments from almost all of my classes every day, almost back to back, I always feel like I can do the work whenever I want to… It’s like fighting with my brain daily to do the work or to not do the work. As much as I wouldn’t want to do online learning, I know it benefits everyone by preventing them from getting sick from the virus.


Sarahi Yupit, 16, sophomore, Richmond High

It is hard to concentrate at home during distance learning because I don’t feel motivated to do the work since there is nobody my age whereas at school I feel motivated..it seems like it’s easier to do the tasks and stay on task. There are teachers who teach the actual material. They also motivate you to do your best.


Niya Mason, 16, sophomore, Richmond High

At school, I feel like I was actually learning. But for distance learning, it feels like I am not learning to my full potential. The work definitely keeps me on my toes but I don’t feel like I’m learning. When I’m physically at school, it’s different since I can ask questions, learn more about the subject and be there in person. However, it just seems like, in online learning, teachers are constantly pushing work. I’m not learning because I am constantly struggling to turn the assignments in on time.”

•••

Karina Mascorro, David Sanchez, Valeria Echeverria and Ronishlla Maharaj are students at Richmond High School in the West Contra Costa Unified School District. They’re staff writers of the West Contra Costa Student Reporting Project.

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  1. Rosalyn Parks 1 week ago1 week ago

    Doing school online is tough. Not only is it hard for me to find motivation to even start my work, the zoom classes are tiring and I can’t see my friends. I’m getting restless and just want an excuse to get off my computer and do something else, even if I’m in the hospital. I’m sick of online school.

  2. Annabelle Stornetta 1 month ago1 month ago

    I have seven - no scratch that - I have eight classes if I include my advisory class that are from 8:30 am-4:00 pm (Fridays are shorter and go from 10:00-1:00 thankfully). I attend MIT in Vallejo CA and I am a senior this year. I truly dislike having to attend my last year of high school from home on a computer. I have no internet or computer of my own because I can't afford … Read More

    I have seven – no scratch that – I have eight classes if I include my advisory class that are from 8:30 am-4:00 pm (Fridays are shorter and go from 10:00-1:00 thankfully). I attend MIT in Vallejo CA and I am a senior this year. I truly dislike having to attend my last year of high school from home on a computer. I have no internet or computer of my own because I can’t afford it at the moment so the school over the last summer was kind enough to give everyone these tiny T-Mobile hot spots and some school computers.

    Unfortunately they have many problems like for example the extremely slow connection and nearly all websites are blocked. I have the worst possible luck with technology. (You will likely never meet someone with worse off tech problems than me.) Even my teachers are having a hard time coping with it all. I have never felt more bad for my teachers than I have recently in my entire life. I feel bad for some of the teachers that I don’t even like!

    I just hope everything will sort itself out in the near future. But we don’t have to use our cameras which is nice of the school but we did have to change our profile pics to our faces at first then they let it go and we changed them back lol.

    It’s a bit difficult to learn while watching a tiny screen but at least we’re learning something. I wish everyone having a hard time good luck and hope you all stay safe. I know that it’s hard now but humankind has gone through worse right, what can’t we do? Just do your best and try to stay positive.

  3. Justina Smith 1 month ago1 month ago

    I completely agree with a lot of the students on this website. Distance Learning is definitely a challenge when you have no motivation in your own home. I tend to find myself very distracted by every little thing in my bedroom, I also tend to procrastinate a lot. Distance learning has its downs but I have been learning at my own pace so it’s stressful in its own ways, just not as much.

  4. Carlos Romero 1 month ago1 month ago

    Distance learning has been a struggle for me these past months since we started it. But if I am being honest it also has helped me understand way more things than I used to do before quarantine. But obviously it has its cons and pros like everything does. But I hope to keep on pushing forward with all the things that are happening right now.

  5. Eloy Robledo 1 month ago1 month ago

    Distance Learning is a struggle for me at most times because I don't get to talk to friends about the assignments. My senior year of high school has not been the great year that I was expecting to go through. I thought I was going to finish my Senior year with happiness and Joy, but I didn't, I got it with boringness and a lot of struggle with assignments that are due the next day … Read More

    Distance Learning is a struggle for me at most times because I don’t get to talk to friends about the assignments. My senior year of high school has not been the great year that I was expecting to go through. I thought I was going to finish my Senior year with happiness and Joy, but I didn’t, I got it with boringness and a lot of struggle with assignments that are due the next day or next week. My senior year might be the worst year but I could change that around by making myself motivated and get with friends after school every single day. I am struggling worse than being in regular school in a regular class.

