Laisha Marie Durán Mariñez and Kenneth Emmanuel Rodríguez-López left school on a Wednesday in March, unaware that this would be their last day in public school. The next few months would be spent taking classes remotely from their homes and their graduation ceremony could be next month, although it is still to be seen.
“ We had one last day of classes without knowing it… it was very chaotic ”said Kenneth Emmanuel, a recent graduate of University Gardens Specialty School in San Juan and admitted to Purdue University.
The Department of Education held a televised graduation ceremony on Friday for more than 43,000 students from eighth and twelfth grade, after schools stopped receiving students in mid-March as a measure to address the pandemic due to the coronavirus . In all, 20,598 fourth-year students passed their grade after months of taking classes from home in the best way they could.
Education urged schools to use modules to reinforce academic skills. Laisha Marie – who will study aeronautical sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – highlighted that, in her case, some teachers offered virtual classes, did special projects, gave quizzes and tried to comply with the curricula to the best of their ability.
“It is not what I would have liked for my last year, "said Diego José Panzardi Serra, a graduate of the Emilio R. Delgado school in Corozal.
Lack of skills in digital pedagogy and access to technology were the main challenges in public schools. The experience for students was a bittersweet, seven young people with high academic achievement recently graduated.
“At the (school) Emilio did not teach by video calls, they were the modules of the Department of Education and the tasks were not difficult . I think that they really should give classes with video calls or something else, not only the modules, because not everyone has the facility to be self-taught, to be able to read and apply, "said Diego José, who will study physics and engineering at the University of Harvard.
The modules were also not to the total liking of Janlys Álvarez, a graduate of the New Vocational School of Comerío.
" I learned, but the face-to-face classes are always going to be better, partly because of the chemistry I you have communication with everyone, with the teachers, the students "said the young woman, who will study veterinary science at the University of Arizona.
Fernando Moreno, also a student at the University Gardens specialized school, said that there was inconsistency between the subjects he took. There were teachers who managed to give virtual classes and follow up on their courses, while others "sent two jobs and disappeared." Fernando confessed that sometimes he fell asleep and missed classes online.
“The change was suddenly, that made it difficult. There were more 'tech savy' teachers (they were more tech savvy), "said Moreno, admitted to the University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
The sudden transition to distance education was even more challenging for schools with a curriculum specialized in arts, which requires a greater element of practice, said Joseph Johnil Gómez Velázquez, a student at the Antonio S. Paoli Free School of Music in Caguas, and David Antonio Rosado Ortiz, a graduate of the Ernesto Ramos Antonini Free School of Music in San Juan.
Joseph Johnil, admitted to the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, reported that he had to adjust to a new way of taking classes, because the works came to him by email or text message, including the pieces that he had to play the piano and special works.
David Antonio, for his part, was grateful that he had no major problems taking classes online, but acknowledged that it was not an experience d the whole positive.
“Academically and musically, I did not like the experience. I feel like I wasn't 100% taking the class… The experience is not the same, ”said David Antonio, who will study at the Berklee College of Music in the fall. Their first semester will be taken online from Puerto Rico due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The caravans, "chinchorreos" by servicarro, teleconference meetings, and the videos they made and shared to commemorate the end of the school semester allowed them to teens celebrate their accomplishments in their own way.
The Department of Education has not yet determined whether schools will be able to host students again in August or whether they will continue distance education. Graduates will no longer return to public school, but the young people agreed on the need for workshops and support for teachers to offer classes in various modalities.
“I think that in the future, if something like this happens again , there should be a preparation from before. This preparation would have served teachers well enough so that they could have started teaching online earlier, "said Fernando.