Choosing hybrid or virtual: WHS administration requires students to commit

The choice between hybrid and virtual learning can be difficult for many students and families, as all virtual learning can cause students to feel deprived of connection while hybrid learning can feel dangerous. 

I began the year as a hybrid learner; however, by mid-October when COVID-19 cases started to rise, my family and I decided that I should switch to all virtual learning. I did not take this decision lightly and though I was no longer able to benefit from in-person instruction, it felt like the right decision.

Every student is different and everyone’s situation at home is not ideal. For many, a COVID-19 diagnosis would be catastrophic. I have a unique situation because I see my grandparents every day. My brother is severely autistic and both of my parents work, so my grandparents come to my house often to watch my brother or take him during the day. 95 percent of COVID-19 deaths were people 50 and older, so my grandparents are particularly at risk. In Westfield alone, there were 133 new COVID-19 cases from Jan. 8 to Jan. 14 and the death toll in the U.S. surpassed 400,000, with 100,000 in the past 5 weeks. I am staying home both to keep myself and my loved ones safe. 

The WHS administration is concerned with the low number of students currently participating in hybrid learning. A recent email that went out to all WHS parents described the number of students in school as “lower than what we would prefer.”

What the administration has failed to realize is that students aren’t going all virtual solely because they are uncomfortable with the temperature at school, or want to sleep later, many are doing it for their own safety and the safety of the people that they love.  

The email also detailed some new rules that will go into effect starting in the third marking period. One of these rules is that students must decide what type of learning they want to participate in, hybrid or online, by Jan. 22 and will be committed to that decision for the entire marking period.  

I understand the administration’s need for consistency; however, with the new presidential administration promising 100 million vaccines in its first hundred days, students might begin to feel safer going in public and attending school at some point in the near future. 

 When everyone in my family is vaccinated I plan on going back to school as I will no longer be a risk to my loved ones, but I can’t know for sure when that will be, so I can’t know for sure if I can return to in-person school. Making students choose now for the entire marking period is not in their best interest as students will have to sacrifice future in-person learning for safety in the short term.

There is also the opposite situation to consider. Many students will feel pressured to choose hybrid school now since this might be their only chance, but if cases begin to rise, they may again feel uncomfortable being in-person. This new rule could cause students to feel stuck and unsafe. 

Yes, the school may be cold, and yes it is frustrating when you are the only one in a classroom, or your teacher is not physically there, or you have to wake up earlier, but to me, none of that matters. I am staying home because I put the health and safety of those that I love ahead of my personal comfort.