SMMUSD image

The new school year begins on Monday, but students will not be donning sports uniforms or packing up their instruments. All extracurricular activities will take place virtually and although sports teams cannot meet, there is time dedicated in the distance learning schedule for physical education and club activities.

Unlike during distance learning in the spring when much club activity fell by the wayside, clubs will now have designated times to meet up on Zoom and continue their student directed activities under the supervision of a teacher sponsor. Physical education will take place online like any other class where attendance will be taken and assignments must be completed.

Although the school district is making strong efforts to incorporate extracurricular activities in the fall’s distance learning plan, many activities like sports games or live concerts and theatre cannot be replaced.

“I think a lot of people are having a difficult time adjusting to a life without sports,” said Paulis. “Depending on who you are as a student it could be everything for you. It could be your stress relief, your motivation to do well in school so that you have the opportunity to play, it’s your social interaction for the day and where you can really push yourself to the limit.”

On July 20, the California Interscholastic Federation released an updated schedule pushing fall sports to Jan 2021 and spring sports to May. Under the L.A. County Department of Public Health’s current reopening protocols for K-12 schools, schools may only resume sports that allow physical distancing such as tennis or golf. This resumption is subject to schools meeting all other reopening requirements and most importantly to the County being removed from the state’s monitoring list for 14 consecutive days.

The loss of sports can also hurt students’ chances of receiving athletic scholarships through their university applications as they are no longer able to increase their stats or record game footage for their portfolio. Many student athletes will be in the same boat this year and colleges have yet to announce how this will factor into their recruitment process.

Fortunately for some students, there are many activities that are more easily adapted to distance learning. According to Paulis, auditions have already taken place for orchestra at Samohi and the theatre department plans to carry out online plays and musicals. Activities in the arts will need to include less people on screen at the same time than would interact together in person, but can still find ways to continue.

Extracurricular activities are central to many students’ social life and are an important component of college applications. The challenges of carrying out clubs during distance learning has led to some innovative and inspiring outcomes.

For example, students at Samohi created the Community Connect Club in April in response to the pandemic. Realizing that many senior citizens no longer had access to safe social interaction, they worked with the Samohi alumni group, WISE, Healthy Aging of Santa Monica and Meals on Wheels to start connecting with elderly community members.

“They write letters, they make phone calls and they’ve been trained to have conversations with people who might not get human connection or have people who check in on them,” said Paulis. “It was very sweet that students identified this need in the community and said ‘hey we can do something about this’.”

The Community Connect Club looks forward to continuing their work in the fall as do many student leaders who are already developing plans to adapt their club’s activities.

clara@smdp.com