Lamar’s New Normal: A Return to In-Person Learning
Lamar High School recently began in-person learning. Students are given the option every six weeks to attend school in-person or to continue virtual learning. Most students, like George Weng, chose to continue learning from home. He said he chose to remain virtual because the online learning system has been working well for him, and he does not have to worry about wearing a mask or social distancing while at home. Another benefit is that he can sleep in a little longer before his first class.
There were compelling reasons for students, like Kathyrn Stone, who chose to return in-person. For many seniors, this final year is an important part of high school. Apart from focusing better in-person, senior Olivia Pare wants to enjoy her final year in high school in-person, not sitting in front of a computer.
Living amidst a global pandemic, in-person school is not the same as last year.HISD has instituted guidelines to ensure the safety of returning students. For example, everyone on campus is always required to wear a mask (except for lunch) and maintain social distancing. The classrooms are also much different. Classes now contain socially distanced desks, ranging from 3 feet in the neighborhoods, 6 feet in the individual classrooms and 12 feet in the labs.
Transitioning between classes remains pretty much the same as last year with the caveat that students should maintain 6 feet of distance. Frances Hill chose to return to school in-person and she noted that there are times that maintaining distance is difficult, such as when students must move between floors on the main staircase during the 7-minute transition period. From personal experience, I know how packed the main staircase can get since it is basically the main passage between the different floors.
In an effort to expand areas for social distancing, lunch procedures have also been changed. Frances said, “You can either eat in your neighborhood or outside, on the front lawn or the picnic tables by the field.”
Frances said, “Teachers seem pretty overwhelmed by having to teach to a laptop and actual students. Most teachers say they like seeing their students in-person but don’t like having to teach to both.” Students certainly appreciate the consistency of having the same teachers whether they choose to go in-person or virtual, but it’s understandably a lot to balance during this “new normal.”
Ricardo Perez, another student who chose in-person learning, reiterated that school guidelines are meant to protect the health of students. Ricardo said he was not surprised by any of the safety measures that were enacted – mandatory mask wearing and social distancing are the primary measures put in place to decrease the risk of transmission. He does feel these are important guidelines and that there is a need for consistent enforcement. Everyone plays a role in stopping the spread of the virus, and mask wearing and social distancing are key to our ability to be able to get back to a sense of normalcy.
Frances shared a similar sentiment. She said, “A lot of rules that work out in theory but when there isn’t any actual enforcement of the social distancing rules, problems arise.” Reflecting on his decision, Ricardo found that the lack of students going back to in-person learning coupled with social distancing guidelines somewhat defeated the purpose of going back to in-person school. “I honestly wouldn’t be super sad if I just went back to online,” he shared. The good thing is that having the same schedule and teachers make transitioning to either learning environment relatively seamless.
Noah Myers reflected on his first week back in-person. Overall, Noah said he is satisfied with his choice of in-person learning. He enjoys being able to socialize with new people, since there was a smaller and different set of students returning, forcing him to make new friends. Noah acknowledges it can be challenging for teachers to engage both virtual and in-person students, and the lectures sometimes feel one dimensional. Nevertheless, Noah has a more engaging time during in-person classes where his teachers are able to impart more of the classroom experience. For Noah, the pros of in-person learning outweighed the cons.
Everyone has a different set of circumstances and reasons for making their choice of going virtual or in-person, but we all have a common goal to get through this unprecedented crisis together. Ultimately, we all have a shared responsibility to wear our masks and socially distance. If we all do our part, we can help stop the spread and look forward to the time when we can all return to school together safely.
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