WJCC “Return to Learn” Plan Stirs Up Conflicting Opinions on the Matter

Students, parents, and teachers weigh in about what they think.


Photo by Prasesh Shiwakoti (Lomash) on Unsplash

Such a small thing–a virus–has had such a huge impact on our world, our lives

As students return to in person learning, there have been some rules put in place to keep everyone as safe as possible. One of these rules is for all students and faculty to wear masks at all times. This mask mandate is put into place in hope to lessen the spread of the virus throughout the school.

After a long break from social interactions and obligations, we are finally on the road to returning to school for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year with WJCC’s “Return to Learn” plan. Although the name sounds fun and catchy, it implements numerous rules and safety protocols to ensure a low risk return to school.  

On March 23, 2020, Governor Ralph Northam extended his executive order for school closings. He restricted all schools in Virginia from meeting in person for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Teachers and administrators all over the country worked over the summer to come up with a way to get students to school in person in the fall. Many schools were even able to bring students back to school before remote learning was reinforced as COVID-19 cases continued to surge through the schools. 

Surrounding counties have already begun the process of getting students back into desksYork County brought self-contained programs and EL learners back to school as early as September 28, following with grades Pre-K through sixth grade before winter break. On January 19, seniors were allowed to go back to school and are following strict guidelines to keep everyone healthy.  

As online learning has been put into place for almost a year in WJCC, nearly everyone has found learning or teaching through a screen to be quite difficult.  Not only is it harder to understand the information, but it also has become lonelier and some students feel that learning has become more of a chore than it once was.

Madison Adcock, a junior at Lafayette High School, wants to return to in-person learning and thinks that it will benefit the students and teachers alike.  “It’s been really lonely being online, I’m a sociable person so not being able to see or talk to my friends during school has been hard,” she recounted.  Madison also says that her grades and mental health have been negatively affected by online learning, “I’ve lost motivation to do my school work so my grades have slipped.  English has been especially hard, I don’t like the class in general and it’s hard for me to get my work done without someone standing over me and reminding me to keep writing.”  She went on to explain how her mental health has been impacted, “It’s been a lot harder, there’s less people to talk to and I don’t see my friends anymore.  You’re trapped inside the same room for 6 hours a day staring at a computer and the same four walls.”  She agreed that there needs to be certain precautions put into place so that the return to school could be safe.  “Students should definitely be forced to wear masks at all times while in school, it would be stupid not to.”  When asked whether she thinks that returning will increase covid-19 cases, she replied, “Of course it will go up slightly, but everything must get worse before it gets better.”

Other than the education of the students, health and safety are the top priorities for the schools in the district.  The debate on whether to return to in-person learning is one where it is hard to come to an agreement as there are so many sides to the argument.  Teachers care deeply, not only about their students’ educations, but also their mental and physical health.  Because of this, it is somewhat harder for them to come to a definite decision on the matter.

Hugh Beard, a science teacher at Lafayette Highs School, weighs in. “I like the interaction with my students” he says “You don’t get that as much in a virtual setting.” He is one of many teachers we have heard voice that sentiment time and time again. However, safety is still absolutely a concern, for students as well as educators. “Each room will have a big plexiglass barrier between the students and teachers, so there will be less contact,” adding “Teachers will all have disinfectant, so they can make sure everything is clean in-between classes.” When asked if he believed it will be difficult to teach both in person and online simultaneously, he answered yes. He discussed how there are the owl cameras to help teachers, but there isn’t on for every classroom, which I’m sure will provide some challenges for everyone involved. “Whether or not I want to go back isn’t a cut and dry answer. I’m looking forward too seeing students in person, but not looking forward to the risk. I’m not sure how difficult it will be to teach a blended class, but I’m excited to see students.” Mr. Beard’s stance on this seems to be a widely spread opinion for many both teachers and students. We can only hope returning to in person learning will be both safe and practical for everyone involved.

Conversely, others are having different experiences learning or teaching online, and are more hesitant to go back to school.

Mrs. Smith, one of our English teachers here at LHS, is both a teacher and a parent during this pandemic. Her experience working with students virtually has been challenging, but not impossible. While it takes her twice the amount of time to formulate lesson plans, she describes that virtual learning offers better opportunities to work with students one-on-one than working in the classroom. She is willing to go back to school when permitted, but remains cautious. 

