Recently our district has presented the idea of switching the high schools back to full time in person learning four days a week. This has created a lot of debate throughout the community. A lot of the students want to stay in our current hybrid schedule; they feel as though they have developed their own schedules working around school and that switching back to full time would mess that up. Anyone can see this who looks at the Padlet that Mr. Doan had students fill out with their opinions during focus groups. On the other hand, some parents believe that we should send students back to school full time in order to improve their learning and mental health.
At yesterday’s school board meeting, Eagle Valley High School’s Students Promoting Inclusion and Civic Engagement (SPICE) club presented their petition in support of remaining in hybrid learning the rest of the school year. They presented the board with two main reasons for their position, our safety and the disruption it would cause. SPICE’s petition was signed by over 200 students throughout the valley. SPICE recognized where there was an issue, they reached out to other students in the community, and they spoke up.
I agree with SPICE’s perspective. Safety and Disruption are valid reasons to stay in hybrid learning for the rest of the semester. SPICE pointed out that classrooms have become relaxed with social distancing, and the school as a whole has eliminated contact tracing when students test positive for COVID-19. Our school currently requires six feet of distance between students, and the hybrid schedule has made that possible by reducing class sizes over the separate days. For the most part this has been successful, however, if we were to return to school full time class sizes would double and maintaining six feet of distance would not be feasible. This is both a safety concern and a disruption since the school would have to rearrange students’ schedules and add an additional class period to the day. This would also put more pressure on our counselors, who are currently busy with the PSAT and SAT tests along with developing student schedules for next year. I think that considering the students’ safety is important when making the decision, whether or not to go back full time. It concerns me that this may not have been considered enough by our board members.
SPICE also pointed out how changing the schedule now would cause disruptions that go further than work/life balance for students who have jobs and are supporting their families during the pandemic but that would also be seen in classrooms. In their presentation to the board, the SPICE said, “The hybrid learning model’s smaller class sizes have enabled students to establish closer relationships with our teachers than we had in class sizes of 30+.” The pandemic has put a lot of stress on students and teachers. For a lot of them, their lives were turned upside down, and students looked to teachers for support. Luckily because of small class sizes, the teachers were able to be there to support them. I know in my life, my teachers have played a big role in the person I have become, and if I did not have their support, I would not be as successful as I have been able to be. If we go back to full time and class sizes increase, it is easier for students to get lost in translation.
The lack of support from the parents in our valley who presented at the school board meeting is upsetting. Many parents believe that we should go back full time to improve the quality of our learning. As much as I agree that many classes are not covering as much material as we would have, I do not think that this is a good time to transition back to full time in person learning. Mr. Doan has explained multiple times that there would be no change in instruction or the amount of work we do if we did go back to four days a week of in-person learning this semester. It would make more sense to transition back to five days a week at the start of the next school year because it allows for more time for the safety risk to go down and students to work with their families and develop schedules that will work for all of them.
I do not think that the school board has thought enough about the impacts of transitioning back to full in person learning, and I urge them to listen to what students are saying.