Opinion: Hybrid school is worthwhile but amendable

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Graphic by Alex Fung

Overall, every student whom I’ve spoken to about hybrid school has said they prefer it to remote learning and appreciate being able to meet their teachers and classmates face to face. Personally, being in-person causes me to feel much more awake, and alert. It also provides a newfound familiarity with teachers, as your relationships become more meaningful, and you begin to understand one another.

While students and faculty are beginning to adapt to an alternative concept of school, hybrid learning presents new challenges for everyone involved. Despite the fact that the majority of people in the high school are doing their best to follow coronavirus regulations, with case numbers across the country and in school on the rise, whether or not attending school is worth the risk has begun to cross the minds of many families. Since this experience is new for everyone, there are still improvements that could be made across a few areas to benefit the high school community. As freshmen like myself are now a month into the hybrid schedule, the overall importance of safety and success of the school have become more apparent.

Though we are certainly all tired of hearing the words “social distancing,” the impact of it remains just as important as it was when the idea was first introduced. Upon entering the OLS building, which is allowed after 7:30 a.m., students crowd themselves around the doorway to access an “up staircase” to reach the first floor of the school. The six feet of distance recommended by the Center for Disease Control is not maintained during this process, and no adult supervision is provided. However, in the hallway, there is a positive change. The spacious setup enables students to pass one another with substantial distance, though typically not six feet. Once in the classrooms, all desks stand six feet apart from one another and are forward-facing, preventing any further violations.

Perhaps the most critical time to practice appropriate safety measures would be during times of eating and drinking. No eating is allowed during class, but taking your mask off to drink water is permitted, though hand sanitation is “required” before and after touching your mask. This mask ritual is not practiced by teachers and students alike. Perhaps if students were required to bring hand sanitizer to class, they would find it less of an effort to use it during the proper times. At Old Lincoln School, during lunch, students have the option of eating in the indoor cafeteria, both of the outdoor spaces to the sides of the building, or occasionally in the auditorium. If there were a time when rules should be practiced and enforced most strictly, it would be while eating. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Students sit at tables or on the ground, where the majority behave as though the world is not experiencing a pandemic. Though teachers routinely give casual suggestions for students to sit farther apart, no real action is taken.

Though local precautions are being taken, coronavirus case numbers have spiked globally in recent weeks. On December 4, there were an astonishing 229,077 new COVID-19 cases across the country as reported by the New York Times, breaking the previous record. In this same time frame, students at OLS were reported to be positive for COVID-19, causing the notification of students who attended school on the same day as these individuals. Nonetheless, according to the town website, less than 1 percent of Brookline cases have been among individuals under 20 years of age. It is the opinion of many that as long as the local COVID-19 infection numbers are stable, and students are following the CDC guidelines of wearing a mask and staying socially distanced, then keeping children in school should continue to be a priority for the town.

Despite these many challenges that the school as a whole still faces, I can confidently say that I believe the town, teachers, deans, students and everyone involved in the process of reopening our schools are taking the situation very seriously and doing their best to make our time in-person safe, and enjoyable. These times are unprecedented, and we all are still learning what it means to interact with others while protecting ourselves and those around us from the dangers of coronavirus. It will take time to adjust to practicing the new standards, but I do believe that we will improve and train ourselves to act appropriately.

With news of a 90 percent functioning vaccine, many questions are arising as to when this will be distributed, to whom and at what cost. Though we seem to be getting closer to the finish line in terms of our time in quarantine, we must remember to continue to keep the community safe by following the CDC guidelines until the government issues a statement saying it is no longer necessary. Though there certainly are flaws in the hybrid plan, it is still a work in progress, and superior to complete remote learning. I do ask that you would do your part as a citizen of the school and town to keep one another safe and show respect by wearing a mask, sanitizing frequently and keeping a distance of six feet from others. As we have through many other hard times, we must remember to put one another first and keep in mind that this too shall come to pass.