Staying connected
Half Moon Bay High School students have become YouTube stars during the lockdown. 

Almost two full months into remote learning, one thing is clear: Teachers and students miss each other. That truth is evident in the ways school communities across the Coastside are finding to stay connected.

Chief among them is the Cabrillo Unified School District YouTube page, where multimedia teacher Pat Olson has been posting daily video updates, from campus news and principal reports to lighthearted cooking shows.

Before the shelter-in-place order, Olson said the weekly principal report on YouTube might get a hundred or so views. But with everyone staying at home and apart from one another, the videos started to rack up thousands of views. That’s when he realized students, families and staff had an appetite for the videos and that their normal means of connecting and getting campus news no longer existed. So, he ramped up the channel, and is now posting daily videos. In the last month, the videos have been viewed nearly 15,000 times, which he says is triple the normal traffic.

“People are watching, they’re interested,” Olson said. “I think it’s a great way to connect for these students who miss their teachers.”

One of the more popular videos is one for student athletes. In it, Assistant Principal Deanna Tower announces that the high school is turning its stadium lights on for 20 minutes each night at 8 p.m., coinciding with the hour at which many Coastsiders are howling in unity for health care workers. As it circulated among the sports community, Olson said, the video got almost 800 views.

“We want you to know we are thinking of you,” Tower said in the video. “We have the lights on for 20 minutes every night, and that’s in honor of our Class of 2020 and all the seniors who missed out on your senior nights this year.”

The HMBHS leadership class has gotten involved, launching their “Quarantine Diaries” on Instagram and YouTube to keep their high school peers engaged, connected and entertained. Senior Lauren DuBose said some of the videos show a “day in the life,” others touch on mindfulness, some present “challenges” to encourage students to get outside, and some are purely fun.

“People may be feeling a little lost, sad or confused, and we thought it would provide a sense of normalcy for students,” DuBose said.

DuBose said lots of people are watching the videos, commenting on them, saving them and sending them to their friends. The idea even sparked a teacher version, in which teachers are showing off their art projects, exercise strategies, baking and gardening skills.

Local elementary schools are getting creative to stay connected, too. At Farallone View Elementary, every Friday is a spirit day, with teachers and kids donning crazy hair and hats in Zoom classes to keep kids’ spirits high.

At Pescadero Elementary School, as part of their weekly “Super Tuesday,” distributing food and school materials to families sheltering in place, they’re giving out games, puzzles, books and pencils to kids. It’s keeping everyone connected, Principal Phil Hophan said. And in honor of Children’s Day on Friday, Hophan said teachers and staff drove the bus route in a parade to celebrate families and kids.

These connections, DuBose said, have impact, no matter how small they seem. She’s graduating this year and said she is sad to be missing out on so many staples of senior year, like prom and the many events her leadership team had planned for the spring. But she said efforts like the “Quarantine Diaries” help kids stay hopeful during uncertain times.

“I’m just trying to focus on the memories we did make instead of the ones we may have missed out on,” DuBose said.

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