On Wednesday, March 11, Maplewood teachers and staff were in a much different place than by the end of the school year. They were only one day away from spring break, but they had an assembly to let students know they may not be able to return to school as scheduled. By the end of the school year, teachers and students alike were still adjusting to social distancing and distance learning.

Science teacher Zach Pratt was pleasantly surprised that the class connections were made without too many technical difficulties. He did have a few humorous moments, though.

“I had students answer their phone in class and forget to mute their microphone,” he said. “My wife texted a student with a topic and he responded right away. She showed me later and it was during my class. One student was in class trying hard to keep track of younger siblings,” Pratt said.

Jeff McCormick, a senior village student, gained an extra 30-40 minutes each day by not having to drive to school. “In a way, distance learning improved my focus,” Jeff said. “I enjoy being at home and having a longer break between classes. So, I did a quick run in place at my desk or a few pushups.”

Mallory Heinbaugh used to gather nearly every night in the cafeteria in a large group with her fellow sophomores. Now, she has to find other ways to stay in touch with her friends.

“We usually do group chats on Instagram or Snapchat,” she said. “We also text each other and sometimes we do a group call. When I do see people in person, I get excited. I do social distancing and stay back 6 feet, but it is exciting to see them.”

Heinbaugh said her distance classes are less interactive, but she enjoys them more. “I have more time to focus while in class. I mostly miss seeing my friends and being able to get help in person from the teachers.”

Senior Jay Kim faced the biggest challenge of any student—getting home. Kim is an international student from South Korea. He began his journey home on Sunday, April 12, and on April 14 he emailed his teachers to let them know he had finally arrived.

It was a 20-hour trip that became ten hours longer due to a required COVID-19 test at the Seoul, South Korea, airport. Thankfully he tested negative and was allowed to proceed.

Maplewood students and teachers want to thank Nathan Struckman, assistant boys’ dean and IT director, as well as David Daum, Minnesota Conference IT director, for helping transition the school to online learning quickly and smoothly.

John Bedell is outgoing principal of Maplewood Academy.