Blair students and parents’ opinions on the MCPS reopening plan, who should go back to school first and how online learning is affecting them
Online school has posed a challenge for Blair students. For some, being online all day has caused a lack of motivation. For others who are more extroverted, not being able to interact with peers has made learning difficult. Although online school may not be the best situation, MCPS must balance the mental health of students with their physical health and safety.
As the second semester approaches, MCPS has prepared a plan to reopen schools if COVID-19 cases reach a certain level. For expanded in-person learning to begin there must be a test positivity rate of five percent or less over a 14 day period, and if the rate goes beyond 15 percent, virtual learning must continue. As of Jan. 12, Maryland has a test positivity rate of 6.6 percent. Due to the high test positivity According to the MCPS reopening plan, students will return to school in three phases. Phase one high school students are those in specific special education and Career Technology Education (CTE) programs. Juniors and seniors are in phase two, and freshmen and sophomores are in phase three. However, among Blair parents, MCPS Board of Education members and Blair students, there is disagreement about who should return to school first, or if students should return to school at all if COVID-19 cases continue to rise.
Senior Celeste Bohn is eager to return to school. On a normal day of online learning, Bohn rolls out of bed and logs onto her first class. From there she goes from class to class until lunch where she usually cooks herself a meal or picks something up to get out of the house. After lunch, Bohn continues on with her afternoon classes. Being online all day exhausts Bohn, so she usually takes a nap after school before getting back online to do homework.
Junior Anika Dabari also has a tiring day. Dabari starts with school, but Darbari’s day doesn’t end after that, she usually has some type of meeting and then homework and studying, so her day doesn’t end until 10:00 p.m. Dabari spends her whole school day on screens then stays on screens to conduct her meetings.
Bohn believes she does better with in person learning compared to online schooling. “Online learning is harder for me because I’m very extroverted. [I also] like seeing my peers in person and Zoom conversations don’t feel as genuine,” Bohn says. “It is also hard for me to be motivated. I also like the set routine of in person school and I find it easier to not get distracted.” Although she would rather return to school, she believes the county should prioritize the health and safety of students and teachers.
Similar to Bohn, Dabari feels a lack of motivation when it comes to online school. “There’s no barrier between school and home. It’s hard to feel like there’s any break time, plus it’s hard to find motivation because of how weird everything is. Even though my grades have stayed the same I don’t feel like any material is sticking in my mind,” Darbari says.
However, both students do not think they should be the first to go back if MCPS reopens this January. “I think younger grades like elementary-middle school students should go back first because those years are imperative to social development and having social interaction might be helpful. It might also help them engage more,” Bohn explains. Dabari believes that seniors should have priority when school reopens. “[Seniors] have little high school experience left,” Darbari explains. Both Dabari and Bohn agree that special education students should also be prioritized because they would benefit the most from the resources in-person school has to offer.
Similar to Dabari and Bohn, sophomore Eleanore Moose finds it harder to absorb information she is learning in her online classes, and feels as if she is not learning as much as she would in person. “I am very easily distracted and I don’t absorb as much information as I would in an environment tailored to class. Also it is so much harder to get work done because class time doesn’t allow the ease of asking questions or individually checking with teachers like in person [allows],” Moose says.
While Dabari believes seniors should be the first group to go back, others such as Senior Liyu Egege believe freshmen should be moved from phase three where they are now to phase two as one of the first groups of students without special needs to go back. Egege notes that these groups would benefit the most from in-person learning. “Special education and freshmen students should go back to school first. It seems like they’d need the most attention academically and just generally,” Egege says.
Blair students aren’t the only ones with opinions on the reopening plan. MCPS is looking for parent’s input regarding reopening schools. Blair parent Alyse Cohen notes that the group to go back first should be students that will benefit the most from the educational and emotional resources in-person schooling has to offer. “The proposal that is out there now is trying to prioritize students whose education is at greatest risk by not coming back and I totally support that,” Cohen says.
All of these decisions rely on Maryland COVID-19 cases lowering at a certain test positivity rate over a 14-day period. Cohen believes strongly that health and safety must be prioritized when planning to reopen; however, Cohen notes that MCPS could consider alternative ways to bring back students most at risk. “It is my understanding that in some school systems, small groups of students are coming back in bubbles and wearing masks even if they are doing online school to get the assistance of teachers, and especially for students who are at risk of not graduating or losing a lot of the progress they've made there should be some examination of how to do that in a COVID safe way,” Cohen says.
There are mixed opinions on the MCPS reopening plan, but none of it is possible without a significant decrease in COVID-19 cases. Maryland is far away from a test positivity rate at which it would be safe for students to return to in-person schooling. This reopening plan is tentative and subject to change, as parents give input and COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Already, MCPS has pushed the reopening date from Feb.1 to Mar. 15. On Feb. 23, MCPS will meet again to determine if this new date is safe.
Isabel Corvington. staff writer More »