By: Danielle Tierney/Junior Writer
At a recent Blue Ridge School Board workshop (Monday, September 14), Board members held a discussion and impromptu vote on whether or not to return the entire student body to school full time or keep the hybrid framework which the board voted earlier to put in place through the first marking period. The vote, which ended in a tie, went for the status quo–the hybrid format. The board will probably revisit the issue at its next meeting on Monday, September 28. Idealistically, of course we all want to go back to school the way that we have been accustomed to, but I think it’s too soon and is working against what has already been done.
The plans that are being made could slow down learning even more, and despite how many precautions are taken, it is still more dangerous for everyone to go to school at once.
Already this year, Group A and B both have two separate bus trips in the morning and afternoon. To make this necessary change that keeps kids distanced on buses, class times needed to be shortened. School starts at 8:20 and ends at 2:20, meaning we get less time than our normal schedule of 8:07 to 3:00. In order to go back to school all together “safely”, not only would we need more lunch periods, but also more bus runs which could shorten the day even more. The purpose of this whole plan is to restore a little bit of the norm so kids can work efficiently, but when days are shortened like this and we have to distance in bigger classes, you have to ask if it’s going to be worth it. It also doesn’t make sense when most of what we do in class is online anyway. Why take all of these precautions for very shortened class periods when the learning could more efficiently be done at home?
Personally, hybrid learning has been really effective for me in many different ways. I’m not sure how teachers and staff are taking it, but why change a system that is not only safe, but functional and efficient? I never thought I would be the type of person to enjoy online school, and I know kids have different ways of learning, but I feel hybrid gives kids who learn in different ways the chance to do what works best for them at least a couple days a week. Going completely in person takes away from the kids who thrive in online classes during these uncertain times. When the purpose is to be able to educate efficiently and safely, I think it works for a variety of kids since it includes different ways of learning.
I know some people like to assume that just because we are distanced and have masks on that everybody is going to be safe, but already in school with just half of the total, I have seen unsafe behaviors and I’m sure it’s even worse in the elementary school. Being that I have asthma and I get sick really easily, I’m scared that being exposed to two times the amount of people would be unsafe because you can’t completely eliminate the risks of catching the virus. It’s impossible, but doubling the students isn’t going to do anything but increase those chances. We can’t just forget about the students who are more at risk of this virus, which there are many of, despite what you may think. This doesn’t just affect the older generations, and these students should not be excluded, as their safety matters the most. Two times the students would mean two times the cleaning when we are already short on janitorial staff. It would be a bigger deal when one student gets Covid-19 as well because they’ve been exposed to more students in their classes. All of those students would then have to isolate.
Above all, I believe hybrid learning has been working really effectively. I can see how the school would want to make students feel like their lives are closer to normal, but I think it has not been a bad change, but a more positive one. During times of uncertainty, I feel it provides everyone with a way that they can learn. Having experienced hybrid learning, I’ve actually felt like my mental health has improved. My classes are much more flexible, and I get to learn the way most effective for me. Sleeping in, being able to snack and take breaks, and being in the comfort of my own home has made my learning more effective and not as stressful. And during these times, stress relief is important. Being that many kids have different home environments, I can see how it might produce the opposite effect, but we have those class days in person to give those kids the environment that works for them. Getting to see our teachers in person provides for the explanations and application we need, and online learning provides a more flexible routine all while keeping us safe and at home.
To me, hybrid learning has just what I need during this time, and I think other students will agree. It provides for safety as well as a stable way of learning for a time that is not so stable. Going in person would be more stressful, as you have a strict schedule everyday and your class sizes would be double what they were. Not only that, but less class time means more time to do given assignments at home anyway. So much time would be wasted providing for safe lunches and transportation that I just don’t think it’s worth the illusion that everything is normal. Everything is not normal. And it’s ok to say that. Situations not of the norm require solutions that are not of the norm, and I think hybrid learning is the answer.