The New Zoom Absence Rule at J-D is Unfair to Students

Cleo Shiomos, '22

J-DHS is currently implementing a new class attendance rule, and it’s sparking controversy.  The rule states that if you are supposed to be attending school in person on a particular day and you don’t show up, you cannot attend your class Zooms from home that day.  This rule likely comes as a response to the growing trend of kids staying home on test days.

However, the new rule is inconsiderate of many kids who have legitimate reasons not to be in school.  Many kids have doctor’s appointments, body pain, a cold or other sickness, or some other reason why they cannot make it to school.  These students should not be punished by being excluded from their class Zooms on these days.

Imagine this scenario.  It’s a Tuesday, and you are a hybrid student who should be attending on Mondays and Tuesdays.  But you can’t attend today.  You have a doctor’s appointment at noon, right in the middle of the school day, so you decide to stay home for the day rather than coming in before and after the inconveniently-timed appointment.  Suddenly, you can no longer attend your first or second period Zoom classes, even though the appointment should only conflict with the last two periods of the day.  Now you’re burdened with having to email all your teachers to get caught up, when you could’ve just ‘Zoomed’ into your first two classes and made up the other ones.

When asked about the purpose of the rule, high school principal Paul Gasparini said, “So what we’re trying to do — so if a kid’s quarantined, right, or something like that — it’s not gonna be an absolute rule, but what we want students — if you’re in person, you should be attending in person, if you’re remote, you should be attending remote, and we’re trying to set the tone for that.  That’s all we’re trying to do.”

Many students, and even teachers are weighing in on this rule, as it affects many of them.

Sophomore Blaise Anthis argues about the efficacy of this new rule.  “It’s safe to say that this school year has been very rigorous for both the students and teachers at Jamesville-DeWitt High School.  Events outside of school, such as a doctor’s appointment, don’t alleviate the already stressful work schedule.  The video communications app, Zoom, has made learning remotely a true possibility and reality.  This app has allowed students who have an outside event to leave school and then return to class via Zoom that same day.  Zoom allows for very efficient learning.  I don’t see how this new guideline can apply to the hybrid students who are already at a disadvantage.  If the fully remote students can leave school and ‘Zoom’ back in, hybrid students should be allowed to do the same.  In addition to this, the new guideline may also deter students from returning to school full-time.  Students may come to the realization that this will put the in-school learners at a disadvantage, thus reconsidering whether they should learn fully remotely instead.”

Sophomore Ryan Zaborsky disagrees with the rule as well.  “I believe that this rule should not change.  It should stay because if a student just doesn’t want to go to in-person school, they can just go to the Zoom.  I feel that Zooms are not the same as going to school because you can just go to a Zoom meeting and leave, but still be in the meeting.  If you are in person, then you have to go to your classes or you will get in trouble.  This is why this rule shouldn’t change.”

“It’s going to be a little unfortunate not to have the capability to join remotely, but I’m excited for the push back to normalcy,” says senior Michael Bratslavsky.

Math teacher Elizabeth Wood echoes my sentiments.  “I’d like to see more discussion about this policy because there could be a legitimate reason for a student to stay home, yet still be able to join class virtually.  Additionally, if a student has four academic classes in one day that they weren’t allowed to attend by Zoom or Google Meet, activity period and Wednesday office hours might not be enough time to meet with all of their teachers to get caught up.  Teachers might be so busy during activity period and office hours that they can’t meet with every student who needs help.”

History teacher Vitaliy Yanchuk sees both sides of the argument.  According to Mr. Yanchuk, “The way I see it, if a student is absent on a day he/she is supposed to be in-person and it is an excused absence, the student should be allowed to join class via Zoom.  I agree with Mr. Gasparini in the sense that I would not want students to take advantage, in the negative sense of the word, of the current situation and stay home for no good reason.  I am hopeful that after a year of fully remote/hybrid learning, students are ready to be back in school full-time and the issue will apply to a very small group of rule-breaking rascals.”

Science teacher Nancy Raicht agrees with Mr. Yanchuk.  “I do understand where Mr. Gasparini is coming from.  I have had students in several classes Zoom in on days they should be in school because they did not feel like coming in that day.  Zoom meetings are intended for students that are remote or in mandatory quarantine.  In a typical year, students don’t have the option to Zoom from home because they are sick or they have an appointment.  Fortunately, for my classes, I have video recordings of the notes and PDFs of notes/assignments on Classroom.  If a student needs help, we have activity period again, and are fortunate to still have Wednesday office hours.  I do understand that attending Zoom meetings  for class is convenient for students who have a legitimate reason for not attending school.  So where do I stand?  I am not quite sure.  I see both sides.  I want to say let anyone Zoom if they are absent, but again there will be those that take advantage of the situation.  Attending school should not be optional if you are not a remote learner.  Unfortunately, some students think this way.”

It’s safe to say that the general sentiment surrounding this rule is negative, or at least people want it to be considered further, and for good reason.  Not only does it discount students who have reasons to be absent, but it unfairly puts them behind their fellow students in work.

Isaiah Steinberg is a senior at J-DHS. He is the Standards Editor and News Editor for the RamPage. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing with his half-brother, or sleeping.