Going Back To School Divides Local Students By Schedule
• High school students grapple with going back on campus as final spring semester rolls on.
It has now been more than a year since Palos Verdes high school students have sat down at a desk and had a teacher in front of them face to face.
As the end of the school nears, with only about eight weeks left until summer vacation, most students are prepared to finish the school year digitally. Recently, however, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District (PVPUSD) has announced plans for in-person learning to resume on April 12.
This came as a shock to everyone because coronavirus (COVID-19) cases have remained high, and most students have finally gotten the hang of learning online. Some were pleased by this news, longing for social interaction, hands-on learning and the end to struggling with distance learning. Others were not so pleased, opting out of the hybrid option and switching to full online school for the remainder of the year.
It is quite a divide between who is eager to return and who is not, and there are valid reasons on both sides. Aware of this, the District has developed a flexible plan that allows students and their families to decide what they are most comfortable with.
As of now, the schedule to go back to school is fairly straightforward – hybrid students will go to school four days a week, keeping Wednesdays completely online for all.
However, this schedule was not announced until Monday, April 5, a mere week before returning to campus. Prior to this date, all students and faculty were under the assumption that students would be divided into two cohorts.
Cohort A would meet on Mondays and Tuesdays, with Mondays being for periods one through three and Tuesdays being for periods four through six. Cohort B would be Thursdays and Fridays, with Thursdays being in-person for the last three periods and Fridays being for the first three.
This schedule was incredibly complicated, and it was a main factor for most people choosing to opt out of the hybrid program. Many students do not drive or have access to their own vehicles, which made the midday switch nearly impossible.
“I was originally planning on going back to school as a hybrid student, as I was eager to spend my final two months of high school in person,” Peninsula High School senior Maya Masaoka said. “However, as someone who does not have a car and whose parents both work, I have no method of getting to and from school in time, resulting in me switching to distance learning.”
Now that the cohort plan has been scrapped and replaced with a simpler all-day schedule, many students feel they could have stayed in hybrid after all, which is frustrating to find out after already transferring to distance learning. This change in plan was partly due to looser COVID-19 regulations and partly due to the many students that chose to not go through with the hybrid plan.
In an email from District Superintendent Alex Cherniss, it was announced that “the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) have provided schools with new guidance on spacing in classrooms, requiring students to be 3 feet apart rather than 6 feet apart in classrooms…. This new guidance, along with employee vaccinations and smaller than expected numbers of hybrid students returning to our high school campuses, has allowed for the district to announce changes that will begin the process of bringing more and more students safely back on campus.”
That seems like positive news, but after taking into account all of the students who switched because of an issue with the schedule, as well as the preparations teachers have done to set a schedule that works with the cohorts and their online students, it becomes more of a negative change.
Many teachers now have to scrap all the work they did perfecting their plans based on the old schedule, and students have to readjust to a new daily schedule.
Because of this last minute change, Peninsula High School Principal Dr. Brent Kuykendall announced that the school return date would be pushed back a week to April 19, which allows more time to prepare.
However the change from two half-days to four full-days has made students feel the shift back to school is more abrupt than what they initially thought.
Peninsula High School junior Claire Robinson, who was originally signed up for hybrid but is switching to distance learning after all of the changes were announced, feels the shift back to campus is incredibly complicated and will require a lot of support from everyone involved.
“Going back will be a huge transition, and now that there is a new schedule to get used to it is going to be even more overwhelming,” Robinson said. “I hope everyone is understanding of each other and helps each other out because it is going to be really difficult to readjust.”
Despite all of these issues that make the hybrid plan seem overly complicated and unappealing, many students are still confident in their decision to return to campus and regain a sense of normalcy.
Peninsula junior Samantha Boger loves being around other people and longs for the social aspect of school that has been missing this year. She and many other students have seen the negative impacts of being online firsthand, and she is eager for a chance to return to school in any capacity.
“Many students have struggled with mental health throughout this time of isolation,” Boger said. “I am hopeful that going back to school and being able to see friends daily will make a positive impact on everyone’s well-being.”
Ultimately, the decision to either return to campus or remain online is a personal one, and it is what is best for each individual. There are those who do feel that learning online is detrimental to their mental health, as it is important to have a designated work space and rest space. Working from home has blurred that line greatly.
Being able to socialize with others, even if it is at a distance, is very important, especially for children and teenagers, and being isolated has long-term negative effects.
On the other hand, COVID-19 is still a very real and very serious issue, and it seems as though many have brushed off the fact that there is still a global pandemic occurring.
The safety concerns of going back to an enclosed classroom with many other people have led a large number of students to opt out of returning, and that is understandable.
The practical issue of commuting to and from school with a strange, altered schedule is also a common factor in the reasoning of those who chose to remain online. The list can go on, from the anxiety of being around so many people after a year of being around nobody but family, to needing consistency to succeed in school and feeling it is not worth going back with only one quarter of the school year remaining.
Luckily, the District is proving to be flexible and accommodating to each student’s choice. Though the schedule changes are not ideal, students and families are being given the opportunity to choose what is best for them.
This past year has been nothing but changes and uncharted territory, and this return to normalcy is just another change everyone has to adapt to.