With less than a week left from reopening the schools back for selected students including freshmen, concerns, anger, excitement, and exhaustion about in-person precautions and distance learning are spoken.
The Campbell Union School District (CUHSD)’s “Revised Phased Return to In-Person High School Services Plan” selected freshmen who are currently off-track to meet the graduation requirements to be prioritized. All 9th-grade students are generally prioritized by the district to return in-person.
From the recent CUHSD’s survey regarding parent/guardian preference of hybrid or online learning, 39% of Branham’s freshmen answered that they would like distance learning and 42% hybrid learning of the 426 freshmen respondents.
Freshman Loralyn “Linny” Withers expresses what she noticed with other freshmen reactions to returning to school in-person with herself choosing to stay online.
“I’ve talked to every freshman I know about opinions on returning to school in-person, and all of them have said that they’re not going back,” Withers said. “I don’t know a single person personally who is actually going back to school.”
Withers stated her understanding of what the students around her are generally expecting along with her personal opinion.
“The general sentiment is that I think we should wait until the beginning of next school year because returning during the second half of the second semester makes me think what’s the point,” she said. “I understand for the students who really need it”
She also explained the concerns of going back to school based on what she experienced from short occasions at school campus and the observations from other students.
“I heard some friends who were doing volleyball conditioning, and they said, ‘Oh yeah, we were inside the gym and they didn’t really enforce masks,’ and I was like that’s a huge concern!” Withers said. “Why wouldn’t you enforce basic mask wearing? I would go to school to drop off books or something, and I would see kids on the soccer field, with no masks. So, I don’t feel safe going back to school if the people who are supposed to enforce safety are not doing it. I don’t want to go back to that kind of environment”
On the other hand, of the 218 respondents who chose hybrid learning, freshman Kelly Herington explains her choice of choosing hybrid learning and the main reason why.
“By April, a majority I think of the more at risk people will be vaccinated, which is definitely a relief,” Herington said. “I also think that as long as there’s a lot of precautions put in place, I think that will prevent the spread.”
However, she is concerned and unsure about being comfortable on campus due to the actions of students and the strictness of enforced regulation.
“The main thing that I’m a little concerned about is how seriously freshmen will take those precautions,” she said. “However, as long as those are in place and the rules are put in place, I think that it’s a lot better for a lot of people’s mental health and their learning style to be in person.”
While Herington is uncertain about her decision, willing to change her mind, she is hoping for precautions and regulations to be enforced seriously.
“I don’t want to send out that I said yes to going back in person, without considering everything, because I know there still are people who haven’t been vaccinated and those people are still at risk,” she said. “Maybe I’ll change my mind, but I think the main thing is just making sure that there’s a lot of precautions and safety measures put in place for returning to school”
Freshman ASB President Wesley Middlebrook has occasionally been on campus for filming videos. His experience on campus made him more optimistic about in-person learning.
“I think the biggest pro would be the fact that students can see the campus and really feel the experience of high school and be excited because I know I have felt it,” Middlebrook said. “The little experiences I’ve had with filming videos have really changed: it made me really excited to go back to school.”
With distance learning, the physical interactions and contact with other students and school staff has decreased, changing the mood of school. Herington recalls what she misses from in-person school especially after a year of online learning.
“I miss socializing, honestly, the small interactions like saying hi to a friend, passing through the hallway or having like a small conversation with the teacher after class,” she said. “Those are really special moments to me now but I look back on it.”
Along with missing socialization, Middlebrook explains his exhaustion with Peardecks and what is lacking in distance learning.
“There’s a lot of Peardecks and I feel it’s really hard to pay attention to those which are very slow and monotonous,” he said. “It depends on the teacher, but I feel the Peardecks are the pinnacle of just boring. And, generally, everyone’s not giving their full effort; it’s understandable, but it just sucks.”
The issue of lack of participation and motivation has been addressed and considered by the CUHSD and the school previously. The Branham High School’s ASB has put together multiple events for the unity of students. Still, the problem is not solved.
“I think there really is no solution to distance learning,” Withers said. “I think we just need to tough it out; it’s hard, and we need to acknowledge that it’s hard. I think we need to do that more often. But otherwise, it sucks, what we have to go through for the safety of our community.”