The Great Debate: Should we return to school fully in-person?
April 15, 2021
Yes. Returning fully in-person is unimaginable yet crucial
Since the first day of hybrid learning on Oct. 6, 2020, many people have enjoyed going into school two days a week. After many successful months of the hybrid learning model, the decision has been made to go back five days a week on April 26. While there are certainly some downsides, going back five days a week will present additional hands-on instruction and more social interaction.
While there have been talks about what the future of the schedule looks like, District Superintendent Gregory Martineau sent an email to families on March 10 notifying them that Algonquin would be going back five days a week starting after April break in order to provide a more comprehensive educational experience as COVID-19 cases continue to go down. As said on the district reopening plan, administrators have been preparing for going back fully in-person since January, and are adding additional protocols to ensure the safety of staff, students and families.
As most of us have seen, we have all gotten used to being less social during the pandemic, but there are additional developmental effects that could be in place if things never return to “normal”. As mentioned in the New York Times, it can be unimaginable for many teens to be told that they simply can’t see their friends. There has also been an increase in depression and a lack of motivation since the March 2020 lockdown, and going back fully in-person will hopefully help student’s mental state. However, it is really important to be in-person five days a week so we can spend more time around our peers, and not have to deal with tough things such as completing tests and quizzes from home on Zoom, where many distractions are present.
Talking about my future in high school prior to lockdown, I imagined my freshman year to be filled with parties and fun, not staying socially distanced and worrying about getting family members a vaccine. While masks are here for the foreseeable future, and parties aren’t happening any time soon, going back to school five days a week is one step closer to the high school experience we expected to have. Waking up at 6:00 a.m. every day and going to school seems almost impossible and really scary to return to normal. But it is so important to return and see friends that we haven’t talked to in over a year.
Many of us, including myself, have a fear of the unknown, with the unknown being what it is going to be like when we are fully in-person. Many might look towards what’s logical, it simply doesn’t seem possible to return to school five days a week during a pandemic. In some ways, it is impossible to stay socially distanced all of the time, and there is still a lot that we don’t know about the future state of Algonquin. COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts are at an all-time low, with under two thousand new cases in the state each day. At the beginning of the school year, I was not very confident that the school was going to stay in the hybrid model, but the free testing has restored confidence in many students, and I look forward to seeing success when we return.
With months of planning and all of the necessary precautions put in place by administrators, going back to school five days a week will soon be a possibility. While it can be scary to be in school with over 1400 students and staff full time during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial to progress and start seeing each other.
No. Returning fully in-person is a nice idea, but unrealistic
Over the past year, many people—teachers, students and parents—have wondered when school will be completely normal. Since then, a big question has come up for debate: will we ever go full in-person again? In recent weeks, with the decision made to go back five days a week, it certainly seems like we will. But I believe the more important question is, should we?
There are definitely upsides to returning to school five days a week, like seeing friends you might not have seen in person since school closed last year. But is this really an upside? I understand that some people are upset about missing the “social” aspect of highschool, like parties and seeing friends. But, the virus will go away much faster if everyone follows the guidelines and stays away from one another, which won’t happen at a school with over 1400 students (when it is often hard to follow social distancing).
Another issue in schools is symptom screening. According to the CDC, a recent study found that symptom screening failed to identify nearly half of all pediatric patients with COVID, and 40% of those with COVID symptoms did not have the virus. So, while symptom screening is important, it is nearly impossible to detect all, or even half, of COVID-positive children.
Moreover, the highest number of cases in Massachusetts in the last two weeks are from people ages 0-19, with over 5,000 new cases. And this could be because of schools choosing to return full in-person. The reason cases were so low before is because kids were not in school.
Since before Christmas break, the district has offered free COVID testing, and while it certainly looks promising, even it has its downsides. It is a good idea in theory, but if someone is COVID-positive (and is asymptomatic), by the time they get their results back they could have transmitted it to many other students and teachers without even realizing it. Based on the process of pooled testing, it is also possible for a positive COVID sample to go undetected (thus showing up as negative).
In addition to this, if you’re a COVID-19 carrier, you may wear your mask all day only to spread the disease when you take it off to eat lunch. While, yes, the school is adding another lunch and we can eat outside, but how does that make sense? I constantly see students walking up to others at lunch without masks on, not socially distanced and when we go full in-person there will only be more people who do this and help spread the virus.
Not to mention, hallways and stairwells went back to two-directional last week (in addition to less passing time), which in my opinion, seems like the opposite of what should be done in preparation for the entire school being in the same building. While you are supposed to keep to one side, this is basically impossible for teachers to enforce when hundreds of students are walking at the same time.
Furthermore, it is going to be extremely hard for students to adjust back to five days of school a week. I for one feel that waking up at 6:00 a.m. (and sometimes earlier) every day seems almost impossible, and will definitely cause sleep deprivation among students, who have gotten used to going to bed and waking up later. And if schools open and many people get the virus, they will probably close again, and we will all have to readjust all over again.
We can all agree that schools need to reopen at some point to make things as “normal” as possible. But should this really be happening now? And while I understand the intent, there are some things that shouldn’t be normal right now, in the middle of a pandemic.