Why I’ll be staying virtual when school’s back in person


Joshua Todd

Unlike the rest of my peers, I’d rather stay at home online than go back to in-person education.

This is my senior year: my final year of high school. It’s supposed to be filled with school dances, extracurricular activities, senior pranks, and a dreaded case of senioritis. Instead of that, however, my senior year is at home–completely online and completely alone. Many students in my position are desperate to get back into school.

For me though, I’d rather stay put.

It’s a pretty odd opinion, right? I mean, I’m missing out on so many fun moments that every senior goes through. So many people want to go back and live ‘the high school experience.’ During this quarantine period out of school, though, I’ve realized how much I dread the thought of this ‘experience,’ and how much happier I am out of it. The thought of going back and being happier than I am now doesn’t seem possible:  I enjoy this Sisyphean task.

There is no way to prevent Covid-19 transmission in an in-person setting.

Our school has over 1,400 people attend every day. Even if our school was sent back in the ‘hybrid model’ our county has planned, that’s still more than 500 people in the building at once. Five hundred people socially distanced, but often shoulder to shoulder, for seven hours can’t be safe.

And, unlike President Donald Trump claims, this virus is in no way near coming to its end. If anything, with colder temperatures on the rise and restrictions on gatherings being lifted, this virus is taking over the country once again, with a stronger vengeance than in the spring and summer months. In fact, on October 31, there were 99,000 new cases in the U.S.

Frederick County’s cases are on the rise.

A quick glance at Frederick’s local data on Covid-19, in a map of the county, the areas of New Market and Mount Airy (two towns in our feeder district) are part of the highest case numbers in the county. The highest! Looking at the percent positivity rate, cases are continuing to rise, almost to the level of case numbers in June and July. It would be incredibly dangerous to send anyone back in these conditions.

In one day at the end of October,  38 people in Frederick County tested positive for the virus. That’s with students out of school and most restrictions still in place. There is no way that an in-person school setting will be able to prevent any sort of transmission, seeing just how infectious this virus can be.

If this infection rate of 38 a day had been in March 2020, parents would be clamoring to close schools.

Who is really going to wear masks all day without slipping?

Now, one could say, “But what about masks? Masks will be enforced and they should stop the virus from spreading!”

Masks are effective and highly useful in preventing the spread and transmission of this virus. The CDC has said, “Wearing cloth masks can help prevent people infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 from spreading the virus.”

But when teachers or administrators aren’t looking, who’s to say students won’t disobey this rule? High schools are filled with couples making out in hallways, teens smoking in the bathrooms, and many scenarios in which masks would get in the way of public school students being public school students. And, knowing our high school, I can guarantee that when a teacher’s back is turned, masks will be removed without a second thought. It’s just how kids are.

Junior Alaina Cox said, “Since I have a job where I’m around a lot of people, going back to school right now seems like a dangerous idea. Both me and my mom have health conditions, so I wouldn’t want the possibility of me or her getting the virus doubled by going into school and work. I could only consider going back if I saw the different precautions being taken–but we know high school kids. They’re crazy and won’t take masks or socially distancing seriously.”

Being at home gives me so much more freedom to do what I want, when I want.

While staying at home, I have been granted freedoms I have never had. No longer am I bossed around on when exactly to do assignments, which class to work on, and when I’m supposed to do something as simple as eating lunch. I can do my work whenever I truly feel like it. Of course, I have deadlines, but if I want to do my work at 2 a.m. with a bowl of cereal, that’s my choice.

My schedule is centered around me: giving myself time for school work, a job, and an active social life. This schedule I’ve built up has been so invigoratingly independent, something I have been craving for my entire academic career. 

Doesn’t anyone remember when we grumbled about getting to school at 7:15 a.m., having to go from class to class, bell to bell and ask permission to go to the bathroom?  Who wants that back?

Senior Melissa Skaife also has experienced the freedom that online education offers and has enjoyed it as much as I have. “Online school allows me to prioritize my time in a way that I can balance my personal hobbies with my educational duties, which is a quality that a seven-hour school day did not allow. Because of this, I feel less stressed, and I can dedicate my time with my best interests in mind,” said Skaife.

The only real issue I have at home is the amount/type of work. It seems like some of my teachers have pushed greater amounts of school work onto my plate, causing me to implode. But, this may be that the structure is missing, and the variety of assignments is limited. However, I would rather have more work out of school and on my own schedule, than to go back into school and do schoolwork with more variety on someone else’s time.

The chance to build my own way of completing tasks in a timely manner has been an exquisite taste of what life in college will be like. There is absolutely no way that an in-person education can grant me this window to the future.

The in-person social environment is toxic.

The major reason I’m not going back is because of how much of a nightmare our school social environment is. 

I’ve been on the receiving end of bullying at our school, and it’s not pretty. There were days where I’d face constant harassment and mocking due to my sexual orientation, and little would be done on the matter. This bullying has been going on for years, so long I’m kind of numb to it.  It’s part of my school life.

Being out of school, however, this bullying has subsided. What was all in-person comments transferred to sometimes cyber bullying. This virtual harassment, though, has been visible to many; meaning my friends luckily have stood up for me in many instances, which has helped me immensely.

Virtual school has revealed to me that, when I was in school though, I just thought that this treatment was just how life was. I struggled so hard with trying to fit in. This desire for likability and normalcy made me aggressively depressed, causing me to miss school and fall behind in classes. 

This need to ‘fit-in’ isn’t unique to me. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of high school students say they feel some, or more, pressure to fit in socially, and 66% of high school students say that they feel some, or more, pressure to look good. 

Across the board, teens fall into this cataclysmic battle with themselves to be their absolute best and not stand too far out among the crowd. Something I’ve noticed with me and many of my friends however, is that this pressure has totally evaporated. Many of my friends have been actively becoming more themselves (me included), and they’ve been radiating a much happier demeanor. 

Too bad our teachers can’t see that because we are mostly bubbles on a screen.

If we were to go back into an in-position, however, with the gathering of such individual personalities, the social pressure would return. Despite it’s romanticism of the high school experience–prom, football games, and parties, in modern media, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. If this quarantine has made me realize anything, it’s that in person education is absolutely not for me. Maybe you feel the same.