By Yoni Manor
On Jul. 29, Denver Public Schools announced that they would begin the academic year with 100 percent remote instruction from Aug. 24 to Oct. 16, the first quarter of the school year. The decision to go fully online was, no doubt, a difficult one to make, but was it the right decision? We all experienced online school this past spring when COVID-19 broke out in March, and we all saw how poorly it turned out. Teachers were scrambling to put together online lessons and assignments for students to complete via Schoology without much preparation. Personally, I did not learn any material for Pre-Calculus Honors for the seven weeks we were online, due to the lack of synchronous class time. As my current AP Calculus teacher, Mrs. Cowell, put it, “last spring was a mess”. DPS and the East High School administration knew this and came into the summer looking to prepare ahead for the fall term to make online school better for all students. Despite the several months of preparation, online school is still a struggle for many teachers and students.
Cons of Online School
There is a big elephant in the room when it comes to the issues of online school: technology. Whether it’s a student’s microphone not working, or a teacher unable to present their screen, technological issues are a massive source of frustration when it comes to trying to educate. There is also the issue of people taking advantage of online classrooms and entering classes just to troll the teacher and/or classmates.
When it comes to East High School, specifically, there are numerous issues regarding the scheduling of online school. If you haven’t noticed, we are now in a quarter academic system, meaning we take half the classes we normally would, in half the amount of time. Students have, at maximum, four classes for only eight weeks, and only meet for synchronous class three times a week, which is nothing compared to our traditional school schedule from last year. This limits the amount of material students can learn over the course of the school year.
The most consequential of all the downsides of online school is the mental health effects it has on teens. Not being able to meet and socialize with any of your friends, or just any student for that matter, takes a mental toll on a young person, making it more difficult for them to learn and thrive in school, while still being emotionally stable. There has been a staggering upwards trend in suicides since the beginning of the pandemic, especially among young adults, due to worsening mental health caused by quarantine and other factors of COVID-19. These statistics won’t get any better if students are forced to continue doing school online.
Pros of In-Person Learning
In-person learning eradicates many of the issues presented with online learning. Being in school allows teachers to go about their lesson plan the way they usually would, and allows for hands-on learning which is very beneficial for many students who struggle to learn content by just taking notes.
Many students, parents and teachers are concerned about the safety and health ramifications of returning back to in-person learning. However, other districts that decided to return to either full in-person or hybrid learning have seen minimal COVID-19 outbreaks. The Cherry Creek School District has seen only 11 confirmed cases of the virus across its 12 schools, which enroll over 56,000 students. More importantly, these cases are not originating from the schools themselves, meaning students are contracting the virus outside of the classroom. It also proves that in-person safety measures have been effective thus far at protecting students from contracting the virus within school halls.
This pandemic is still very much real and dangerous, but the long-term negative mental and educational side effects can be much more damaging to students if we do not return to in-person learning next quarter.