Peer to peer in pandemic


Kimberly Sclafani

Seniors Riley Coffee, Alexis Ibarra, Amelia Dotson, Sam Bayon, Derrick King, and Abbie Cripps meet with their PEEPs via zoom from the Peer to Peer classroom. The zooms consit of 20 to 30 minutes of activities the seniors come up with and happen weekly.

Peer to Peer in pandemic
Roosevelt High School elective Peer to Peer is reworked to follow covid precautions.
Lucie Gripp, Reporter
The structure of the class Peer to Peer has been altered this year due to the coronavirus, but the goal of the class has stayed the same.
“Peer to Peer is an elective course option currently offered to RHS seniors where they are paired up with a student from one of our special education satellite classrooms from The Lincoln Center, Jo Brighton, or Madison programs,” Peer to Peer teacher Kimberly Sclafani said. “The goal of Peer to Peer is to bridge the gap between people with and without disabilities. My hope is that anyone who participates in Peer to Peer or even sees the way this program works will recognize that everyone is worthy of being given equal opportunities in life while building an incredible friendship.”
Prior to COVID-19 the seniors were able to meet face to face with their PEEPs four days a week and do numerous different activities around the school, but this year the class had to be reworked.
“From October to February, all PEEPs have been meeting virtually through Zoom. During the asynchronous Wednesdays, we’ve had a weekly Peer to Peer call that seniors enrolled in the class helped plan. Although it hasn’t been the same as in years passed, we were able to create fun, engaging experiences for everyone to participate in together. The students also have the opportunity to Zoom with their PEEP individually during class as well,” Sclafani said.
Since the PEEPs were unable to meet in person, the grading of the class had to change along with the class.
In past years, the largest part of each senior’s grade is their level of engagement with their PEEP which was determined by an evaluation from the special education student’s teacher. This year I am looking for students to reach out to their PEEP, to strive to build a friendship, to advocate for their PEEP, and to treat them as they would anyone else,” Sclafani said. “Normally, students complete a two part final project. Part one is planning an activity to do with their PEEP based on their PEEP’s interests. The second part is an oral presentation at the end of the semester to share how they have connected with their PEEP. But because the interactions between PEEPs have been limited to a screen this year, the final project for each semester has been for students to plan one of the weekly Wednesday Zoom calls.”
Due to the class being virtual the seniors have struggled to build good connections with their PEEPs.
“I definitely think that there have been problems meeting over zoom. Whether it’s connection issues or keeping your peep engaged it’s been really challenging to say the least.Trying to break through the barriers meeting via zoom built while getting to know my PEEP Aaron has been a struggle on both ends. I often find Aaron and I having the same conversation week after week. Thinking about new topics, games, or activities to do together while also being far apart has been hard,” senior Stella Moline said.
After the school board’s decision to return fully face to face on March 1, the class will return to in person meetings as well.
“With the return to full face-to-face instruction 5 days per week, we felt that it was now a good time to re-evaluate how Peer to Peer has been operating. We made a list of precautions that follow the updated CDC guidelines for schools so we are able to bring students face-to-face in a safe, sanitary, and socially distanced setting with staff supervision in order to allow for those peer connections to continue to develop,” Sclafani said.
The seniors are excited to see how meeting face to face will affect the relationship with their PEEPs.
“I’m very optimistic about the rest of the year and getting to know my PEEP better especially now that we are able to meet in person. It has been hard to fully connect via zoom and I think meeting regularly and in person will help my PEEP and I’s friendship to develop,” senior Riley Coffee said.
Despite the challenges caused by the coronavirus, Peer to Peer continues to overcome them in order to build the same quality as friendships it has in years past.