Should LT have a plan to go back to remote learning?

LION staffers debate whether LT should have a plan in place to return to remote learning if cases and positivity rates increase.

February 17, 2022

Responsibility of remote

At LT, COVID-19 positivity rates have reached a new high of 15%, as of January 2022, according to Up Metrics. The data speaks for itself. When school originally shut down in April of 2020, COVID-19 positivity rates were at 4%. Recently, there has been a debate about whether or not schools should switch to remote learning during the current surge of the COVID-19 variant, Omicron. Even Chicago Public Schools, mere miles from LT, have gone back and forth over this topic. Yet, faced with higher COVID-19 rates, politicians and school administrators are hesitant to press pause on in-person learning for a few weeks, until COVID-19 case numbers stabilize.
From April 2020 up to now, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, and practicing social distancing has become a civil responsibility. These practices are more than just following COVID-19 protocol, but are also a sign of respect. For high-risk individuals and their families, these past years have been a stressful and anticipatory time. Life and decisions suddenly revolve around possible exposure to COVID-19. It can often feel frustrating when leaders refuse to take necessary action to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at the cost of you and your family’s health. How hard could it be to put aside politics and decide to do the right thing? While I understand this is a big ask, LT is in a better position to go remote than ever before.
This year, all LT students have received Chromebooks to use for class. Unlike in April of 2020, access to technology for online classes will not be an issue for students. Furthermore, with a full school year of online experience, LT has learned how to successfully online learn by optimizing platforms such as Zoom and Canvas. Class can still be engaging and informative, regardless of the location. What truly can be distracting and detrimental to our learning environment, is having half of your class absent with COVID-19 or under quarantine order. The uncertainty and worry over exposures and contact tracing is draining to students. Teachers becoming mask monitors as well as balancing teaching in class and updating quarantined students is a lot to ask of anyone. A break from these pressures will help everyone refocus and be prepared to return stronger when cases are lower.
While some may argue that remote learning is detrimental to students’ mental health, some benefits have actually been observed over quarantine. Many students struggle with social anxiety and in-person school has been less than nurturing compared to remote. According to a SLC Health study of teens who participated in remote learning, it was reported that students had a 10% decrease in social anxiety. Online learning creates a learning environment with lowered social pressure and allows students to interact with others from the comfort of their homes. Furthermore, remote learning allows students to take more mental health breaks from class, in a less embarrassing and confrontational way. Lastly, the mental health issues presented by online learning mirror those students face in-person. Mental health problems have gone almost completely unaddressed in-person when students are tasked with completing test after test. Yet, suddenly when faced with a possible return to remote learning, students’ mental health becomes a priority to protect. It appears as though mental health only matters when it can be used as an excuse to reject a return to remote learning.
In conclusion, it would be a wise and responsible decision for LT to go remote whenever COVID-19 cases start to increase to dangerous levels. While no one wants to return to the chaos of quarantine, a few weeks remote won’t be too strenuous in comparison to its potential benefits for the community and everyone’s health.

Keep learning in-person

 It’s 9 a.m. and your alarm goes off. You open up the laptop that you left next to your bed from the night before. Then, you log on to your English Zoom. This is your first of the five sequential Zoom calls you will have for the day. The same calls you had yesterday, the day before that, you will have tomorrow, and for as long as you know this is going to be your life. 

“I can’t wait for the weekend,” you think to yourself. Yet, when the weekend comes, it’s the same bed and room you’ve been sitting in all week. The hours take forever to pass and the days are blending together. But we’re out. We made it out, we’re back at school, we’re back to work, we can see our friends and family, the days have differences, we’re free. 

Two years ago, our world as we knew it shut down. Ever since then, we have watched COVID-19 cases rise up and down helplessly. Instead, we should try to focus on what we can control: whether or not our school is open. If students continue to practice safe habits like social distancing and washing their hands, they can continue to stop the spread of COVID-19, while being able to enjoy their lives semi-regularly. Staying in our homes for months at a time can make an impact, but at what cost. There’s no point in living through last year’s drudgery again just to have SAT scores go down by 38 points as they did from 2020 to 2021, according to the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark.

On top of decreasing test scores, it’s bad for students’ development not to go to school in-person, because they aren’t able to meet other students and learn how to interact with each other. It also stifles people’s ability to grow up in an efficient way that creates functioning members of society. The interactions we have as our brains mature are very important to our development, because we are able to learn essential skills such as how to properly develop relationships. 

In high school, you learn a lot about who you are and how to become a self-serving adult. The interactions that build those skills in people just won’t happen behind a computer screen. Students will forget how to interact with each other in real life if we go back to online school. They’ll become lifeless in-person because they’re too nervous to speak to people. Last year, when people went back to school, no one knew how to talk to each other and we all had to relearn how to interact in a public environment. 

In-person students can build relationships that would never happen online and they’ll be able to live through the love and loss that is an essential part of life. Thus, in-person learning teaches students important lessons to carry with them for the rest of their lives. The true human experience can not be replicated online and it never will be. We need to have in-person school to salvage what we still have of that experience. Rome was falling for 400 years and we don’t know when our civilization can start the same decline. This could be the end of Western civilization as we know it: we have to salvage it by keeping our school open. 

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