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Students Voice Their Opinions about Reopening Plan

By Lauren Azrin and Mary O'Callahan

The White Plains School District just announced their plan for reopening in the fall. Working with local health departments and CDC recommendations, a plan was devised that consists of a full remote schedule that will transition into a hybrid schedule. Under the hybrid model, students will be split into four groups, each coming into school for in-person learning one day a week and spending the rest of the week doing online learning from home. Some students can choose to do fully remote learning without ever coming into school. The plan also includes a strict mask wearing policy and outlines safety precautions the school is taking.

Bringing students back to school during a pandemic is sure to prove challenging, and despite efforts to create a suitable plan, there are bound to be issues and concerns. We asked students about their opinions on a few of the pressing concerns being discussed about the plan.

Opinions varied when we asked students their thoughts about going into school once a week under this hybrid model. Some students were excited to at least be able to go into school at all. Eva Weiner, in incoming senior, thinks that, “The reopening plan is better than following the complete remote learning model. Kids will have more opportunities to interact with their peers.” However, many others think one day isn’t enough. “What are we gaining from one day?” Elena Iannace, incoming junior, asks. Many still question the productivity of this model. “I’m still very confused on how the teachers will be able to interact with both the kids in the classroom and online at the same time,” explains Angelica Pierce, incoming junior.

We also asked students about how they think they think their classmates will handle all day mask wearing. It was pretty unanimous that students know the importance of mask wearing but worry about their peers not being able to follow the rules. Elena Iannace thinks that “There is no way students are going to be able to wear those for 8 hours straight. Especially since the school is extremely hot.” Ella Sperry, incoming senior, said that “I believe, for some people, wearing a mask is a mental challenge.” Students agree that all-day mask wearing will be an adjustment for all and a challenge for some.

Another concern of mask wearing is dealing with them in the heat of classrooms that don’t have air conditioning. Zaida Polanco, incoming junior, admits that “With the fact that we don’t have AC and we’ll be in hot muggy classrooms, I’d rather not go into school at all.” Caroline Schick, incoming junior, said that “I’m not going to school if there’s not AC in the entire building.”

An additional concern with masks is the ability to hear and communicate with teachers. Sophie Stein, incoming senior, explained that, “Masks create barriers, but that in turn means they limit the facial expressions that often help kids understand the teacher. The teacher may also struggle to be heard, as masks muffle sounds and don’t allow for lip reading.” Keziah Asante, incoming junior, feels that teachers wearing masks, although necessary, will make the learning process a lot more difficult.

Once we remove to the hybrid model, students will be eating breakfast in the classroom during the new advisory period attached to period one. Many students feel uncomfortable eating without masks so close to others. Sophie Stein says that, “I think that eating together in a classroom is for sure a risk." As for lunch, students will be eating either before their fifth period class or after their fifth period class, and each student will eat in their assigned cafeteria. This means many students may not get to eat with their friends, something that is sure to disappoint a lot of students.

Student opinions also ranged when we asked them if they felt safe going back to school. Angelica Pierce says that, “I’m definitely nervous because with a district of this size it’s very hard to prevent positive cases once we meet in person in the fall.” Elena Iannace explains that, “Students have been going out, not wearing masks, and not social distancing. How do we know they’re free of the virus? There are people who have no symptoms but are carriers.” Others, however, admitted that they aren’t that hesitant about returning to school.

Although this hybrid model will be tough to adjust to, many students would rather have it than be purely online. “I don’t think my mental state would be very good if we only did online learning. I am a pretty social person and I need at least some social interactions, even if that is only once a week,” says Ella Sperry.

Although there are risks to be considered, students and parents are lucky to be able to choose whether to come into school or not. Any proposed plan will have its drawbacks in the tough situation we are in, but from talking to students, it sounds like everyone is prepared and eager to make the best of their learning environment and get back to some sense of normalcy.

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