Hybrid learning risks exacerbating the pandemic 

Park must do all it can to slow the spread as cases skyrocket


Gabriel Kaplan

March 18 was decades ago, or so it feels. Many are understandably giddy to step back into the building after nearly six months of distance learning, but the pandemic still rages and hybrid learning is simply too dangerous.

According to the New York Times, Minnesota COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations both hit new peaks in just the last week — over the last two weeks, cases are up 54 percent, deaths 28 percent and hospitalizations 40 percent. Although survival rates have slightly improved as doctors gain new experience with the virus, literally hundreds more of our fellow Minnesotans now sit on ventilators fighting for their lives. 

The urgency many students feel to restart in-person learning is valid, but the decision to go back was nothing short of reckless given our spiking cases. Park implemented a number of precautions for the first week back, but any setting in which we interact with one another — especially indoors — creates the risk for transmission. Not to mention potential issues with enforcement and the apparent risk of eating together without masks (even while distancing) with an airborne virus ravaging our community.

The supposed benefits presented by hybrid learning are not convincing. Most if not all classes still run as if they are fully distanced, with many in-person students still having to participate over Zoom. So, academically, there does not seem to be much of a difference.

Many participating students noted how good it felt to see peers and teachers in-person for the first time in months, but this social benefit does not justify the risk of in-person school. Our mental health and social lives are incredibly important, however, they cannot come at the cost of other’s physical safety.

Teachers’ inability to truly opt-out (as many students have chosen to do) likely presents the greatest flaw in the hybrid model. Staff supposedly have a choice: stay home and take no pay or go in and potentially risk their health. For many, there is really only one option. By choosing to move into hybrid, administration literally risks the lives of our staff.

As COVID-19 cases skyrocket, we must do all we can to stem the spread. Instead, Park has chosen to go back to school and risk inflaming the already blazing pandemic. Administration should cancel hybrid school until cases decline.