PCP: Return to hybrid learning raises health concerns

Park will return to a hybrid learning model Feb. 22.

February 11, 2021

Returning in-person will benefit many students

Timing of returning soon is important

This school year has had many challenging difficulties. Whether it’s the lack of communication with teachers or double the amount of stress upon students, there needs to be change. The switch to hybrid learning at 50% capacity starting Feb. 22 is the solution we need.

According to the 2020-2021 Safe Learning Plan, many health precautions will be taken during Hybrid learning. Some of these include face coverings worn at all times and meal times taken in classes. These precautions will help students return to school safely.

Many students have had difficulties staying in contact with their teachers. Whether it’s on a 30- person zoom call or through email, everything needs to be scheduled. However, once hybrid begins, students will have a chance to directly communicate with their teachers and receive whatever help they need without stressing over an unreplied email.

Getting direct help from teachers can serve as a gateway for those who have been struggling. Most of my teachers give us lectures during synchronous time and reading guides to complete during asynchronous. There was a time when I had difficulties completing my reading guide in (class) because I didn’t fully understand the lecture. However, I could not ask for the entire lecture to be repeated just for me, which put unnecessary stress on me to complete the reading guide. In-person learning would have given me a chance to personally ask for guidance on my work and avoid all of the confusion.

The social isolation of the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of many students. By reopening school, we can value the social and emotional well beings of students while still following COVID-19 guidelines.

Contrary to popular belief, many studies find that schools play a small role in COVID-19 transmission. While maintaining healthy environments, and preparing for when someone gets sick, schools are lowering the risks for students and staff.

Reopening school will positively impact the students’ academic performance and mental health. At the end of the day, everyone has a choice on whether or not they’d like to attend Hybrid, so going back to school isn’t mandatory.

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In-person learning is wishful thinking

Case count only growing

Going back to in-person learning for good has been on the mind of every parent, student and teacher since we first started distance learning nearly a year ago. However, although an in-person environment is better suited for learning than online, the data on COVID-19 cases don’t indicate a safe learning environment.

The number of cases in Minnesota are still too high to necessitate in-person learning. Positive COVID-19 cases have substantially dropped since last October, when a hybrid model was previously put into place. However, we are still hanging around more than one thousand new positive cases a week; a number that, although relatively low, is still objectively high.

Even the possibility of a vaccine doesn’t help safety all that much. Currently, there is only one vaccine approved for use in youth — the Pfizer vaccine — and even then, the vaccine requires two doses to be effective. This widely narrows the ability for students to get a vaccine in a country that is already dealing with a vaccine shortage. Moreover, there has been recent discussion by Minnesota epidemiologist Michael Osterholm on whether vaccine usage should be delayed even further in order to vaccinate a larger group of people.

At the end of the day, the choice on whether a person should go back to in-person learning boils down to how heavily one weighs school over health. At this point in time, especially with the policies the school has previously put into place for grading and the general understanding of the district, I find that going back to in-person learning does not make sense; students’ well-being and safety should be prioritized.

The only time when teachers and students’ safety can be guaranteed is when a vaccine can be effectively administered to a vast majority of students and teachers. Until that point, it should be a priority to expose as few people as possible by actively improving alternatives to in-person learning.

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