Back to school: mistake or miracle?


Image via Rubén Rodriguez on Unsplash

On April 20th, Eagle Rock High School reopened its campus, allowing students to return to school. Families were given an option to keep their kids at home and continue with an online curriculum for the remainder of the school year. Alternatively, students were also given the option to return to campus for two out of the five school days using a hybrid schedule. The hybrid schedule lets students alternate between physical school and online school to maintain how many kids are on campus and to be as safe as possible. Though this new schedule has allowed many kids to socialize and see other kids again, it does have some faults.


For example, teachers have become noticeably quieter in online classes to not disturb the other students who are doing Zoom from campus.


“I find it weird that the teachers have to be quieter so they won’t disrupt the students they have in their class, it kind of ruins the whole teaching atmosphere when the teacher is quiet and sometimes you can hear students or other teachers in the background,” says freshman M. Ayala.


Another freshman Kate M. disagrees, “Not all the teachers are teaching the same as they would at their homes and maybe even a little better.”


Both students are taking only online classes for the rest of the semester. While one student feels that the new way of learning can be difficult or distracting, another thinks teachers being back in the classroom has improved the way they are teaching.


Furthermore, a third student that has returned to school commented, “I think it is harder to speak in classes now because usually in class it is really quiet and most of the time I don’t want to disrupt the class in any way by talking.” Students being in a room with other kids who are in a different class can sometimes make it harder to speak and may result in the student feeling uncomfortable. Students on Zoom at home may feel learning can be more difficult due to shy students, background noise, and quieter teachers. But educators being in their element can make teaching more effective for them.


As to whether the new schedule is confusing, M. Ayala says, “The new schedule is weird because we have homeroom at 8:30 every day, and then a break, and then another class, which makes me nervous because it gives me more of a chance to lose track of time and end up late for class. I also don’t like that we don’t have a late Monday anymore because I kind of used Mondays to start out my week stress-free and now Monday is just like every other day.”


To this freshman, starting Mondays later was beneficial because it helped relieve stress. The new, more elaborate schedule adds more frustration.


On the other hand, an anonymous hybrid student said, “The new system is not confusing at all, and adapting to the new schedule was not hard at all. I do find the rules frustrating because we get tested weekly and we still are not allowed to sit with our friends at all and they don’t let us go anywhere near each other. I think they should allow us to sit with whoever we want as long as we aren’t touching each other and are not too close to one another.”


Unfortunately for the hybrid student, they are not able to chat with friends during lunch and breaks as much as they expected, since they would physically be at school. Surprisingly, online students like M. Ayala are struggling with the shift in the schedule but the hybrid student seems to be adjusting well.


Students like M. Ayala and Kate M. even explain how they can keep in touch with their friends: “I honestly never really talk to my friends unless I need to text them and ask them a question or if something interesting happens. Which it doesn’t. But I do have a friend that likes to video call sometimes at lunch, but it’s not really the same. And we kind of run out of stuff to talk about because we are just stuck at home doing nothing “ says M. Ayala.


Kate M. keeps up with her friends "just through texting and FaceTiming." She adds, "We watch movies together through group watches and FaceTime."


Both Kate and M. Ayala explain how even though they Zoom from home, they can still communicate with their friends when they have the chance.


Remote students were also asked why they chose to remain online, as well as if, given the option, they would return to campus next year. M. Ayala answered, “I chose to stay online because I didn’t really see the point of going to school and doing the same thing I’d be doing at home and exposing myself for no reason. Oh, and my sister’s pregnant so I don’t want to take any risks right now.”


As we can see some students may refrain from going back to school physically to protect the health of their loved ones. Ayala continues, “I would only return to school if it is almost entirely normal. No Zoom, old schedule, moving from room to room, lunch pretty much normal, just everything. The only thing I would say is we’re wearing masks and maybe we can only eat outside at lunch? Have sanitizing stations and covid tests? Although I think regular covid testing would be very inconvenient. If it’s not normal then what’s the point, we might as well stay at home and be more comfortable.”


M. Ayala wraps up by telling us what it would take for them to return to school and gave some interesting ideas in the process.


Similarly, Kate M. states, “I decided to continue online school because the schedule would be too chaotic for drop off and pick up, and also the idea of Zooming from school wasn’t appealing. It is just easier and more practical to stay at home.”


She adds, “If given COVID has calmed down, even more, I would only return to school if my friends were as well attending. The most important part for me to return to school is if it is actually safe and I get to learn with actual face-to-face instruction, this makes things more interactive and helps me learn effectively.” Again we see how important it is for students and their families to feel safe returning to campus but we also see how the number of friends you have returning to school, can influence a student’s decision.


Though it may be easier for teachers to teach from their classroom with familiar resources, it can still be difficult for students to learn in these conditions. Overall, the hopes for returning to school with a more familiar schedule are high.


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