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Opinion: Students speak out about the return to school in the COVID era.

by Lauren Azrin and Mary O'Callaghan

School is finally back in session, and students have now been taking classes for over three weeks. Following this unusual start to the school year, we wanted to get students’ opinions on how returning to school has been for them. We asked students under both the hybrid model and fully remote option about their experiences, and we got some interesting responses.

One thing that’s exciting to note, and that can be attributed to the dedicated efforts of both students and faculty, is that everyone we asked who has been attending school through the hybrid model said that they do feel safe going to school. Students feel that everyone is following the rules and wearing masks to ensure their safety and the safety of others.

However, one common complaint we did receive about the hybrid model is that students wish they got to attend for more than one day. Students love being back in the building, seeing people in the halls, and getting to interact with their teachers, some even mentioning that this one day has been beneficial to their mental health. But, as Myla Bridges, current junior, expresses, “I just don’t think one day is worth it.” Students prefer to be in school because they at times get distracted at home, and feel they, “learn better in person than through a screen,” as Elena Iannace, current junior, states.

Another problem some students mentioned with the hybrid model is that it is, understandably, hard for their teachers to engage with both the students on Zoom and the students in the classroom. Colleen Cave, a current freshman, explained that, “I wish the teachers would engage with the in-person students more. When I went in, I had some teachers that would say hi at the beginning of the period and then taught the whole thing on Zoom and didn’t call on raised hands if we were in person.” Similar feelings were expressed by Ella Sperry, a current senior, who said that, “I feel like it is very challenging for the teachers to make sure the kids at home stay engaged while they have kids in class. I wish we had more time with the teachers, so they could really focus on the kids in the physical classroom.”

Interestingly, most students who expressed this opinion also mentioned that they still enjoy being in front of teachers. It’s important for us to appreciate our teachers and realize that they are doing the best they can with the cards they’ve been dealt: having to manage teaching both groups at the same time.

This opinion of more focus on at-home learners was similarly expressed by online students, who conversely, for obvious reasons, felt it was beneficial. “I feel that I’m getting the same amount of education as the people going into school,” stated Joely O’Rourke, current junior.

Besides the occasional technical difficulties, the main concern expressed by online students was the abundance of screen-time throughout the day. Zaida Polanco, current junior, explained that, ”It’s just a lot of screen time, which hurts my eyes,” while Angelica Piece, also a junior, said that, “I just wish that I wasn’t on a screen all day during school hours, and then for another 2-3 hours doing homework.”

Some online students also mentioned that they disliked having fewer opportunities to socialize, and not being able to meet teachers in person, however, it appeared that most do not regret their decision, grateful that they get to learn safely from their homes with an equal learning experience to their peers. “We’re doing the same thing as the people going into school,” says Joely O’Rourke.

Despite minor struggles or inconveniences, it seems that our White Plains Tigers are proving to be resilient, pushing through any challenge that comes their way so that they can learn in the manner that’s best for them. We wish everyone good luck as they continue the school year!

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