Omicron sets the stage for new class environment


Photo by Jeremy Fredricks.

Students fill the auditorium as teachers struggled to find substitute teachers to cover their classes during the rise in Omicron cases.

By Michael Demske, Assistant News Editor

Having classes anywhere besides the classroom was once considered an absurdity. However, due to a surge in COVID-19 cases and shortages of staff in early January, classes in the auditorium were now commonplace. It is no longer used now because more staff members are back as the number of cases continues to decrease. There was a great divide among teachers and students who believe this issue can be handled in opposite ways.

For WCHS staff, moving classes without a teacher to the auditorium seemed like a viable option. The auditorium is a large area that can be sectioned off into classes, and requires less staff to monitor. It was also much more convenient for teachers struggling to find a sub, as they could assign lessons and work for students to work through.

“Teachers have to sign into the Substitute Employment Management System, put in the date they need a sub and complete the sub request,” WCHS math teacher Stacey Fisher said. “Then we have to check to see if a sub has picked it up or enter in a prearranged sub.” 

The combination of a complicated substitute teacher request process and the lack of available subs to take these jobs made the auditorium ever more enticing for teachers. Especially when a teacher learned they had COVID, the auditorium was the best way to have communication without being there.

“I think [having students in the auditorium] is the best solution given the circumstances,” Fisher said. “The teachers leave and communicate their expectations of what the students should be doing through canvas.”

The last thing a teacher wanted to worry about when they learned they had COVID was finding a substitute teacher. Creating plans and lessons for students to complete on their own allowed for learning to commence while teachers were able to recover and take care of their families. 

“Teachers have to take care of not only themselves, but their whole family,” Fisher said. “Teachers do not want to be out, but when they are they leave plans, and I myself leave videos of lessons.”

On the flip side, some students felt like their education was compromised when they were sent to the auditorium for classes. As more and more teachers went into quarantine for COVID, students found that more and more of their classes were in the auditorium.

“The other day, I had three classes in the auditorium,” WCHS junior Eric Chen said. “At that point, the school day didn’t feel like a school day.” 

While it is convenient for teachers to assign online lessons and videos, students in the auditorium had trouble with the format, given the environment. With up to 200 students in the auditorium at once, and improper resources to complete assignments, students were frustrated.

“I usually don’t carry headphones in my backpack so when I learn my class is in the auditorium and I have to watch videos, there’s a problem,” Chen said. “I can’t watch a video aloud in front of the whole auditorium, so what am I supposed to do?”

While students and teachers might not be able to see eye to eye, they can agree that the situation was not ideal for anyone. Teachers get sick and cannot find subs while students do not feel like they are getting the most out of their education without having their teacher around. At the end of the day, the safety of WCHS staff and students trumps all.

“We need to make the most of the situation and remember that our health is most important,” Fisher said.  “Let’s be thankful that we are healthy enough to come to school and find the motivation to get work done; even if it is in the auditorium.”