The Return to School Via Hybrid: Is It Really Safe and Effective?

In the months since schools have been closed, there have been several changes to the school schedule and the delivery of education. The answer, for a few months, was for everyone to virtually take classes. When things became “safer,” however, and students were allowed to choose to go back, things changed a lot. On November 9, 2020, some were allowed back inside the school buildings for in-person classes twice a week. The first week of school is always an exciting time, but this year, an air of nervousness and confusion accompanied it. After week one of hybid was finished, the only thing to wonder was how exactly it went for everyone.

There were a lot of students coming back, and that made it very hard to keep things safe. While people can safely say that a pretty good job has been done by administrators and teachers, there has still been some room for improvement. This has led to some nerves from the students.

“I think it’s moderately safe. It’s not going to be 100% safe; there’s still going to be issues. My suggestion is that I’d probably have kids bring their own lunches, but I know that’s not possible sometimes,” said sophomore Crissy Biser.

“I am very iffy about hybrid learning. I really enjoy being social with people again, but it is hard when everything is spaced out. I also do not like the setup of the cafeteria. It really defeats the purpose of social distancing with 2 people at each table. But in total honesty, I am having a good time being back with everyone,” said sophomore Summer Plaugher.

“I feel like hybrid is going as well as it could. It is stressful doing online and in-person classes at the same time, and getting used to being back here is weird too. I like how peaceful it is at school, though. It is a nice place to do work when it is really quiet! Lunch is weird too. I only sit with one person, and it is the only person I know on that shift. I think it is going well overall. I am impressed with how cooperative everyone is being with all of the new regulations,” said sophomore Alaina Marek.

The virtual students, however, have dealt with a lot less stress in terms of safety. While the new virtual schedule has made it a bit harder to stay focused, some see it as a worthy tradeoff for fewer health concerns, and some even think FCPS1 should close school buildings back down and go all virtual again.

“I had to be more focused on what was going on since the teacher is just speaking and not giving actual instruction towards the virtual kids. It’s nice to have the ability to choose how to learn things but it’s bad that people are still physically going to school. I miss everyone but I feel like it was too early to open,” said sophomore Melanie Salas.

While being back at school is stressful for the students, it can be even worse for the teachers. The job that now includes both teaching students in multiple different locations and keeping them safe is very stressful.

“When some students are online, they don’t want to speak.  This really makes it hard because I can’t always be watching the screen when there are students in the classroom at the same time. I am very much a people person and having students in my classroom makes me happy. Seeing students in person makes it so much easier to create a good relationship with students. In terms of safety, I make sure that students are socially distanced and wearing masks, that each student cleans their space before leaving the classroom, and that there is no eating or drinking in the classroom,” said math teacher Mrs. Dawn Tucker.

Some students struggled to learn virtually and they came back to school because they knew they needed the additional support of in-person learning. Over these three hybid weeks, students that have been going back to school  seem to enjoy it somewhat, but have some reservations.

“I think coming back to school was a little scary because not everyone keeps their mask on properly at all times, and some people don’t disinfect their desks or do it poorly. It is also really risky for people with poor immune systems or people who live with relatives who are high-risk. I am so glad things are finally becoming somewhat normal again, but the threat of COVID-19 is still here,” said sophomore Mikayla McNeil.

“I think going to classes in person will help some kids learn more and help their grades, but I still have safety concerns. I do not like the two to a lunch table thing in the cafeteria, and I think all students should use hand sanitizer whenever they enter or exit a classroom,” said freshman Clarke Wright.

“Hybrid isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. On virtual, I did not really listen in class because I’d usually be on the games or talking to my friends while on the game. The only part I hate about hybrid is waking up at 6:00 a.m. and getting ready. I also guess wearing a mask is a hassle, but not a big hassle,” said freshman Cornelius Okai-Brown.

“I am really loving the return to school. It has really opened my mind up and I have been able to learn better. Learning virtually for me was not fun and I really did not enjoy it. I was very excited to hear that they were going to open schools back up. Not only because I am able to get my grades up, but also I have been able to see my friends that I haven’t seen in a long time! I am very glad about this return to school and I hope it will stay this way because I don’t think I can go back to learning virtually,” said freshman Terry Knighting.

“Honestly coming back to school is a lot different than I thought it would be! Personally, it’s not too bad. I feel that some things should be changed, but honestly, it’s very fun! I’m glad I came back because I was able to see some of my friends plus make new ones. This way I’m not stuck in my room behind a computer half asleep. I’ve learned that I need human interaction or face to face learning to learn better, so going back to school was very good for me and I hope they don’t go all virtual again,” said freshman Taylor Ritenour.

“In person school is fantastic. I think going to school will lead to me getting better grades. When I was learning virtually at my house, I was not fully focused,” said freshman Mauricio Romero.

“Hybrid is definitely better for me than virtual. I learn a lot better in person and I get to see some of my friends. I also feel safe because the teachers and staff are pretty strict about following the rules and guidelines. Hybrid definitely has its problems, though. Lunch is incredibly awkward with two people to a table. I don’t think there is a better solution, but it just isn’t fun! The biggest issue I have with the whole thing is how they separated AA and BB people. I wish they did it by where people live instead of by last name. This would solve some transportation issues. Overall, I think hybrid is great, it’s just not how I wanted to spend my senior year,” said senior Jazmyn Reynolds.

“I really liked coming back to school. It is really fun. What I dislike is that this is my first year at Liberty, and I wanted the real high school experience because it sounds amazing. But the pandemic ruined that. I am liking how hybrid is going, but some rules are very strict,” said freshman Asya Thomas.

It is a very stressful time for everyone. Kids, teachers, and administrators are all coming back, and the people in charge had to make it safe for everybody. It seems they have been doing a good job so far, but the nature of the pandemic could force a future closure.  In any case, with the first week back completed, and many more to come, all anyone can do is look at what happened. All in all, the first week, and the weeks after that, went pretty smoothly, all things considered.