Brentwood High School began outsourcing classes to the online high school service Launch in the 2018-2019 school year. The service was provided because of a change in state law that required public schools to provide an alternate means of instruction and allowed Brentwood students course options that weren’t traditionally offered, but as the pandemic consumed every aspect of life and school was moved online, students were given the option to take launch classes full-time. Now, not every student who started on Launch at the beginning of the year has stayed full-time or partially. In our experience, administrators and program directors tend to mostly spout P.R. positivity, so The Nest decided to talk to some students who have first-hand experience with the program to get their take on a classroom-less education.
Launch was intended only as a program to supplement classes that schools could not provide themselves and because of the state requirement for an alternate means of instruction. Brentwood high school’s vice principal, Stephen Ayotte, said, “It’s been challenging to be able to have a full slate of kids taking eight classes on Launch; it’s not really designed to do that.”
It turns out, most BHS students had a fairly negative experiences with the Launch program, at least compared to their in-person counterparts. Sophomore Reed Durham, who exclusively took Launch classes this year during the pandemic, said, “My overall impression of Launch was not very good… It has many, many flaws…Launch gives you things and just expects you to learn and know them without providing great information and directions.” Similarly, senior Juliana Veresh, also a full-time Launch student for the 2020-2021 school year, said, “It’s hard sometimes because I don’t have a teacher with me all the time.”
The courses themselves are nontraditional in that there aren’t classes to show up to or discussions in which to contribute. Most courses consist of material to learn the information and then and assignments and assessments to test the student’s knowledge. Quite obviously, this setup for an entire slate of classes does not work for every student. Freshman Jojo Schuester, who took a music appreciation course on Launch while attending in person school, said, “It’s pretty ok… I prefer classes in person because then you can be more interactive.” Like many students who split their schedules between Launch and Brentwood courses, Jojo decided to take Music Appreciation to take a class not traditionally offered at a school the size of Brentwood. Other students use Launch to take AP courses, which are not offered at Brentwood, or to fill in required credits that they missed.
Not only are the classes difficult to manage, but many students have missed the amenities that come with the school environment. Veresh said about her sister, “I miss seeing people other
Despite those challenges, Launch courses will remain a part of the Brentwood High School experience next school year. Students will have the same options as were available this year: fully in-person, online with Brentwood classes, or online with launch courses. As the country moves closer to herd immunity, and many students had less than stellar experiences with Launch courses over the 2020-2021 school year, the number of students who have opted into launch for next semester are significantly smaller. Many students will likely supplement some courses with those from Launch, as its original intention.
Since Launch will still be an option in the fall semester, students may be wondering how best to go about taking courses on Launch. Sophomore Ana Sanchez gave her battle-hardened wisdom, “There is a lot of freedom with launch courses, so it makes it really easy to procrastinate, but try to manage your time well because it all adds up really fast.”