  6. justin santiago 1 month ago1 month ago

    To be honest i kind of like it. I can do things on my own time. One thing i can say is a struggle is just motivation to do the work but overall I’m doing okay. I feel like they should give out less homework considering the whole pandemic and everybody’s personal lives.

  7. teairra 1 month ago1 month ago

    Distance learning, it’s been stressful with trying to get the work turned in on time and trying to actually learn what the teacher is teaching. We have so much work to do and it causes me to have a lot of missing work whereas in school we don’t have so much work to complete at one time.

  8. Emran Parwani 1 month ago1 month ago

    It has been really hard to be in distant learning. Not only are students struggling to find motivation to do work, but teachers to teach their subject through screen. I lack motivation to do a lot of my work since I feel that I’m not learning anything.

  9. Fatima Marentes 2 months ago2 months ago

    I feel that with Distance Learning, there are more cons than pros. I lack motivation to do a lot of my work since I feel that I’m not learning anything. It is also hard to communicate with teachers and students due to learning behind a screen.

  10. Maryam Aljwabra 2 months ago2 months ago

    It has been really hard to be in distant learning. For me it is really hard to stay at home and do the same thing over and over. I like to try new things. When my teachers give me my homework I don't feel like I am working from all of my heart even though I am doing the homework. Even though I have been in America for four year and since English is new … Read More

    It has been really hard to be in distant learning. For me it is really hard to stay at home and do the same thing over and over. I like to try new things. When my teachers give me my homework I don’t feel like I am working from all of my heart even though I am doing the homework. Even though I have been in America for four year and since English is new for me it’s hard to keep up with assignments. I miss my friend and my teachers. If I was at school even if the teachers give you a lot of homework you don’t feel like you have too much pressure on yourself but in distancing learning i feel really pressured on all sides.

  11. Genesis Feliciano 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with a lot of these student. Specially if you're a senior, distance learning is a big challenge. I feel less motivated everyday since I spend many hours on the computer and phone trying to do homework and attend meetings. It sucks because I spend more time on a screen than with my own family. There is never a break to sit down with them or anything due to the load of work I … Read More

    I agree with a lot of these student. Specially if you’re a senior, distance learning is a big challenge. I feel less motivated everyday since I spend many hours on the computer and phone trying to do homework and attend meetings. It sucks because I spend more time on a screen than with my own family. There is never a break to sit down with them or anything due to the load of work I have to do. By the time I am done, I am tired and all I want to do is relax or sleep. This has been really stressful and I do wish teachers could give less homework and more classwork (work to do during class with teachers and classmates). Everything is going down hill for me.

  12. Jada Cooper 2 months ago2 months ago

    I feel a little less motivated but it does give you more family time than you had as usual. The teachers are giving out homework after homework. It is really stressful to keep up with all of my classes – especially when you are a senior and it is the most important year so you have to pass all of your classes to graduate.

  13. Victor Duran 2 months ago2 months ago

    Distance learning is hard for everyone. Not only are students struggling to find motivation to do work, but teachers to teach their subject to an empty screen. School gave us a learning environment – in a sense it forced us to learn what you don’t get while at home.

  14. Ngan Doan 2 months ago2 months ago

    I think I am good at distance learning so far. Teachers try to make the class easier for students, so they do not give too much homework. They also add more attempts for students when they take the tests. However, it is inconvenient when I need help from the teacher. I had to wait so long to get the email back from the teacher or meet at their office hours. Classwork and homework are easy … Read More

    I think I am good at distance learning so far. Teachers try to make the class easier for students, so they do not give too much homework. They also add more attempts for students when they take the tests. However, it is inconvenient when I need help from the teacher. I had to wait so long to get the email back from the teacher or meet at their office hours. Classwork and homework are easy for me to manage because they are the same as usual.

    I am concerned about college applications. As a senior student, I have many questions about colleges, financial aid, or scholarships. I think it will be better if I am in school. I could work the applications with my counselors. The coronavirus made me SAT cancel so many times. I am not sure I can get the score before the deadline for college application.

  15. Giselle Gomez 2 months ago2 months ago

    Distance learning is something new to me just as it is to every student. We were all used to going to school in person and in just a matter of time, it went to us learning behind a screen. I feel we are so worried about being caught up and doing all the work that we do not get to actually learn something.

