This school year has been far from ideal, with almost every student stuck at home doing virtual learning. After six months of sitting in my room and staring at my laptop for multiple hours straight, I jumped at the chance to take part in hybrid learning at my high school.
Over the course of the past few months, Eastside Catholic School (EC) has been trying to get its students back on campus, but was forced to cancel each time due to rising COVID-19 cases in the state. Now that first semester has officially ended, EC decided to bring its students back because the school felt that they could provide a safe learning environment on campus, while following the Washington state Department of Health’s guidelines.
I was initially excited to be heading back to school for hybrid learning, but as I talked to more of my friends, my skepticism grew. How many students would be in my class? Are all of my teachers even going to be teaching at campus? Should I even buy a parking pass?
I pondered over all of these questions and anxiously awaited for Feb. 4, the day I would return to in-person classes. EC’s hybrid schedule is split into A and B groups. Students in A group go to campus on Monday and Tuesday, and B group (the group I am in) attends on Thursday and Friday. The days you are not on campus, you continue just like any other remote learning day by joining a Teams meeting.
As I pulled into the parking lot in the morning and put on my mask, I did not know what to expect. I walked up to campus and attempted to stay as socially-distanced as I could from the other students. Parents are sent a link each morning to complete a health screening, which includes their student’s temperature. I showed the adults my health screening results and proceeded to walk up the steps of the school alone.
There are multiple entrances that students use based on their last name. It was strange to walk up the steps to the main entrance by myself. I was so accustomed to normally talking with friends as we walked up to school. It was weird to be alone.
Students are not allowed inside the building until 7:50 a.m., so I waited near my designated entrance until it was time to enter. Teachers, administrators and volunteers were stationed around the front courtyard to remind students to maintain physical distance. When it was time to go inside, each student got their temperature checked at the door.
With so few students in-person, I walked alone to all of my classes. There is a taped line in all hallways that splits it into two sides. Arrows in opposite directions indicate which direction students are supposed to walk in to keep students six feet apart, like they do for some grocery stores.
Typically, I would expect the hallways to be chaotic, loud and crowded, but now they were just empty. There were a few areas of the hallway where some students congregated, but for the most part, we kept our distance and stayed on designated sides of the tape.
I talked with some students who also chose to participate in hybrid learning.
“It is strange coming back to school with the hallways so empty, but being back is so worth it,” said Sofia Perrina, a junior.
Perrina explained that she missed the social aspect of school and that it was nice to be able to see her teachers.
Not all students, however, shared this same sentiment. Some students who still remain at home full-time did not think it was worth going back to school this late in the year, especially if not all of their teachers would be on campus.
“I went to one day of hybrid learning, but three of my teachers did not come back, two of which were for AP classes, so it seemed pointless to go to school and do the same thing I have been doing from my house,” said Ellie Sampson, a junior who opted out of hybrid learning after only one day.
A majority of my teachers did come back to campus, but there were still a few who did not. It was bizarre to be sitting in a classroom with five other students, joining a virtual call and staring at our screens to see our teacher. There was an adult monitoring us in the classroom, so we were not completely alone. But this setup seemed to defeat the purpose of hybrid learning.
Classes ended at 12:30 p.m. There is no lunchtime on campus, because the school wants to avoid viral transmission when people take off their masks to eat.
It was nice to be able to see real people outside of my family. I have also grown so accustomed to wearing a mask that it was not a big deal to wear one all morning.
Despite this, hybrid learning is still far from normal and I will need more time to get used to this routine. In school, my normal instinct is to gravitate towards a large group of friends or sit next to another student in class, but students obviously cannot do this anymore.
“It was nice to see some of my friends in person, but it was a little overwhelming to be around other students again after spending so much time at home,” said Sampson, who shared a similar sentiment.
I appreciate Eastside Catholic’s efforts to create some sense of normalcy for us, but unfortunately the most normal thing in my day was sitting in traffic of the school parking lot, waiting for the cars ahead of me to pull out of campus.
After one week of trying the hybrid learning model at Eastside Catholic School, Maria returned to 100% remote learning from home.
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