Staff Editorial: The Prospect of Returning to School

On Sept. 21, District 303 Board of Education decided that starting on Oct. 19, high school students would engage in a hybrid model of learning, meaning that students will be in the building.

From our perspective, we do not think this is the best way to proceed in these unprecedented times. Cases of COVID-19 are still increasing across the country, including Kane County. We highly doubt that high school students will stay six feet apart and wear their mask at all times while in the building. We worry that high school kids might have stopped caring about the pandemic and are now seeing other people without wearing masks or social distancing. 

What happens when they bring that same mentality into school?

In our opinion, we believe that we should stick to the fully remote model we are engaging in right now. Students are just starting to get used to remote learning; they’ve gotten into their routine and acclimated to a new online way of life. Students are really starting to engage with their teacher in class and beginning to build up the nerve to unmute themselves. In the past few weeks, some of our classes have done whole-class discussions and if you closed your eyes, you could almost pretend you weren’t hearing their voices from a speaker, and that you were, in fact, in a real classroom. 

Yet, we are being told to go back to in-person learning. Once in the classroom, we will have to readjust and find a new groove. It will take a while to get to know each other and figure out how to actually work face-to-face. Not only that, teachers will have to navigate between a classroom full of students in front of them and a screen with even more students. Teachers will have to juggle their valuable attention to remote and in-person students, causing some who may slip through the cracks.

This graph depicts what a week will look like for a D303 student from Oct. 19 on. The visual can be found on slide ten of the district’s presentation named “High School Presentation-Final.” (District 303)

This dilemma causes us to ask ourselves: will we not learn as much because our teachers will be too busy? While some students may think that they are not learning as much remotely, in our opinion, they will learn even less under this model. Teachers will be bouncing from their computer to individual students to trying to lecture at the front of the room, and they will not be able to finish all they had planned, resulting in a hectic mess where no one feels engaged in the class material. 

In addition, there are so many resources available online that teachers could use instead of having to go back to in-person learning. Teachers just gained access to Zoom on Friday, Sept. 18. Because of that, they have not even had a chance to utilize all of the features it has to offer. Zoom has the ability for teachers to send students to breakout rooms, something Google Meets does not possess. 

Hybrid learning could be a possible step eventually, but right now our district is not ready for it. It is dangerous to ourselves and others. Remote learning is working. It may be hard and confusing sometimes, but we are still learning without having to worry about our safety. We like attending school without being worried that we’re going to contract a deadly disease and spread it to our loved ones.

Remote learning is not only letting us learn while being safe but is also preparing us for our future. Students are now experts in making connections online; nowadays, so many job interviews and meetings are virtual, and we are now professionals in navigating both Zoom and Google Meet. Remote learning has been preparing us for life after high school in a unique way than being in the building could have. 

Along those same lines, remote learning is preparing us for college. In college, classes are not every day, and homework isn’t often due the day after it’s assigned. Sound familiar? 

Now, we are able to tailor our time to what we need to focus on which could mean spending more time working on a certain subject. This can help us build study habits and learn time management skills that we can take with us to college.

The calendar above is found on slide 12 of the district’s presentation named “High School Presentation-Final.” It outlines what the month of October will look like for students. (District 303)

Most importantly, student voices are not being heard. Over the summer, surveys were sent to parents about their children’s instructional model. We kept waiting for an email to arrive in our inboxes, but we didn’t get one. We are high school students. We are more than capable of making our own decisions and answering honestly about what we want for our schooling.

The bottom line is: student’s opinions aren’t being represented even though we are the ones who in-person learning affects the most. We are the ones who will have to go into the building, so why weren’t we allowed to be directly involved or even consulted in the decision-making process?

Despite this, we recognize that there may be some positive outcomes of in-person learning. There will be more face-to-face interactions, meaning students–for the first time in months–will be able to talk to their teachers and fellow classmates without needing a screen. They will be able to bond with their teachers and start interacting with them in ways that haven’t existed since COVID-19 changed our lives last March. Teachers will be able to ask questions and get responses immediately instead of waiting in awkward silence for a brave soul to unmute themselves. 

That being said, we have to accept the fact that just because we are going back to school, it won’t be what we are normally used to. Masks and six-feet social distancing will be required at all times, and desks will be arranged in rows separated from one another. These requirements may isolate us from others and make it hard to talk due to distance.

We feel that this process of getting high schoolers into the building has been rushed and not thoroughly thought out. Nobody could have imagined that our school year would look like this. This isn’t normal, but it’s the middle of a pandemic; life isn’t normal. It won’t be for a long time. We think that there is time to take this process slow enough to ensure that we aren’t making short term solutions that might be counter-productive in the long run.

The purpose of the staff editorial is to start a conversation. The editorial topic and stance are discussed and agreed on by all members of the editorial board. While only one editor writes the article and the editorial may not represent each editor’s opinion 100%, it does represent an editorial consensus. Again, the purpose is discussion. Let us know what you think through Twitter @SCNNewspaper and email at [email protected].