District prepares to shift towards hybrid learning during COVID

Students and staff are eager to get back to school, but is it safe?

Viking+carving+wearing+a+mask.+Photographer%3A+Julie+Henggeler

Viking carving wearing a mask. Photographer: Julie Henggeler

This school year has been a series of unknowns tossed into the air with no knowledge of when the other shoe will drop. Attending school and what that looks like during Covid-19 may change as vaccines roll out. However, at the present moment, we should be hesitant to return to schools before we can be certain that students and teachers will remain safe. 

 

More information is being discovered about Covid-19, yet people haven’t stopped to think about what it means. Students and parents are focused on going back to normal. But what if “normal” has changed?

 

According to the Lake Stevens School District, Cavelero and LSHS students will “return following  Spring Break.” K-2 have been back in school since Feb.16 according to the district’s newsletter. The district has decided to phase in students, much like other schools across the U.S.

 

If this plan takes effect, high school students will be at school for less than a month and a half before the end of the school year. From a student perspective, it’s not worth it. Reasons being new complications of the virus, tension between the school district and teachers, and the overall unbeneficial short-lived change.  

 

Students are hopeful to return to in person learning; however, more information about the complications of Covid-19 and its effects on teenagers are surfacing. For example 15 year old Brayden Wilson from Simi Valley California died after “multi-system inflammatory syndrome,” that was linked to Covid, according to The Seattle Times on Feb 15.

 

As more complications surface, the school district should ask if going back is worth risking the spread of covid, as well taking into consideration the new research regarding the complications that could ultimately affect students’ futures.

 

Those who have survived seem to go home healthy, but doctors are unsure if there will be lingering issues for the future, ensuring that much of the situation is still unknown.

 

One thing that scientists have discovered is that children ages 10 and under are less likely to transmit Covid-19 while,“teenagers are about twice as likely to become infected with the coronavirus as younger children,” according to The New York Times.

Present way of drop offs during Covid
Media Specialist Kit Shanholtzer delivering materials to Senior Kori DuBois. Photographer: Julie Henggeler

As the coronavirus mutates, it presents another threat to the school district and their hopes on reopening. The vaccinations initially presented in September could have no effect against the changing virus.

 

One is currently being traced, known as the South African variant, and has recently been detected in Washington state. As well as being unsure the current vaccination will work, scientists are also unsure how fast it will spread. 

 

As more and more people get vaccinated and are hopeful for the return to “normal”, the health crisis continues to worsen. Even with the U.S reporting “65,000” new cases a day, states like Texas have fully reopened. This isn’t the first time Texas has tried to open the state prematurely, even in June they had to reinforce restrictions after cases rose exponentially.

 

Some students are hopeful for a return and still long for the structure and community they once had before Covid. One of those students is sophomore Lindsey Bowles, and she stated, I would love to go to school not just for seeing my friends but for having a routine and to be able to have my actual schedule with 6 classes.”

 

For Arlington High School senior Tamryn Welzien, her school plans to go back as soon as March 22. Unlike Bowles she feels “frustrated” and is concerned any more changes will cause more chaos.

Welzien says,

 

“The rush to go back seems a bit premature. In my mind, schools should wait until it is 100% safe to go back full time””

— Welzien

 

Although it seems all teachers in Washington are against the idea of going back to school due to the recent protests in the local media, others are excited. 

 

For Lynn Atchley, a teacher at LSHS, is hopeful for the return. 

 

“I cannot wait to return to in-person classes. I know there will be challenges, but bring it on! I really hope that at least the seniors get to come back to school – if not everyone,” Atchley said.

 

For Welzien, she feels that parents and teachers push to go back is overshadowing how students really feel about the situation.

 

Most of the teachers are very excited about going back and claim that they are doing it for us, when the truth is the majority of students have stated that they don’t think we should be doing this,” Welzien said.

 

The polarization between some teachers and parents on this issue has increased in the media as both sides turn to protesting. Some teachers want to wait to go back to school for the safety of themselves and students while some parents are pushing for in school learning for the mental health of their children.

Attendance Secretary Tiffany Reid uses new temperature scanners photographer: Julie Henggeler

 

According to the Wall Street Journal, this polarization has led to lawsuits against teachers as well as tension between parents and the school district.

 

Just recently as of January 24, the Tacoma school district staged a “sick out” asking the district for the school to ensure safety protocols, returning only when the whole community has access to vaccinations, allow teachers to have the option for remote learning, and that hazard pay is given, according to King 5 News.

 

For Ava Jobe, a sophomore at ArchBishop Murphy, a school that has been offering hybrid learning since October stated, “The cases climbed, yet they reopened it to the point where half of the students were back. This [going back to school] was 100% because of angry parents…My school was pressured into it, but I think we should have stood firm and not have reopened as quickly as we did.”

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Although there are strong feelings about not going back, it is important to know there’s an argument for both sides.

 

“Hybrid learning can be the best of both worlds, or a worst of both worlds reality,” said Bree Dusseault, practitioner-in-residence at the University of Washington’s Center of Reinventing Public Education. They have been surveying schools throughout the pandemic, according to Education Weeks article.

 

In order to make hybrid learning work, there needs to be a clear outline on what it will look like. Such as what the protocol is for enforcing CDC guidelines, how teachers will convert learning to both in person and online, and how the district plans to make sure no student falls behind if they choose to remain learning at a distance.

 

Not to mention ensuring civil peace between parents and teachers. These issues can not be solved in less than a month and a half.

 

Even though Washington is one of the slowest states to initiate hybrid learning, this does not mean we should allow the pressure to sway the overall goal: keeping the students healthy and safe.

 

As more develops with Covid-19, the school district should look to strengthen their initial protocol throughout the summer and look to beginning next year with a fresh and hopeful recovery of in-person education.

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