‘I’ve learned a little bit less than expected’: Student reflects on virtual learning a year after it began

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DENVER (KDVR) — It’s late on a Friday afternoon and Rachel VanWagner is finishing up her school week from her bedroom.

“This is pretty much normal for me at this point,” said VanWagner.

VanWagner, an eighth grade student with Denver Public Schools, has spent a large portion of her school year learning from her bedroom — a space that used to be associated with relaxing.

“A lot of times I was like, ‘Oh, my room is a place where I can like chill or do whatever,” said VanWagner.

It’s the reality for students across the state who have been forced to adapt to a lot of back-and-forth over the last year. VanWagner’s current school schedule is two days of in-person learning with a small group, one day asynchronous learning and two days of virtual learning. She says if she had the choice, she’d prefer to be in the classroom as much as possible.

It has been nearly a year since schools started shutting down in Colorado when COVID-19 first hit. VanWagner says she still feels connected to her classmates and teachers through virtual learning, but the unusual schedule has made it tough to keep up academically. 

“This quarter in the year I don’t have math like any of the days for this nine-week period. I think in some of the core subjects I’ve learned a little bit less than expected as an eighth grader,” said VanWagner.

On this particular Friday night, a handful of students were missing from VanWagner’s virtual music class. She says she has been able to stay motivated and focus on her assignments from home, but knows that’s not the case for all of her classmates.

“I do think with it being online it’s more of like a choice even though it’s not,” said VanWagner.

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