At University Park Campus School in Worcester, Massachusetts, no one questions that the pandemic has been terrible and the remote school year has been difficult to navigate. “Remote school is not as good as in-person school,” principal Dan St. Louis says flatly.

“But we’re learning, we’re growing, and when we go back we’ll take our instruction to an even higher level.”

He is adamant that we shouldn’t assume that students aren’t learning anything this year. “Are kids losing a whole year of learning in their whole lives?” he asks. “My thought is no. Kids are still learning things. We’re doing our part on the academic end.”

Students and faculty have worked to find what has been positive in this situation. “It’s made people more forgiving,” says adjustment counselor Lauren Colwell. Teachers have found ways to build relationships through a computer screen and teach students what they need to learn. English teacher Jeremy Shulkin says he has had to ask himself, “Why am I assigning this? … Is it worth it for them to do and for me to grade it?”

Students, says senior Pedro Hidalgo, have learned to advocate for themselves and “learn a new way of learning.”

This year has jumpstarted the use of technology that has improved, for example, the ability of the school to communicate with families and do quick assessments of student learning.

“Seeing how creative teachers have been,” says instructional coach Kaitlyn Snow, has made her look forward to how they will incorporate what they have learned when they return to the classroom. “I’m excited.”

UPCS, like other schools in Worcester, is preparing to return to the school building in March, depending on where community spread of the disease is at that point. Despite some hesitancy, teachers are hoping they will be vaccinated by then, and the school is installing air ionizers and buying PPE and voice amplifiers for teachers.