By Ally Yager
After a long and relatively uneventful COVID-19 summer, the Denver Public Schools administration made the official decision in late July to carry out the entire first quarter of the school year remotely, from August 24 all the way through October 16. I wasn’t thrilled when I first heard this was going to be the case, because I remember the last seven weeks of the 2019-2020 school year being particularly painful. What I assumed would be three weeks of “spring break” turned into a long, tedious process of teachers, administrators and students alike uncertain of how Schoology lesson plans would go.
After a couple of weeks doing remote learning, however, I knew that if this were to extend into the following school year it would be an extremely effective system. Nearly everyone who didn’t have internet and/or computer access was adequately equipped, and after lots of planning, East High School’s faculty was finally able to find a way to design a schedule that would work for the entire student body. It is engaging and just as challenging, and I think it would be very ill-advised to go back to in-person learning until the pandemic is under wraps. This is a new experience for everyone, but it seems that with every challenge presented during virtual learning, East can overcome it.
Cons of In-Person Learning
As nice as returning to East and being able to hang out with friends again sounds, I can’t really even fathom a way that a school as large as East would be able to social distance properly and follow all the health guidelines that would be implemented. If masks, hand sanitizer and health screenings were mandatory for entrance into the building, it wouldn’t last long before people start to touch their faces throughout the day out of habit, adjusting their masks in the process and thus spreading germs. Additionally, although social distancing requirements would be in place during each school day, who’s to say that students wouldn’t quickly gather with groups of their friends right after school? Being in-person would allow social gatherings to occur quickly and conveniently.
Because a remote learning schedule has already been established, it would be difficult to suddenly interrupt that and do some sort of hybrid at this stage. Everyone in the district would need to entirely reorient themselves and prepare to divide their classwork and time accordingly, and even then not all of the students’ families would be okay with this because of obvious health concerns.
The way I see it is that we should follow through with classes being entirely online until it is 100% safe for the school to return in-person. While districts like Cherry Creek and JeffCo have solidified plans for hybrid or full in-person learning with coronavirus cases being low for them, that doesn’t mean the virus contractions outside of school can’t easily lead to the spread of the virus throughout school. Now is a more appropriate time than ever to stay hyper aware of our circumstances and safety should be the main priority.
Pros of Online School
One thing East has been amazing at is being able to adapt. While technology issues are still a concern that should be kept in mind, DPS has taken necessary measures to provide Chromebooks and internet access for students. Unlike in the spring where teachers could give far less hands-on instruction or assistance due to lack of experience, now they have more resources and platforms than ever to allow students to meet with them one-on-one, do classwork on, and get extra assistance.
Online school has been mentally taxing for sure. I miss my friends, teachers and extracurriculars so much, but right now it is important to do absolutely everything we can to keep the virus from spreading. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially in the instance of a global pandemic.