The “new normal”: Student perspective

The 2020-2021 school year has been, for its first month, hectic. We have entered fall and began returning to school two days a week at a time, but everything still seems to be up in the air. The new hybrid system of schooling is a good compromise, but many students remain rather skeptical about the fate of this school year as days pass by. 

This year has been, to put it bluntly: a bit of a dumpster fire for the world. As the ball dropped on midnight of December 30, 2019, the last thing the students of BASH were expecting was to be fully virtual for September of next autumn due to a worldwide pandemic. Nevertheless, here we are, in October of 2020, finally just getting back to being  physically in school…sort of, anyway. 

For those not familiar with the current system, Boyertown Area Senior High has adapted.  Kids come into school in two groups. Group A (half the students) goes to school physically Mondays and Tuesdays, while group B (the other half) goes to school on Thursdays and Fridays. The students have virtual school from home on the days that they are not in school, and everyone is virtual on Wednesdays, when the school is being cleaned between the two groups. 

This system started on Monday, October 5th. Having gotten through our first week of this system, the students who have tried it (many are choosing to still attend full virtual classes) have some varying opinions. Seeing this part-time return to physical classrooms has made many wonder about events that would have normally been held and the future of the year after the first semester.

4 out of 4 students surveyed preferred full virtual school over the hybrid schooling. There are certainly benefits to virtual schooling. Jaidan Goldey, a 10th grade student at BASH explained her answer, “I myself am not having issues with the virtual system, if anything I find it easier to manage, I don’t have to worry about being late or misplacing a paper due to it being all digital.”

When asked whether or not they thought the hybrid system was effective, the results were 50/50. Andy Presscott, a 12th grader who thinks the system effective, posited that, “I think it’s a good idea to minimize contact with each other two days a week.” While on the other end of the spectrum, 12th grader, Victoria Mest made several points about why she found it ineffective. “By being in school, you’re at a higher risk of getting the virus, especially since the halls are still way too packed. Classes are for the most part taught as if all students were virtual with most teachers having in-school students sit on zoom while in the classroom. The hybrid dynamic also draws attention away from both sides and gives teachers a lot to look at all at one time. It could be easy for teachers to focus on in-school students and forget about online students.”

None of the students polled think we will go back to normal (all students 5 days a week) during this school year. Similarly, none of them were all too positive about having the opportunity to enjoy events like Mini-thon, Arts Expo, and other major fundraising events which are held each year. The class of 2021 senior trip to Disney, as of this publication, has also already been canceled. Part of the reason this happened was the inability to properly fundraise for the trip due to COVID. 

As a group B student of BASH, I find that the hallways were not actually horribly crowded. While I’m aware of my biases, I am also a student trying out this new system and have made my own observations of it. A class never felt like there were more than 10 or 11 people in it, at most. Though I agree with some of the points made by Victoria Mest (who is in group A), which are that I prefer full virtual, and think that it’s better to minimize contact as much as possible; I do believe that the district is trying their best for a compromise. Virtual does not work for everyone. Busy parents with multiple, small children within the district also struggle to help their children with virtual classes, as well. In the same vein, both methods-virtual and hybrid-present a myriad of challenges for teachers in and out of the classroom. 

If there’s anything to take away from the past month, it’s that this year is a learning experience for all of us: parents, students, and teachers alike. No one system is perfect, but we will all try our best to survive the 2020-2021 school year no matter what happens.