Students Return To The Classroom

Students+in+hybrid+learning+work+in+the+classroom+with+++fellow+classmates+at+home.+

Melaina Corduff

Students in hybrid learning work in the classroom with fellow classmates at home.

Lauren Cincotta, Editor in Chief

After nearly a year of being out of the classroom, WSHS students and staff have started the long awaited transition to hybrid learning. Over the next few weeks, there will be opportunities for more students to return to in-person learning. Freshmen returned to school two days a week in Cohorts A and B before February vacation, with students in grades 10-12 joining them starting on February 22. This return to the building comes with changes made to better protect staff and students from COVID-19. The hallways are marked with arrows to enforce one-way traffic, and students and staff are wearing masks, keeping their distance, and increasing disinfecting of frequently touched surfaces. Students wipe down their desks when they enter a classroom, and it is common to see custodial staff cleaning door handles and other common surfaces.  

While school might be different from what it used to be, many students welcome the opportunity to return to the building after starting the year in remote learning. However, there are challenges especially as classes adjust to teaching two groups of students at once; those who are in person and those who are remote. Students who are remote notice the impact that it has on teachers during class. Cohort C students have chosen to continue full remote learning and have noticed some significant changes as their peers return to school. “I’m in cohort C however I can see how inefficient it is for those in school, and I can see how much they’re struggling,” commented  freshman Adam Pettazoni during the first week of hybrid. Making hybrid learning work requires increased effort from both students and teachers. 

“It’s really hard to have a class that works for both remote and in-person students at the same time,” said English teacher Mr. Brown. Technology issues are the biggest challenge he faces in his class. “In the hybrid model, I can count on doing about 20-25 minutes worth of regular class stuff in 45 minutes, between casting and sharing tabs and recasting when I change tabs and making sure everyone is seeing the same thing and making sure everyone can hear everyone else and trying to see what’s going on in the chat and waiting for pages and docs to load,” he added. Although the process is not always smooth, having some students in class is a huge benefit, as it can be difficult for teachers to gauge their understanding in a virtual class. “It is so nice to have real students in front of me in my classroom.  I can look them in the eyes and watch for facial expressions to see immediately if they are struggling or understanding an assignment,” said Math teacher Mrs. Livingstone. “My biggest struggle is balancing my teaching for students at home and in person.  My instinct is to pay more attention to the in person students, so I am not paying as much attention to the kids at home like I was in full remote learning,” she added. 

It is so nice to have real students in front of me in my classroom.  I can look them in the eyes and watch for facial expressions to see immediately if they are struggling or understanding an assignment.”

— Mrs. Livingstone

 For Spanish teacher Ms. Lugo Zayas, and many other teachers,  the goal is to provide the best experience to her students who are in the building, as well as those at home. “Learning a world language requires cues and extralinguistic components that are difficult to make accessible to all students while in hybrid: gestures, body language, elements that – with cognates – contribute to the general understanding,” she said.   “Technology has been an asset as much as it has isolated us and, being an interpersonal subject (our goal is to communicate in a different language), the distance has had an impact on how we perform in class, what we can produce and how at ease we feel trying to be creative while in front of a computer screen.”  The willingness of students, especially those at home, to participate in a class poses an additional challenge especially when there are other students in the classroom. As far as safety is concerned, Ms. Lugo Zayas feels that it comes down to personal accountability and everyone doing their part to keep others safe by following the guidelines. 

For students who elected to return, there are many positive components to the hybrid experience. “I like it. Being able to be in school but also be at home is a nice balance,” said WSHS senior Maddie Drohan. At this point, most students are doing at least a few days of remote learning during the week.  “I feel that it’s harder to learn when you’re at home, because the teachers have to pay attention to two different sets of students, and they naturally pay more attention to the students right in front of them; it’s also difficult to hear the students who are in the classroom speak,” added Sophomore Kayla Walsh. 

As vaccinations continue to increase and the country sees a decline in COVID cases, the district is preparing to bring younger students back to in person learning five days a week. Elementary school students will return full time starting April 5th and it was recently announced that middle and high school students will return on April 12. The opportunity to return to full in person learning is welcomed by many students who look forward to life becoming more normal.