  16. Chuong T. 2 months ago2 months ago

    Yes, I agree with all people in here. It is hard to communicate with teachers and friends. We can’t see each other. We cannot sit together and help each other like we are in school. Things that make me feel very frustrated are the lost connection, technology issues, and the district website. It is hard to study and understand a problem because something the screen or speaker is glitching or lagging. We don't get help … Read More

    Yes, I agree with all people in here. It is hard to communicate with teachers and friends. We can’t see each other. We cannot sit together and help each other like we are in school. Things that make me feel very frustrated are the lost connection, technology issues, and the district website. It is hard to study and understand a problem because something the screen or speaker is glitching or lagging. We don’t get help in an effective way. It also didn’t help my orals skill and social interaction. Because of the distance learning, we study at home and don’t go outside much so it didn’t improve much my communication and social skills. Also it gives us less motivation because it makes us very bored and does not give us an interest in every lesson.

  17. Hiwa Fatanum 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with Niya's opinion. When I was at school, there were resources available to help when I was in need. There were tutors to help with homework and college counselors there to guide me. There are online appointments for help, however I feel as it is not as affective than it would be in person. Personally, I need to be shown physically and visually how to complete work. Through video call it is often … Read More

    I agree with Niya’s opinion. When I was at school, there were resources available to help when I was in need. There were tutors to help with homework and college counselors there to guide me. There are online appointments for help, however I feel as it is not as affective than it would be in person. Personally, I need to be shown physically and visually how to complete work. Through video call it is often hard for me to comprehend the help provided to me.

  18. sayed idris 2 months ago2 months ago

    I feel like distance learning is just bad because teachers give work but can’t help us because there are so many more students.

  19. Komalpreet Mangat 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with Niya. I also don’t learn that much in the distance learning but I try to turn my all work on time.

  20. Sayed Sadat 2 months ago2 months ago

    I can agree with Nyia Mason, she said “At school, I feel like I was actually learning. But for distance learning, it feels like I am not learning to my full potential.” I feel the same way.

  21. Symonni Hampton 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with Niya. It is definitely a struggle to get the work turned in on time during Distance Learning, especially when you have other sibling to help out and get them in their class meetings and help out with their class or homework. I feel as if I am not learning because of all the distractions at home. Sometimes there are technical issues and the teacher can't hear or see us. I would say … Read More

    I agree with Niya. It is definitely a struggle to get the work turned in on time during Distance Learning, especially when you have other sibling to help out and get them in their class meetings and help out with their class or homework. I feel as if I am not learning because of all the distractions at home. Sometimes there are technical issues and the teacher can’t hear or see us. I would say that Distance Learning is a harder way to learn than to be on the school campus, inside the classrooms with other peers.

  22. Kalissa 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with almost all of the students. It is very hard to concentrate at my house so I find it difficult learning and less motivated.

  23. Kevin G 2 months ago2 months ago

    Yashika Joshi and Ricardo Castillo Fierro both have very good points. It is hard to stay motivated in this type of environment and it is even harder with a heavier workload and more difficult assignments.

  24. jade 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with Niya I don’t seem to learn anything but trying to keep but with my work and trying to turn it, in time is stressful.

  25. Emily 2 months ago2 months ago

    I agree with Ricardo’s opinion on online learning making it harder to get work done. At home there are a lot of distractions and it’s hard to focus or get motivated to work.

    I also agree with Monishla. The work feels optional because we won’t have to directly face our teachers in class with the work. It’s hard to get yourself to do the required work each day.

  26. miracle 3 months ago3 months ago

    Being in distance learning is very head spinning because sometimes the zoom does not work and some of the teachers do not know how to properly use the zoom calls but over all zoom calls are all right.

  27. Lamar Holloway 3 months ago3 months ago

    When I was at school, the only thing I had to worry about was school. Now that we have to do everything from home; everything becomes a factor – dogs barking, babies crying, chores, etc. This has just made everything harder to handle along with trying to fight against COVID-19.

  28. Alexis Hawes 3 months ago3 months ago

    With the online school, I just don’t feel motivated to do it and there is also a lot of distractions. Whereas in school we were pushed more and there were only a couple of distractions. Online school can also be very confusing to me sometimes. But in the end I try and get my work done.

  29. Shu Yin Huang (Canita) 3 months ago3 months ago

    Personally, distantce learning has been convenient but also difficult. I don’t have to go to school, that means I will learn less by using Zoom. I really miss my school life, my classmates and participating in activities. I feel like I am less motivated to study. It is hard to manage my time. I hope everything will be fine and we can go to school as soon as possible,

  30. Brian 4 months ago4 months ago

    Inevitably, it is really hard to study online. But the fact cannot be denied that it is one of the good ways to bind students with their subjects.