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Photo by Mia Chen

HOME SWEET HOME: Junior Mia Chen prefers learning at home, which she says greatly reduces her stress

Remote learning advantages, hybrid detriments sway DGN students to attend school virtually

January 26, 2021

At the start of this semester, just over six hundred DGN students participated in school entirely remotely, accounting for roughly 20 percent of DGN’s total student bodyand the numbers have continued to rise. 

District 99 shifts between its fully remote and hybrid schedules each week per the community’s 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate. However, as the provided data reveals, such transitions do not apply to a handful of students who have learned fully remote this January. But what exactly was it that persuaded these students to do this? 

 

Health, Safety and the Virus

As it turns out, students’ health concerns regarding hybrid learning were a significant reason for them staying remote. Worried for her at-risk parent, Junior Tao Harrison chose to learn virtually, admitting that attending school in person would only prove to be pointless and unsafe given her circumstance.

“Although I do not have any health issues, I do have a parent who is at a higher risk. Hybrid learning will only increase the [virus’s] spread, as there is a more infectious strain now and people have been traveling from the holidays,” Harrison said. “It is not worth going to school only to get sick.”

Other students, like senior Lauren Ortega, explained how they would have felt on edge about their own health with hybrid learning due to the ambiguousness and uncertainty of some positive COVID-19 cases.

“I don’t really like the idea of being close to so many people because anyone can have it,” Ortega said. “Some people get COVID-19 and don’t develop any symptoms, so they think they’re healthy and still go out when in reality they’re just infecting people without even knowing.” 

“I don’t really like the idea of being close to so many people because anyone can have it. Some people get COVID-19 and don’t develop any symptoms, so they think they’re healthy and still go out when in reality they’re just infecting people without even knowing.”

— Lauren Ortega

Nevertheless, it wasn’t just hybrid learning with which some remote students worried about safety. Junior Cailee McGinnis professed her uneasiness about what health threats the bus might also pose. 

“I have to take the bus to and from school whenever my parents aren’t able to drive me,” junior Cailee McGinnis said. “I don’t feel really uncomfortable about how safe the bus would be. I don’t know how strict the bus drivers and students on the bus would act about keeping our shields and masks on.”

 

Lifestyle and Educational Bonuses

Aside from health- and virus-related concerns, there appear to be multiple benefits remote learning offers that have influenced some students to remain remote this January. Junior Charisse Lee noted the additional time allotted to remote students, who do not have to spend the extra hour or so traveling to and from school.   

“The main advantage that made me choose remote learning is that I would not have to waste time riding the bus,” Lee said. “That time could be used for last-minute studying or just a few extra minutes of sleep.”

Senior Kassidy Duffield noticed a similar situation with the lunch block District 99 has built into its two active learning schedules. Not taking a lunch period this year, Duffield dubbed the midday break beneficial, especially for remote students. 

“[The lunch block] forces students to take a break from their screens or give them extra work time or time to meet with their teachers,” Duffield said. “This is good for both hybrid and remote learning students, but being remote, I don’t have to leave school to go home, which takes a chunk of time out of the break. At home, I get a full hour and thirty minutes [of a] much-needed break from my computer screen.” 

Aside from lifestyle bonuses, some students also observe particular academic bonuses that remote learning yields. Lee-Palou described one of these benefits as the promotion of a more meaningful, productive curriculum and education. 

“Another bonus of remote learning is that many teachers have come to better value the synchronous time that they have during the week,” Lee-Palou said. “Thus, they have avoided meaningless ‘busy work’ and have only required students to complete the more important and core work of the class, making the learning experience more efficient and less convoluted.”

 

Improved Mental Health

While remote learning has proven harmful to some students’ mental health, other students have observed a positive shift in their emotional well-being with remote learning based on their experiences during this school year’s virtual fall semester. Junior Mia Chen articulated how remote learning helps relieve her anxiety.

“I feel less stressed [with remote] learning because I don’t really have to interact with the people in my classes as much. I’m not really into social interaction outside of a close group of friends, especially in school,” Chen said. “In both [learning] models, you’re following the same schedule anyways, and I prefer doing it all at home to save me a lot of stress.”

Lee also observed a less stressful academic environment with virtual learning, especially with the increased amount of sleep the remote schedule grants her.

“Remote learning makes me less stressed about having to go to school early. I can sleep in for an extra hour because I no longer have to ride the bus,” Lee said. “Also, being in a comfortable environment like home reduces the stress that I usually get when taking a test at school.”

 

Discomposure, Mistrust, and Larger Concerns

For some, though, safety concerns and remote learning’s educational and emotional benefits were not the only factors that swayed them into practicing remote learning. 

Referencing the DGN community’s 14-day COVID-19 positivity rate data, Lee-Palou noted her heavier overarching worries that have influenced her to stay remote, specifically regarding District 99’s weekly choice to follow its hybrid or fully remote schedule.

“The biggest issue that I have discovered with the district’s hybrid schedule is the metrics used to evaluate whether hybrid [learning] is appropriate for the upcoming week,” Lee-Palou said. “The district sacrificed the health of students and failed to switch to a fully remote schedule simply because they were not required to.”

Lee-Palou expressed her dismay with the district’s behavior, feeling they consumed themselves with practicing hybrid learning rather than its students’ safety. Ultimately, Lee-Palou shined a light on her unease with more than just the district’s leniency toward hybrid learning.

“Throughout this entire pandemic, I have been deeply underwhelmed with the district’s lack of emphasis on the health and safety of the students. They are often more concerned with ensuring parents of access to in-person learning or appeasing those who do not support the guidelines surrounding COVID-19,” Lee-Palou said. “Ultimately, the district’s lack of focus on science and the health risks of the COVID-19 is very troubling for an educational institution and made me lose trust in the district’s ability to keep me and my peers safe, whether from a disease or any other threat.”

“Ultimately, the district’s lack of focus on science and the health risks of the COVID-19 is very troubling for an educational institution and made me lose trust in the district’s ability to keep me and my peers safe, whether from a disease or any other threat.”

— Elisenda Lee-Palou

 

A Different Future, a New Beginning

The current school year has already presented numerous opportunities to decide whether to attend school remotely or follow the hybrid schedule. Nonetheless, some have hinted that this year is potentially only the beginning of the new forms of learning the pandemic has introduced. 

“I think we are just seeing the start of hybrid learning,” fine arts teacher Jennifer Mullen said. “I personally think that we will eventually see a hybrid model of education permanently where students have the flexibility to learn remotely for some classes or parts of some classes and will come into school for other classes and activities. I think it will take some time [but it] will truly change education as we know it.”

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