In-Person School

Oliver Buckley, Staff Writer

2020 has been a year of tough decisions for school districts around the country. Since mid-March, the Parkway School District has not let students in buildings for academics. But recently Parkway made the decision to allow all students, including high school students to have the option to return to in person learning. 

“People who struggle with online learning or who are struggling being at home or in quarantine now have the chance to get a better in person education,” said junior Molly Reeves.

Initially, Parkway made the announcement that only students K-8 would be allowed to go back in person. A week later though, the district board decided to allow high school students to have the opportunity to go back to school in person. 

Parkway families were given the choice to have students attend a virtual school for the remainder of the school year or go back in-person. Many high school students welcome this decision and have chosen to go to school in-person.

“I think giving the students the chance to go back is a good thing. I, like many other students, am struggling with online school and would benefit by going back,” said junior Mikenna Ham.

Until virtual learning, students who are in-person will be able to focus more on being in an academic setting and won’t have the distractions of home. The teacher will also be able to read non-verbal clues easier to see if a student is paying attention and understanding the material. This will increase some student’s chances of passing and graduating on time since it increases student learning and success.

Mental health has been one of Parkway’s major focuses, acknowledging that this semester has been very difficult mentally for both students and teachers. Improving a student’s mental health is another pro for in-person classes. Even though returning to school in-person will not be the same as it was before last March, students will not be as isolated and have more personal contact with people (at a distance) which can benefit mental health. The connection between student and teacher and students and their peers will be much greater.

 “My mental health has been negatively affected by quarantine like a lot of other students, and I know that in person will be extremely beneficial to those who miss physical interaction,” said junior Alex Kendall. 

With the good certainly comes some bad. There’s major controversy as to whether or not it’s safe to return.

“I don’t see why there is any reason for in person learning to be pushed so heavily while COVID is still a huge issue. If students can effectively work from home, which they have been for months, there isn’t any reason to potentially endanger thousands of people,” said Kendall. 

Students have been faced with a tough decision, whether to continue Distance Learning, where some struggle with isolation, or go back to in person with the risk of contracting or spreading the coronavirus. Some teachers don’t even have this choice as a certain amount of teachers are needed at the building.

“It’s unfair that teachers had almost no choice to go back or not, which means they’re exposing themselves to all of these students and fellow staff-mates,” said Reeves.

Teachers were given a form asking if they would like to return to school or continue teaching virtually but teachers opting to continue teaching from their homes are not guaranteed a virtual position due to logistics. There are approximately 1600 students in the virtual school with all of the other students returning to their home building. This has caused lots of uncertainty and confusion since teachers do not have their schedule yet.

“I don’t know for sure what I’ll be doing,” said English teacher Mark Bannecker.

Not knowing what they are teaching makes it difficult to plan and be prepared. Despite all the confusion that this abrupt change has brought, many are optimistic about the educational improvements that this change will make.

“Provided that we keep as few students in a classroom at a time and that we’re distanced, I feel okay about the plan,” said Bannecker. “There are still things that I’m unsure about how they’re going to work like passing between classes, but I know they’re working on those things.”

Even though in-person schooling may improve education and mental health, many are concerned about how the district plans on keeping students and staff safe while cases are still rising.

“Contract tracing is difficult, no matter how many precautions and methods are put into place. Asymptomatic spread is also an important issue to look at,” said Kendall. 

While many will choose to stay home, the decision to restart in-person school has brought optimism about the upcoming quarter. Parkway plans on gradually introducing students back into the building with a hybrid schedule beginning in November and later, a full five-week in-person schedule.