Students deal with stress of SOLs amid Covid-19

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Ira Gramopadhye

Aashee Balani, a seventh-grader at RCMS, stands outside after SOLs.

Ira Gramopadhye and Timmy Jones

As the end of the year approached, the stress of taking SOLs in the current environment weighed on students’ minds.

This year, the data will not reflect as heavily on individual students but will instead be used to determine students’ future needs in general. While that might have reduced students’ stress about their performance on these annual Standards of Learning tests, students faced extra stress about the unfamiliar situation of testing during the pandemic.

Aashee Balani, a seventh-grader, said, “It’s hard to learn in an all-online environment especially during COVID-19 because it’s new to everyone.”

On April 26, students took the first SOL inside the RCMS building, to collect data on students’ academic growth this year.  In past years, SOLs were mandatory, and only a few exceptions were made for missing them. However, in light of the new situation dealing with the COVID-19, students were given the option to opt out this year.

Students who decided to take the SOLs were instructed to follow COVID-19 safety regulations while testing. Regulations included staying six feet away from others, keeping a mask on at all times, and staying in their seats. 

Bhavya Gurumoorthy, an eighth-grader, described the science SOL. “Everyone was spaced out and everyone was wearing their mask,” she said.

For some students, it was their first time inside the building under social distancing rules and out of their comfortable home environments. Other students were nervous about being around their friends again since they have not seen them in a while.

Preston Kingdon, seventh-grader at RCMS, said, “I don’t know where in the building my testing room is, so I have to figure that out.” 

Mrs. Maitland Mann, an English teacher, said staff would be present to help students find their way to their testing rooms this year.

Before the test, Aashee worried about sitting for so long in the classroom. “Sitting down around other people might make me nervous,” she said. “I feel like [this is my only chance] to meet new people.”

Bhavya also found the experience uncomfortable.

“The SOLs were hard,” she said, “but personally the mask and the chair bothered me the most.” 

TestNAV ready and waiting for the SOLs
Timothy Jones

Students also expressed concern about trying to remember what they learned over the past year of online learning even while being empathetic towards their teachers.

Sarah Arulpragrasam, an eighth-grader, said, “[If I get a question wrong], I would blame my memory rather than my teachers.”

Seventh-grader Nate Zschunke was thinking about this before his tests as well. “I’m worried about the SOL because there’s been so much preparation for them that I have to imagine it’s gonna be really difficult,” he said.

Mrs. Mann encouraged students to have a good breakfast and get enough sleep. “Don’t let it get in your head and remember it is just a test,” she said. “Try to stay relaxed, don’t make it bigger than it is.”

Students were relieved after the SOLs were over.

Seventh-grader Noah Tyler said, “I felt that it was a big stress lifted off my shoulders knowing that I was so close to the end of the year.”

As with the rest of the past year, RCMS students were able to keep an open mind and face the unusual situation head-on.

“Keeping a positive mindset is important,” Bhavya said, “[especially during] these times. We just have to keep looking forward!”

about Covid-19 protocols. This especially affected virtual only students who had not been in the building prior to SOL testing days.

Preston Kingdon, seventh-grader at RCMS, stated, “I don’t know where in the building my testing room is, so I have to figure that out.” 

Mrs. Mann said staff would be present to help students find their way to their testing rooms this year.

“Every student will have a mask on and all the desks are going to be six feet apart,” she said. 

After taking the SOLs, Noah Tyler, RCMS seventh-grader, said, “I thought it was kinda good because I felt that it was a big stress lifted off my shoulders knowing that I was so close to the end of the year.”