Back to in-person learning

by Stephanie Tardugno

Education is extremely important in the development of the human mind. It is vital for students to be in a school-like environment, engaging with their teachers and peers. This will allow students to receive a proper education and set them up for success in their future. However, this past school year, students have not had access to an ideal school atmosphere due to the implications of COVID-19.

Methuen High School has utilized the hybrid learning model for most of this year. They split up all the students into two groups and have had one group come in on Mondays and Tuesdays, while the other group comes in on Thursdays and Fridays. Wednesday acted as a fully remote day for everyone in order for the school to be cleaned. Many students decided to stay fully remote and not partake in the hybrid learning model.

Recently, Massachusetts made it a requirement for all students to eventually make a return to school in person, full-time. Methuen High School started to bring back its senior class starting April 5th. The following week, freshmen returned, and finally after April Break, juniors and sophomores came back to school.

With that being said, schools must still offer a fully remote learning model for students to participate in if they so choose. Methuen decided to send out a survey to families in the district to gather a rough estimate of how many students will be returning to school fully in person. According to those results, a vast majority plan to remain in the fully remote learning model.

A lot goes into making this kind of a decision, and clearly, many students and families are deciding against coming back to school in-person.

Methuen High School biotechnology teacher Mrs. Tobin explained her thoughts and concerns about the situation, saying, “I am very excited to have my seniors back but a little nervous about when all of the students come back full time. As with everything COVID related, there is a certain amount of anxiety that comes along with planning for so many kids to be in one place at the same time.”

Mrs. Tobin’s concerns are totally understandable, as she’s nervous about students’ ability to maintain social distance and stay focused on their schoolwork. She also acknowledges how Methuen has been in the “red” zone a while now and new COVID-19 variants are spreading fast. She responded, “I hope we are not moving too quickly and pushing too hard for all kids to be back in person.”

Keeping these concerns in mind, it definitely won’t be easy for Methuen High staff to watch over this many kids and make sure they are all doing the right thing and being safe. In a situation like this, it is important to incorporate the perspective of the students coming back to school as well.

One concern is that students are getting too comfortable doing school from their homes. This may not be the case for every student, but Methuen High senior Stephanie Ceballos admits that being at home for school is more comfortable and convenient for her.

Ceballos added, “It’s going to be an adjustment going to school five days a week, but it makes sense since the last time we did was over a year ago.”

She also believes that returning to school full-time will benefit her going into college. “I plan to go to a four-year university and I will be taking classes in person…I [will] have to wake up on time to get ready…”

Waking up early for school to close out her senior year will indeed help her prepare for college where she plans to attend UMass Lowell in the fall. Although she wasn’t too excited to return to school at first, she’s optimistic about seeing more familiar faces that she hasn’t seen in over a year.

I personally have been very excited to return to school and be able to see some people I haven’t interacted with since March of last year. I feel like going back to school five days per week will be a fresh start for me and I’ll be able to engage with my teachers and peers to make the rest of my senior year unforgettable.

Despite how the remainder of this year goes, students will eventually have to start coming to school during the week like it used to be before COVID-19 hit. Might as well start getting used to it again now, right?

It will be essential to have as many students return to school as possible so they can receive the education they deserve. Though it will be challenging to keep everyone safe with the implications of COVID-19, it is not impossible and if any school can do it, it’s Methuen High School.

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