As September begins and children around the United States begrudgingly return for the new school year, a crucial issue arises —the return to school.
by Maanas Shah
As September begins and children around the United States begrudgingly return for the new school year, a crucial issue arises, one that was shrugged off in earlier months by people who overlooked the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic—the return to school.
This is the trilemma that has brought fierce debates—and continues to in some states—among lawmakers, superintendents, parents, and students alike: Where exactly should these students learn during this pandemic? Should they receive their education in schools where they would be able to achieve the highest quality of education possible? Or should they adapt to a new method of learning online for safety reasons? Or should students follow a blend of these two polarizing options to provide them with both learning and safety during these uncertain times?
With each of these options having significant drawbacks which can impact tens of millions in the nation, this is an issue that must be deeply considered and cannot be overlooked any longer.
The Stance on Reopening School:
Reopening schools has been the goal of many since the start of US quarantine. There are several benefits to in-person schooling, including a higher quality and satisfaction of education. And, there is no doubt that being in a school with physical supplies and in-person interactions can foster better learning.
Students can be tested on material fairly—which is not possible online—and can interact with their teachers and for educational, and social, purposes. Before quarantine, school served as a social gathering place for students to have fun, make friends, and learn. However, if online schooling is implemented, then these kinds of interactions are simply not possible and would increase student dissatisfaction with school. Students would not only get a worse education, but would also be stripped of what might have been their favorite activity of the day: meeting their friends.
While student satisfaction does play a large part in how likely students are to participate in and enjoy learning, students are also aware of the importance of a quality education and have recognized the drawbacks of an online school. For example, several students from my school, including me, agree that online schooling in March led to a decrease in learning. School had a shorter instructional period, fewer assignments, no way to make fair assessments, and was overall confusing.
Still, there is one major issue with this model that must be addressed: safety. While this issue may seem daunting, there are several ways to ensure safety among the students and the community. Wearing mandatory face masks, using hand sanitizer, and social distancing (spread out desks and a rotating schedule that splits the school into two groups) are just a few of the potential ways students can attend school safely.
The Stance on Transitioning to a Fully Online School:
The method of teaching that has been far more efficient, and has been used since the start of quarantine is online school. Using a combination of online tools such as Google Classroom and Zoom, students have been able to keep up with the school curriculum during this pandemic.
Even though this method of learning seems to produce a less educational effect, the safety benefits for the students and their communities is significantly better. If students are forced to go back to school physically, then the months of effort spent staying indoors to combat the virus would be of no use and put much of the community at risk.
In fact, recent studies have shown that children might actually be even more effective at spreading the virus than adults. Additionally, while it is true that the children attending schools would be at low risk for death even if they contract the virus, they are not immune to it. They can still catch the virus and spread it to their families and others around them who may actually be at high risk for death, infants or grandparents in the household).
Medical benefits are not the only pros to an online school. The general consensus of my school believes the changes that have come about to their schooling processes are enjoyable. For example, many students liked that they had more freedom with their school work and due dates. Being able to do homework, study whenever they wanted to, and sleeping longer hours were major bonuses most students noted of online schooling.
In addition, students with tough classes found that their stress was lowered significantly on a daily basis as they had so much time to study in ways that worked for them. Overall, online schooling is not a perfect system of education, but it does the job safely and efficiently.
The Stance on a Hybrid School Method:
Both schooling methods mentioned above have their benefits and drawbacks. But, what if we implemented something in between these two extremes?
This type of educational system, a mix of online and physical schooling, is referred to as the hybrid system. There are several definitions of the hybrid model that are used by the many districts around the nation, however most of them fall into two main categories.
One states the return to school when it is considered ‘safe,’ and online learning will be cut off. The more fleshed out hybrid model divides students into two groups: one that would physically be at school, while the other is learning online. In other words, some students would be learning-person, while the others would learn the same lesson virtually, and would rotate off.
The benefits of the hybrid model are that students have the safety of online school and the educational advantages of physical learning (tests, labs, socialization, and an overall better learning experience). However, A split schooling system might be too much to handle and students may find the system to be quite confusing as well
In the end, all three schooling methods have their own benefits and drawbacks which can affect a large number of people, and thus must be analyzed with great care. Schooling is definitely going to feel unfamiliar to the students around the nation as they begin to learn again no matter what method their schools adopt.