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Turner responds to student concerns regarding coronavirus in exclusive Q&A

Turner responds to student concerns regarding coronavirus in exclusive Q&A

This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for how students should be spending their time over the quarantine outside of academics?

A: I do. I think this is a great opportunity for students to participate in some sort of civic action. There’s a lot of people in need right now, people who are losing jobs, people who are in need of food and basic necessities. There are people in the health industry who are risking their lives and need protective equipment. I’ve been highlighting, in my newsletters to families, students who have been taking on some great forms of civic action in their community. I also think this is an opportunity for students to learn a new hobby, a new skill. I think this is a great way for students to engage more. One of the things we want for our students at Newton North is for them to be lifelong learners, and so here’s a great opportunity for them to take some responsibility for their own learning and some other areas of interest for them.

Q: Will the academic plan for the quarantine change as the year progresses or is this the final version of distance learning?

A: It may change. We’re going to be reaching out to students, parents, and staff for feedback over the next couple weeks, and with that we may make some changes. This is the plan for May 4, and certainly we think this will be the same construct if we have to go beyond May 4, but we may make some changes beyond that as well. We certainly want to hear feedback from all groups to see what’s working. I don’t imagine any major changes. This is most likely the plan going forward.

This question was asked before the announced extension of the school shut-down. North will now be closed for the rest of the school year.

Q: Do you plan to change next year’s curriculum in order to compensate for this cancellation?

A: We’re going to have to think about next year very closely. Certainly, as to the projections that we are seeing, there could possibly be some disruption next year as well and possibly some form of distance learning in some aspects, but we’re not sure. I’d imagine the state will make a decision about the fall sometime in August. We’ll have to make a decision about what school looks like if there is a disruption for school next year. I think that’s the first question. 

The second question is how do we make sure that students develop the skills we want them to learn in high school despite the disruption. As teachers always do, they assess what skills that students develop over the summer. There are always things students forget, and teachers assess that so that they can make sure they cover material so that students can develop mental skills and learn the material that teachers think is essential. That I’m not worried about. I think we have great teachers here at North, and they will make sure that students are developing skills. I think the question is what is the format we do that in, and I think that’s a question that is really unknown and may be unknown through the summer. We’ll have to plan for different scenarios, but, at this rate there may be some disruption next year.

Q: How will the extended cancellation affect school-wide events such as prom and graduation?

A: We haven’t made any decision on those events yet. We do recognize that this is a real sad time for our seniors because they don’t get to experience the spring of senior year. We have a group of parents who are working on plans for possible events to support our seniors. In terms of official events, we will be getting some sort of feedback from students to see what are some ideas, and then making some decisions about that. We have some initial plans that are in the works, but we certainly want this to be a collaborative experience with the students.

A group of students hacked into an AP Chinese class Zoom call at South to make racist comments about Chinese people and the coronavirus. We asked Turner what North is doing in response.

Q: What is the administration doing to prevent Zoom hackings like the incident at South? Will the school take steps to prevent racist incidents like those in the future?

A: The Newton public schools’ I.T. department has done a great job providing necessary training for staff regarding making sure that Zoom and Google Hangouts are secure. We are also providing support for any teacher that needs additional support in that area. We’ve had very few incidents of students being inappropriate on Zoom. We haven’t had any major incidents like what happened at Newton South. I do anticipate that as teachers become more comfortable with the security measures of Zoom that we should see fewer vulnerabilities in the sense. If an incident like that occurs, we’ll treat it like a hate crime and we’ll report it to the police. If it is a member of our school we will investigate and find out who it is and we’ll provide consequences and also report them to the police.

Q: What made you decide to give students gmail accounts?

A: That wasn’t my decision, that would be the Newton Public Schools’ I.T. department. I think the rationale was to make the Google suite more fluid for students and certainly more secure as we’re providing the option for Google Hangouts, for example, and inviting students through Google to Zoom.

Q: Does the current distance learning plan have an option set for students who may not be able to attend Zoom meetings or complete work due to religious observance?

A: We are not taking attendance during this time. The learning plan is meant to be asynchronous so that students can participate when they are able. It’s pass-fail, so they’re not being penalized for not participating. I expect we have a good plan to be flexible around religious needs, but also any individual needs during this crisis.

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About the Contributor
Jacob Zalis
Jacob Zalis, News managing editor
Jacob Zalis is currently a senior at Newton North High School. Outside of school he runs track and field and cross country. In his free time he likes reading and watching movies. His favorite books are The Martian by Andy Weir and the entirety of the Captain Underpants anthology by Dav Pilkey. His favorite movies are 1917 and Ferris Bueler’s Day Off. In his free time Jacob enjoys biking, hanging out with friends, and listening to music (sometimes all at the same time). Some of his favorite artists include bbno$ and Bruno Mars. His favorite subjects are English and chemistry. He is looking forward to meeting everyone in the coming volume and having a great time writing for The Newtonite!
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