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Should We Go Back To In-Person Learning? by Aurora R. & Petra P.

Aurora's Opinion: Yes


The COVID-19 pandemic has been going on for over a year now, and we’ve been in quarantine for almost as long. We haven’t been able to see our friends and family because of this pandemic—for our safety of course. So should we go back to in-person learning? I think we should, and here’s why.

First of all, virtual learning has been preventing us from having a normal middle school experience, as well as doing many fun in-school activities, like science experiments and electives. Even though we still are doing these activities online to some extent, they’re not like they would be if we were still in school. As an orchestra student, I can personally say that playing through Zoom is not the same as playing in person. For starters, my class hasn’t played together once this year, and we haven’t performed in our winter concert and assembly as we usually would. Also, these in-school activities also give us time to interact with our friends, something that doesn’t happen through Zoom, even when we are placed in Breakout Rooms (which, may I add, are usually very awkward and quiet).


Second, virtual learning has made our lives much more stressful, and it has been making us feel very overwhelmed. Sitting in front of a screen for hours each day is making us tired and stressed, and even when we’re done with lessons, we still have tons of homework to get done. We have tight schedules, with not much of a break, which, some may argue, is like what we had in normal school, with the difference that virtual learning is much more tiring and, in my opinion, boring. Classes are harder to follow because of the constant distractions in our homes, but also because teachers can’t help us like they would if we were in-person. Also, a great stress-reliever was seeing our friends, maybe hanging out with them after school, or just being able to talk to them at lunch and recess (and maybe during class as well), which we can’t do much virtually.


Finally, many technical issues have often caused students to miss part of class or not complete homework in time, or even not be able to finish tests! I, for one, have often been kicked out of Zoom or experienced glitches when teachers were explaining assignments. I’ve also had to turn in homework late because of Wi-Fi issues. Also, some students have to share a device with family members, which means they can’t use them every time they need it. We usually wouldn’t have these types of problems during in-person school! Sure, maybe we still would have to share a device to do homework, but at least we don’t need it for so many hours a day!


Even if it’s not entirely safe to go back to school right now, I still believe that we should—with the right precautions, of course. Quarantine has been difficult on all of us, and going back to school would finally bring at least some sense of normality.

Petra's Opinion: No


Every time you turn on the news, you hear the news reporter saying to stay home and wear a mask if you have to go somewhere; it’s the new normal. We’ve been in quarantine for a while now, and we’re missing the social aspect of in-person learning. Why shouldn’t we go back then? What’s holding us back? It’s the fact that we’d not only be endangering our lives, but we’d also be endangering the lives of our friends and teachers, as well as the family we come home to every day after school.


First, there are new coronavirus strains, these variants capable of spreading from person to person much more easily than the original virus. All three of the coronavirus strains have been confirmed in the U.S, with Maryland being one of the first states to report its first few known cases of the new strain. We must be aware that the more infections there are, the more people will get sick. Safety comes first!


Moreover, you may feel like you want to go back to school and be in the classroom, but is it worth risking our lives and the lives of those who live with us? There’s a reason why we were asked to wear a mask and stay home if we can: to help save lives. Going back to school would further spread the virus among the students, who would bring it home to their families.


According to recent studies by the CDC, it is suggested that around 16% of children won't even have any symptoms, and would spread it to others like family, friends and teachers. Some of the children who are not asymptomatic could get Kawasaki disease, a COVID-19-related multisystem inflammatory syndrome found rarely in children. It is rare that children exposed to COVID-19 will contract it, but with more schools open and more exposure, this rare disease will impact more children. It is unclear why exactly COVID-19 triggers the Kawasaki disease in kids, but it’s better not to have it.


A few months ago, a family friend of mine got the Kawasaki disease and was in the hospital with a coma for days. She tested positive for COVID-19 even though she did her best to socially distance and limit going to places. It took her a long time to recover, but she managed to fight the disease. I would hate to see her experience happen to anyone else’s family member or friend.


Let’s put the children aside for a moment. What about the teachers? According to a CNBC survey, about 27% of teachers in the U.S. are considering quitting because they do not want to go back to in-person teaching amidst the pandemic. Let’s be real; that’s more than ¼ of the total number of teachers. Many teachers are either at the age group where they are at risk or have an underlying condition which makes them at risk, making them rather stay in virtual learning.

Virtual learning; I know that we’re all sick of it by now, but we gain time from being at home so much. This is because we can do our homework in Homeroom, we don’t have to wake up early to catch the bus and rush to get to school on time, and we can eat lunch with our family. Speaking of lunch, how are you supposed to eat lunch in school without taking off your mask? Do you think that there won’t be that one kid who takes off their mask during class because they think that COVID-19 is a joke? Take a moment to think about it from that perspective. Virtual learning may be a little boring at times, but it does have its advantages. MCPS is doing everything they can to help students make the best out of the pandemic, and we should be grateful for their efforts. In many other countries, they would not provide half the things that they provide here!


Either way, a pandemic doesn’t last forever. If you ask someone who’s been through a pandemic before how long it lasted, they won’t say, “Oh, it was horrible and lasted forever.” Normally, pandemics don’t last longer than a few years, so don’t worry; you won’t be stuck in quarantine for the rest of your life.


It’s tough to stay in good spirits during the pandemic, but going back to school isn’t the solution. If we go back to in-person learning, we could cause a third wave of the virus and create more trauma. If this happens, the restrictions would increase and more family and friends could lose their lives to the virus—we don’t want that. We’d still be isolated from the other students if we went back now with barely any students per class, all socially distanced and not allowed to interact. We’d also be putting teachers who would rather stick with virtual learning under pressure. This isn’t a world war; we can still get the education we need without having our lives at risk. And the only way to attend school safely right now is virtual learning.

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