by Amanda Dronzek
The last time schools were in full session was March 13, 2020. It’s now October. The coronavirus has taken its course, weaving in and out of states all over the country, and it’s caused America to implement a hybrid learning system for going back to school this fall. As for East Greenwich specifically, the town has created a half in person and half distance plan for students K-12. On Monday’s, everyone is asynchronous, giving teachers and students time to catch up on past assignments. Depending on your alphabetical order, students with last names A-KL attend school on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which requires the wearing of masks, constant sanitation, and limited interaction with peers. The same goes for students at the back half of the alphabet. They physically enter school on Thursday and Friday while the other students remain home for the rest of the week unless they have after school activities.
As much as the world is trying to go back to normal, they can’t. For many students, they’re conflicted on how hybrid learning is affecting their academic performance and mental performance. Over the weekend, I conducted a 5 student “survey” at the high school to see their opinions on this new set up. I have gotten a perspective from grades 9-12, to see how this arrangement is working for them. To begin, I spoke with freshman, Teaghan Bristol, asking her how high school was treating her in these conditions. Regarding distance learning, Bristol said, “At home learning is relaxing. I can sleep an extra half hour. My parents are home to comfort me when I am stressed.” While she liked the aspect of being able to do school within her home and be less overwhelmed, Teaghan also said procrastination had become a big part of her distance learning life. Teachers seem to assign more work on distance days, contrary to the idea that online school is meant to be equal to a regular day at school.
In person, Teaghan found it was easier to comprehend what she was learning because the resources were right in front of her. Since school runs on a schedule, there is structure and implemented time to finish assignments, overall making in person learning the better of the two. As a sophomore myself, I decided to talk to multiple sources in 10th grade to see what they thought of the situation. Both Maddy Hinrichs and Alex Mega said it was refreshing to be back in school, for online learning invokes chaos. Having siblings home at the same time as you makes focusing difficult, whereas school offers a sense of normality. Socializing is a major part of what school used to be, and due to restrictions, we can’t have that privilege anymore. Distance learning does provide you with more time to work, but being at school with other people is more important to most kids.
Finally, I spoke with junior, Abby Clarke, and senior, Ethan Fain, to see how they were affected by the pandemic as their high school careers began to close. Clarke remarked, “I get really distracted when I’m at home and there’s no interaction with peers. I have tons of background noise if I ever decided to talk. The only good thing is I get to wake up a few minutes later.” Just like Teaghan had said, the pros of dstacne learning appear to be very slim. Sleep is very important, but so is being able to live a normal social life as a teenager. Being at home is more lonely, and according to studies, provides the same risks as in person school does when it comes to the coronavirus. Ethan also had similar things to say. “I prefer in person because online takes away from the social aspect of school. It’s created a very stressful year.” Along with college applications and senior projects, Fain jokes, “add in a global pandemic.” Senior year as it is can be overwhelming, and losing the social interactions with people you may not see again for a long time, can make it even more aggravating.
Overall, students attending East Greenwich high school this year have made it clear that despite the restrictions and meticulous rules, in person learning trumps online school. The environment feels more normal and in these times that’s all anyone can ask for. Being at home with an entire family can be distracting and chaotic. School provides kids with an outlet and ample opportunities to see their friends, play sports, and be a teenager. For now, we have to deal with the hybrid model until a vaccine is distributed. The future of in person learning could be in jeopardy as flu season begins, but hopefully by then, students will be able to return to the life they left in March.