Hawaii Baptist Academy started its school year fully online on August 10, 2020, and then beginning September 24, the middle and high school transitioned to a concurrent schedule, with students returning to in-person classes two days a week. In this schedule,  students are split into two groups that take turns coming on campus for classes.

According to high school principal Marsha Hirae, the concurrent schedule reduces the number of students on campus at one time so as to ensure that there is enough space in the classrooms for students to be six feet apart from each other. Students are split into two groups: Alpha and Omega. In a typical five day week, Alpha students come on campus on Mondays and Tuesdays while Omega students come on Thursdays and Fridays. Both groups stay online on Wednesdays for a half-day schedule.

Students can also opt to attend school fully online and these students belong to the Delta group. As of October 14, 166 high school students—about 36% of the high school student population—have opted in to this group, with upperclassmen making up the majority.

Since the start of the school year, the school schedule has seen a number of adjustments. As a result, even though students are already in the second quarter of school, many are still getting into the swing of their school routine. Junior Annie Tasaka, who attends school in-person with the Omega group said, “The new schedule is an improvement from the previous schedule. I think having a half-day on Wednesday is really beneficial because it gives me enough time to do most of my homework for the next two days, and I can go to sleep earlier. The previous schedule was too long because we ended classes later and I would lose focus when staring at the screen.”

Omega sophomore Caylie Takahashi felt similarly. She said, “Right now, I am honestly liking the concurrent schedule. I like how we are now able to come onto campus for school. I feel like it is easier for me to learn and pay attention in class rather than online just staring at my screen all day.”

The original concurrent schedule had 90-minutes classes on four out of five days a week, resulting in a lot of students complaining about screen fatigue. As the second quarter began, these classes were reduced to 80 minutes. Delta senior Grayson Becker said, “For the most part, I enjoy the concurrent schedule…I think my teachers have been doing a great job teaching online. Being online has given me lots of flexibility to do things like clean up around the house between periods and listen to music during independent work periods.”  Classmate Tiffany Hamada, who is also in the Delta group, said, “I personally like the new concurrent schedule because of the shortened classes. I feel less tired during the 80-minute periods and I am able to focus the whole time.” Hamada, who is the president of the Student Council, led the council in writing to school administrators about reducing the length of class periods after receiving feedback from students.

Hirae acknowledged that the concurrent schedule has been challenging particularly for teachers, with in-person and online students attending class at the same time. “I think it is the most difficult concurrent model,” she said, “but our teachers are putting all their effort to make it work and deliver instruction to the in-person students as well as to the online students. From what I hear, it is going well.”

Vice principal Jeroldine Tsuha points out that students in the Delta group have different challenges than those who come to school. “These students online need to be disciplined to manage their time and resources. I think that they miss the social interaction of classmates and the whole school community,” she said.

One of the most common challenges for students in distance learning is staying focused. Becker acknowledged that staying motivated has become even harder. “I can say for almost all seniors, myself included, that online learning has done nothing to help with the ‘senioritis’ that I see more and more each passing day. I notice it affecting my friends and even in relatives that are attending other schools. I’m even starting to see it in myself even though we have yet to end the first semester. Admittedly, I’m doing my best to counter its effects and I hope to finish strong as we begin to close out the semester,” he said.

Omega senior Logan Tom shared a similar concern. “Getting distracted has been a big challenge for me, especially during the last periods of the day where I feel like getting away from the screen,” he said.

Hamada, who opted to remain fully online for the safety of her family, said that she misses the social aspect of being in school. “A challenge I am facing right now is not being able to see everyone in person. It’s hard not being able to talk to everyone and see them face to face,” she said.

However, whether students attend school in-person or fully online, there are some age-old challenges that remain. As a sophomore, Takahashi is finding that she has more homework, tests and quizzes than before. “It takes me a long time to actually complete my homework and grasp new concepts in class. I barely get enough sleep, and whenever there is a test or quiz, I study as much as I can to make sure that I truly know what we are learning,” she said. Classmate Reise Kameoka, a Delta student, does not feel particularly stressed out but added, “I do admit that it feels a lot like the work is just constantly being piled up but that’s school so what do you expect?”

Tasaka, a junior, who is experiencing what many HBA students say is the most rigorous year of high school, said, “I think the most challenging things are probably waking up and getting my Membean done on time. Even though I get a lot of sleep, I still don’t want to wake up. I’m sure that’s relatively relatable to everyone, regardless if she or he is staying online or going to school.”

Hamada, like many seniors, has to deal with college applications. “Another challenge for me is managing my college applications and school work at the same time,” she said.

With about four weeks of school left this semester, Hirae said next semester’s schedule is most likely going to remain the same. “We would like to keep things status quo for a while longer, but all that is dependent on how many students move back to in-person school for the third quarter. I anticipate more students returning to school if sports opens up next quarter,” she explained. Looking ahead at the future, Tsuha said,  “Amid the changes, safety is always our primary concern. We can embrace changes as new opportunities that will define our new future. We must always remember that God is in control and there is hope”.