A Hybrid Student’s Thoughts on Returning to School Four Days a Week

Students venture the hall in hordes, shoulder to shoulder, their breath intermingling with those around them, as they step through the school hallways from class to class. They scurry into their classrooms with head counts of up to 15 to 20 students at a time, with desks squeezed together to fit the capacity. Bathrooms are filled with crowds lined up and down their narrow entrances as each rush relieves themselves before attendance. This scene is what one would expect on a “normal” day in high school. Now consider this type of day during a worldwide pandemic. The thought is terrifying.
I have been attending school as an in-person student two days a week under the hybrid model. While I have enjoyed the taste of normalcy, I in no way feel comfortable to return four days a week in a little bit over a month from now. Under this new model, students once separated into two groups will now combine. For some classes, this will double their size, and many classrooms do not have the capacity to maintain COVID guidelines under these circumstances. Even as I’ve been going in two days a week, it has been difficult to maintain COVID guidelines in the halls, in the classroom and in sports. I can’t imagine how much more difficult this will be with all in-person students together.
While most staff members have been vaccinated, many students, parents and anyone they have come in contact with have not. Not to mention, multiple variants of COVID-19 have begun to circulate, which the current vaccine may not be responsive to. Alongside this, schools will no longer have to follow the six foot standard for social distancing but will reduce this distance to three feet, which the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated was acceptable unless schools have high case numbers. Transportation, staff shortages and various other issues add to the feelings of uncertainty in the readiness for this transition.
I understand the need to return to normal for the sake of students’ academic success and mental health. But what I don’t understand is the reckless, rushed actions we are taking to get there. Jumping from all virtual to hybrid in-person learning was a careful first step into normalcy. However, now it feels as if the school system has grown impatient and given up, not allowing anyone to catch their breath before the next transition.
The original next step was to return under the 50-50 model, which would send hybrid in-person learning students into school two days a week in-person and two days virtual. This would have been an agreeable transition, allowing teachers and students to interact on more of a daily basis. The new plan for in-person students to attend all four days a week feels like a significant step from this and an even more significant step from the current two days a week model.
Believe me, as a senior in high school, there is nothing I want more than to return to “good old days.” I would finally get to wear red on spirit days, attend prom, participate in school clubs and compete in a normal sports season. However, enjoying a normal senior year is not worth putting the health and lives of friends, family, colleagues and other students in danger.
Despite my announced frustrations, I am grateful for all the work the school board, administration, teachers and school staff have put into managing the schools during this pandemic. They ultimately have the students best interests at heart, which is why I hope when they are making their decisions in the future, they consider the concerned voices of students, parents and faculty who fear for their own safety.