Pro/Con: Should Students Be Returning to School?

The Montgomery County Board of Education has finally confirmed that students in MCPS will be returning to school, starting in March. But, would it be better to stay virtual at home or to return back to the building?

We have to stay home, COVID isn’t going anywhere: Chibogwu Onyeabo

Going from sitting at your computer attending your Zoom classes all day to actually getting up and leaving the house every morning would take a while to get used to. Students will also be required to wear masks at all times and limit their contact with many people and objects, which could be an inconvenience to some people. Is it worth the risk of spending time and money on resources and putting both students’ and staff’s lives at risk just for students to sit at a computer just like they can do at home?

At the moment, nothing is concrete and all the information MCPS sends out seems confusing and sometimes contradicting. The messages that the Board of Education sends out don’t really give specific plans, and most of the meaningful decisions and finalizations are left for the individual schools to decide. If students were to return to Blake, they could be getting sent right back home at any moment since there’s no solid plan.

The chaos and fickle plans make it hard enough, and that’s without even mentioning the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 at school which could cause even more problems. If letting kids go back to school increases the cases, schools might have to close all over again, and we’ll have to go back to only virtual which would put us back at square one–and possibly put our next fall semester in jeopardy.

Right now, current information on in-person learning plans say that though the virtual school schedule is staying the same (starting first period at 9:00 AM), but students returning to school will have to be at school by 7:45 AM to accommodate the old bus schedules. This would give an hour and fifteen minutes in the morning for students to probably sit in classrooms socially-distanced from each other, considering they can’t just put all the students together in the cafeteria to prevent unnecessary contact. Sitting in a room doing nothing for more than an hour straight can get boring, especially since students can’t really socialize with one another.

Additionally, “in-person school” might just end up being students sitting in a classroom possibly still doing Zoom classes instead of how school was pre-pandemic. Most students have made the decision to stay home rather than go to school, so online classes will have to continue as they are. Teachers might have to teach the online Zoom class students at the same time as the in-person class students. If that’s the case, that can make the school structure seem even more difficult and complicated, and it might take some time to come up with a plan that incorporates teaching on Zoom and in-person at the same time.

The virus is under control, it is time for us to go back: Molly Lang

Although school administrators and teachers have been doing their best to get kids to learn and engage, it’s not enough. Teachers are much harder to understand and subjects are more difficult to grasp. It’s easy to become distracted at home and lose focus during class. Students need teachers to teach them, not talk at them while the student is staring at a computer screen. Going to a school building is also important because it adds more support from teachers and peers that you can’t get through zoom. If you are struggling with a class and need extra help from a teacher, it’s harder to get that online. 

Some people do not agree with how MCPS will return with hybrid learning on March 15, but it’s important because going back to school now will serve as a test run. The middle of March to the end of the school year will serve as a test run for next fall because soon enough we will have to go back to school full time (with no hybrid). It will be a necessary learning curve for staff, students, and parents alike to see what works and what doesn’t with the set CDC guidelines. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but it’s better to know now than in the fall. 

Underprivileged students also rely on going to school for many resources and taking this away from them might also limit their access to food, clean water, internet, communication with others, and countless educational materials like books. Even though MCPS had provided resources, it hasn’t been enough for some students like it would be in schools.

As for mental health, kids need to go outside every once in a while. They need to talk to people that aren’t online or their parents. A school is a safe place where this can happen. Physical school is essential to the development and well-being of students. A big part of school is the community, making sure that kids are making friends with peers and making sure that kids are not experiencing toxic relationships at home with their families/guardians. This is not something that can be done through Zoom. School has always been a hands-on environment with resources that Zoom and myMCPS Classroom simply can’t provide. 

Returning back to in-person classes is necessary for student’s well being in addition to their education. Learning online is like being stuck in a dungeon, and we have been doing this for far too long. We have been out for a year and it is time to go back. If it can be executed safely, there should be nothing standing in the way for the next three months of in-person learning.

Conclusion:

MCPS gives us the choice of staying virtual or going back to school in-person, and both have their benefits. Just keep in mind that safety and whatever works best for students is the top priority.