“I will feel safer returning in-person once I am fully vaccinated,” Smith says. “However, I still worry about the health and safety of my students.” 

As COVID-19 cases are continuing to rise in the area, Smith is not planning on allowing her own kids to return to school this year. Her 5th and 9th graders enjoy being at home and are even showing improvement in their grades and comprehension of content. Going back to school, even for her 7th grader, who is still adjusting to virtual school and misses his friends, she believes is too risky. She says, Ideally, my kids would be vaccinated before returning to schoolRealistically, my kids would be in a room with no more than 5-6 other students, and the COVID cases would stay below 5%. 

Teaching virtually is taking a toll on her family as she works endless hours to build relationships with her students and make the most out of an unfortunate situation. She understands that the conditions we are under are not optimal for everyone. 

“As a teacher, I’m trying to keep the mental health of my students at the forefront, so I have to maintain flexibility,” Smith says. “Some students are experiencing insurmountable obstacles that require their energy much more than school. Some students and families are having to make tough choices about priorities in a way that they have never experienced before.” 

Despite the risks, Smith misses the personal connections that we have all been deprived of this year. 

“Probably the biggest setback for me is not being able to have those random conversations in the hallways with students (current and former) about life,” Smith shares. “I miss that the most.” 

Students are told to wear their masks so that it covers both their mouth and nose. If they are found wearing their mask incorrectly while on school property they will be corrected or sent to talk to an administrator. Here is a student ready to learn!

With all that’s going on right now, the confusion, the anticipation, the healing, and the breaking, people’s minds are all over the place with many different things. I’m focusing on one thing, school. I asked a student, Logan Oliver whether he would like to go to school in person or stay online. He responded with, “staying online.” Logan’s heart was set on staying online and for good reasons too, his biggest point was “with going back to school there will be too much confusion.” He followed up with saying, “With half the class online learning and half in person I don’t think things will go well.” He’s worried about his grades for this year has been difficult, with juggling eight classes and all the chaos and talk of Covid he just doesn’t think he could succeed. Logan also said, “There will be so many rules to follow it will just add extra stress.” Although Logan doesn’t want to go back he did say that he misses his friends and the Lafayette sports. He put some color to the matter by saying he hopes all is well next year and he can’t wait for things to go back to normal, if ever possible. Speaking about his parents’ point of view, he said, “My parents are leaving everything up to me cause its my school, my choices.” So even with everything going on and all the hussing and fussing, Logan is still praying for that happy ever after.

Mary-Ann O’Hallaran, LHS school nurse, said she is “excited to have the students back in school.”  Her opinion about the safety of bringing students back was summed up in four words: “At the moment, no.”  She added, “I believe that once we return to school, we will be there for the remainder of the year.  The school already has safety measures in place in anticipation of student’s return.”  The biggest problem she foresees is that  “if a student displays any symptoms that could possibly be Covid-19, they will have to see their health care provider to get cleared to return.” Finally, with hope in her voice she stated, “Both vaccines show 95% efficiency to protection against Corona virus.”

As we return to in-person learning, WJCC has implemented some precautions as to try and keep everyone as safe as possible.  These include the enforcement of mask wearing, social distancing rules, and a staggered form of return in which certain grades will return sooner than others.  The schools are said to have signs all around the building reminding students and faculty alike to keep their masks on and to stay 5 feet apart at all times.  There are also hand sanitizer stations throughout the buildings as an attempt to keep things sanitary.

PreK-3 went back the week of 2/16, grades 4, 5, 6, and 12 went back the week of 2/22, grades 7, 9, and 11 will return the week of 3/1, and grades 8 and 10 will go back the week of 3/8.

(Parents) Do you feel comfortable sending your student(s) back to school according to the scheduled plan?

  • Yes (0%, 0 Votes)
  • No (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 0

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(Students) Do you feel comfortable returning to school according to the current schedule?

  • Yes (100%, 1 Votes)
  • No (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 1

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(Teachers) Do you feel comfortable returning to school according to the current schedule?

  • Yes (0%, 0 Votes)
  • No (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 0

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