From Online to In-Person
Although the state of Illinois has averaged almost 10,000 new COVID-19 cases a day for the past three weeks, students began to trickle back to West on a hybrid class schedule before Thanksgiving.
With this in mind, strict restrictions were in place to limit the risk for all: both students and staff were required to report any symptoms, temperatures were checked upon arrival, and stairwells were one-way to limit the amount of people in close proximity to each other. These precautions give students the confidence to return to school. “I think [the precautions] are pretty good; I worry less about the chances of contracting it and passing it on to someone else that could be greatly affected,” sophomore Gabriel Da Silva said.
Attending online classes has been a challenge for almost all students: distractions arise and understanding the curriculum can be more difficult. “The consequences [of virtual school] are devastating. We have virtual dropouts. We have major school districts in the US where a third of the kids are not logging on everyday,” Harvard professor of Environmental Health Dr. Joseph Allen said, when speaking to the Harvard Gazette.
Some students feel the same way: they attended in-person classes simply to be able to focus better. “I learn better in person. With online learning, I get distracted really easily by my phone, a TV, or anything else, sometimes even when my camera is on,” senior Adam Gorcyca said. By physically attending school, many students eliminated external distractions that would have plagued them at home, whether it be the temptation to use electronic devices or being away from a younger sibling.
Possibly as a result of being able to focus, multiple students agreed that they understood the information they were being taught better. “It’s easier to ask questions in person, so the experience is more personalized. I think that if we were in-person, I could improve my grades,” Gorcyca said. For students such as Gorcyca, being able to ask a personal question to a teacher is important, as unmuting in front of 30 blank screens can be difficult for some students.
Furthermore, participating in some electives from home can be challenging, and so students were eager to experience the traditional lessons. For example, many do not have the materials and tools at home to follow along with the curriculum of Automotive Fundamentals. “Autos is hard to do virtually, so to be able to do hands-on work is a lot better,” Da Silva said, explaining why he took the opportunity to attend class in-person.
Da Silva is a rare case, though. Many classes reported having only 2-3 students present at school, meaning that classes are still happening almost entirely over Google Meet or Zoom.
Extracurricular activities are a large part of many students’ lives, and although scheduling them has been anything but straightforward, many students are hoping that second semester will eventually allow for more aspects of normal life. “I feel like my high school experience has been different; it’s going to be weird going from a virtual class to in person. Sports and large clubs are still going on, but smaller ones haven’t really continued,” freshman Marlon Pante said.
Although future scheduling for second semester is subject to change due to the continuing increase of COVID-19 cases in Illinois, as of now students continue having the hybrid option to attend classes in person. “I’m excited to [be] back again because it was really boss to see my teachers and friends again,” Gorcyca said.