Was Week One a Weak One?

More stories from Dhruv Vaze

Was Week One a Weak One?

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our school delayed in-person teaching for almost 4 months, opting for remote learning as the short-term solution. Everybody can agree that remote learning just isn’t as engaging as in-person lessons, but it was the only and best option in the face of the situation. However, this has changed in the past two weeks, as the district transitions away from all-remote learning. The school decided to split the student body into six groups (A, B, C, D, E (only in-person), and R (only remote), and each got one day during the transition week to go to school in-person. This week will be followed by 4 weeks of hybrid learning, where one group attends school each week.

The first two weeks of the hybrid program have been met with mixed reviews from teachers and students across all grades. Stinger Newspaper recently conducted a school-wide survey gauging student and teacher feedback on their experiences with hybrid learning, and results have been wide-ranging and informative.

Many have described the hybrid model as good in concept, but poor in execution. 53% of students reported a good experience with hybrid learning, while 47% reported mixed or bad experiences (39% bad and 18% mixed). Almost everyone agrees that in-person teaching is leaps and bounds ahead of remote learning in terms of productivity and fun. However, the additional work that results from 40% less instructional time has been a major complaint amongst students we surveyed. 

A student we interviewed mentioned Benet Academy as a comparable example to Hinsdale South. Both schools have “the same size enrollment,” the student mentioned; however, “Benet chose to return to full in-person instruction.” Subsequently, they asked, “Why haven’t we contacted Benet to see how they’re able to reopen? Benet, like Hinsdale South, is located in DuPage County, and follows the same metrics as we do. The ‘golden’ 25% in-person instruction is mentioned nowhere in the DCHD or IDPH guidance.” 

Students also reported mental health concerns, given the added work and lack of social interaction, with one student citing that their “stress has doubled” and that they worry about “anxiety issues that [they] need to take medication for every day.” 

However, many students have shown optimism based on their week 1 experience. They cited the fact that “South has not seen any student Covid cases yet” (the D86 Covid Dashboard has reported 20 positive cases in the district so far). One student mentioned that “the school has done well with the transition compared to other schools,” another important metric for South. Students are hopeful for the prospect of the school reopening to all students eventually and think that the safety measures taken by South so far have been both effective and well-implemented.

Teachers at South have reported a drastic increase in work-load over remote learning. Of the teachers surveyed, 63.5% reported that their workload during week one hybrid was “more” or “much more” as compared to the first month of all-remote school. In addition to being busier, many teachers voiced their concerns over having to split their attention between two groups of students, namely the remote and in-person groups. One teacher “feels [that] students on Zoom are being left behind as well as the remote students,” and another notes that “smaller class sizes, still having to zoom, and not seeing their friends make their return not feel like school.”

On the other hand, many teachers feel that students are showing exceptional maturity at school. One teacher mentioned that they are “impressed with student compliance with masks, social distancing, and one-way hallways,” and another said students are “flexible” and “are glad to be back and doing their part”.

Many students had some constructive ideas on how to improve the hybrid learning program at South. One student wants the District to increase the amount of instructional time students receive every week. Students face many strict deadlines by which they need to learn content, like AP tests. Slowing the curriculum will cause problems in the future, but classes that keep with the pace of a normal year seem rushed and extremely labor-intensive. Another student suggested making all Wednesdays asynchronous learning days, with the logic that it would give students a day of recuperation and an opportunity to catch-up on school-work and sleep.