The ARC in Lockdown: How It Adapted to the New School Environment

David Gimelfarb, Staff Writer

Before quarantine, the ARC was an absolute staple of DHS: a place where students of all grades could come in and get immediate and useful help with their schoolwork. However, in March, the United States was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Deerfield High School was forced to move to all-digital schooling. The ARC had to change in a digital environment. In a place where students could come in whenever they wanted and get help with academic problems, how did it adapt to the new medium, and what new problems have presented themselves? The answer, strangely enough, is very different between math, science and the humanities.

One of the biggest changes for both ARC programs is how many people go to the ARC. Strangely enough, both groups seem to get very different rates of attendance, which cause very different problems for both departments. Math and science have had less people coming in and working with them on particular problems, while humanities has more people than ever. For the math and science ARC, the lower attendance is likely because of two main reasons. The first is that in the first quarter, the ARC usually gets a lower attendance than in the later quarters. The second reason is that while many students return to the ARC to get tutoring, it is very hard to attract new students, especially when the ARC is digital.

The humanities ARC, however, has had an issue with an overabundance of people. So many people have been coming in to meet with tutors that the ARC needed to switch to an appointment-based system. Now to meet with an English tutor, the meeting has to be arranged beforehand. Humanities tutor Lori Harris said: “The nature of our work is very different from what is done on the math/science side. Conferences on essays or book talks can take up to 30 minutes; college-essay conferences often take up to an hour, which is why we need appointments rather than an open Zoom, which is better suited for shorter conferences or quick questions.” The increased amount of meetings along with the longer nature of the conferences has forced the English ARC to switch to appointments. There are still some issues with this system, like how it can be hard to arrange an appointment without emailing back and forth with the tutor. The humanities ARC is working on solving this issue by bringing in an online system on the ARC Schoology and homepage that lets people sign in easier.

One of the math department’s biggest struggles has been with physical work. The tutors each have a collection of the math textbooks, but when physical work is being done, it’s much harder to help students when their work cannot be seen. Math tutor Ellen Clark stated, “The ARC staff has available to them the textbooks and course binders… but it’s easier to tutor when we can see the work the student is doing and talk about what they should be doing differently.” Without being able to easily see what work a student is doing, work at the (math and science) ARC has slowed. However, with websites like WebAssign and DeltaMath, in some aspects it is easier than ever to do that work with a tutor.

Overall, the ARC has had to change significantly for the pandemic. Just like with other classes, the pandemic has slowed ARC operations, but it has also created new problems we would not have imagined before. Attendance has changed significantly, and physical work has become an issue. But in the end, the ARC is still the same important resource it was before, and it is not any less helpful. The ARC tutors are taking the next steps to make sure the ARC stays the effective learning institution and the great place it has always been.