Associate Director of Diversity Omar López Thismón meets with his freshman Transitions class on Zoom. Photo: Omar López Thismón

The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) recent advisory for Americans to socially distance themselves has canceled events, postponed sports seasons, banned international travel and moved schools and businesses online. This is in an attempt to limit the exponential growth of the COVID-19 virus and ensure there are enough resources for those who are sick.

The CDC website recommends that all Americans wash their hands frequently, stay at least six feet away from other people and avoid contact with others if you are sick. 

While morning assemblies, cooking classes with science teacher and dean of Class of 2022 Ben Ewing, and academic and elective classes on Zoom keep students and faculty in touch, everyday routines no longer include break with friends or sports and play practices. But many students have found Pace’s transition to online classes quite easy. “My first week of distance learning went way better than I expected,” said sophomore Jonathan Merlin. “The only obstacle I faced was keeping my WiFi working throughout the day so I could connect to my classes.” 

The new, online schedule begins at 8:45 a.m. with no lunch break built in, but still includes an eight-day cycle with two test periods every day. “The best part has been getting the extra hour of sleep,” said Merlin. “The worst part is having to rush through lunch.” Senior Dominique Turner had similar thoughts. “The best part about Zoom is obviously getting to sleep,” said Turner. “But the worst part about online school is the lack of physical work and communication. I think I learn best when taught in person.” 

The one downside that almost all students have agreed on is not being able to see their friends. “I enjoy seeing my friends on the screen, but do wish that I could see them in person,” said freshman Maddie Swartz. “It gets hard at some points when you just get tired of not being able to see them, especially when it’s not a choice.” Turner agreed. “I’ve just been wanting to spend time with my friends but, you know, I can’t.” 

With ample unexpected free time at home, students and faculty members have made changes to their daily routine as well. “My best experiences with social distancing are that I get to spend more time with my family and just get to relax,” said Swartz. “I have made changes to work out every single day, to get more sleep and catch up on shows and videos.”

“I started to organize my room a little better,” said Turner. “I never realized how weird it looked until actually being home all day every day.” 

Students are not the only ones going through this difficult change. Pace faculty members have had to be trained to use the Zoom platform and figure out the best way to approach teaching online. Chemistry teacher Melody Walter has experienced all of the positives and negatives of social distancing, especially since she is a mom to a seven-month-old baby, Ethan.

There has been a steep learning curve in figuring out how to virtually teach and watch Ethan at the same time, especially since Ethan is now teething and sometimes fussier than usual,” said Dr. Walter. “However, we are starting to figure out systems. The best part is getting to learn how to communicate with students via a new platform… and spend more time with Ethan, of course.”

Dr. Walter has made many changes during her time at home. “I go to the grocery store less, eat out less, and since Ethan has started crawling, I am rapidly baby proofing the house,” said Dr. Walter. Dr. Walter understands these new changes can be difficult but encourages us to be patient. “This is a major change for everyone. If we can get good systems in place that will help us continue school and maintain our mental and emotional well-being, then we can all emerge from this experience stronger and more united,” said Dr. Walter.  


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