The terrible weight of waiting: Will this hybrid plan fix anything?

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Emily McNally

The year of waiting…

by Emily McNally, Managing Editor

The short URL of the present article is: https://lhslance.org/rh11c

The coronavirus first broke out in March of 2020. Now, it’s almost a year later in 2021 and cases are skyrocketing. Even with a vaccine approaching, thousands of people test positive every single day. 

And it doesn’t help that social media Influencers on TikTok and YouTube are setting terrible examples to their young audience. Many of them party every weekend and often travel from state to state or even other countries for a “quick vaca.”

Maybe they think because a vaccine is on its way, they can all of the sudden go back to normal and forget about social distancing and being safe.

Nothing is normal, including school decisions as simple (and incredibly complex) as when to begin learning in the hybrid schedule.

Frederick County’s hurry up and wait policy

FCPS has a plan to re-open schools. Recently they pushed that return date back to February 16 and officially announced that we will return to school. We know this date push back sounds very familiar. 

Last year, when we first left school for our “Corona-cation” everyone thought we’d be back in two weeks. Yet that return date kept getting pushed further and further away. Now we haven’t been at school for nearly 10 months. 

The original plan was to return to school at the beginning of second semester on January 28, with teachers returning January 13. This was all discussed in early November. 

I am in Cohort B, with a group of other Lancers I may never even see in person again. I’ve been stuck in my room for what feels like forever, almost like I’m trapped, waiting to return to school. This is a reversal of my attitude 10 months ago, when I wished school was over. 

“I feel like as long as all health departments are okay with us going back, I’ll go back. I’m concerned with the virus, of course, but I’m so tired of giving up hope on senior year,” said senior, Chloe Bremer. 

What kind of school will we return to?  We should wait.

My senior year has been a bust, but I know every year of school creates special memories. We are all disappointed.

And will it really feel the same if we do go back? All the little things I loved about school have vanished: seeing all my friends every day without the worry of being 6 feet apart; dances, like the prom; cheering on my team from the bleachers; pep rallies in the hot and smelly gym; meeting with clubs every Friday, and so much more. I’d even eat a school lunch if I could–and that’s saying something!

Is it really worth it to bring us back, face to face–but not really–if it means risking the health of students, their families, and staff? AND bringing us back to a partial world of quiet classrooms and one-way hallways?

The plan for hybrid may sound exciting, but in actuality, it’s hard to pull off. Even with teachers who have been vaccinated. What about people who test positive and are completely asymptomatic?

Mental health crises will happen whether we are virtual or hybrid.

Because of the outbreak, a lot of kids have been at a constant battle with depression. All of us, though, will experience another set of emotional problems. Going back to school will definitely create more difficulties, adjusting to a different set of expectations that is in no way normal.

When everything changes so drastically so often, the entire world needs a therapist.

Freshmen have the double curse of being new to learning routines and not being in school.

Ella Webster, Class of 2024, has had trouble getting her high school career started.

“I’ve been struggling to get all my work done, and I feel like it’s harder for my teachers to get to know me through a screen,” said Webster. “It’s also harder to ask for help because sometimes teachers don’t email me back and answer my questions as fast as they’d be able to in person.”

Not only has this been hard for Webster academically, but she is missing out on the “real” high school experience. 

“Sometimes I feel like I haven’t really had the chance to experience my freshman year the way I wanted to because of sports being canceled and not being able to actually socialize with classmates and meet new people,” Webster said.

The truth is, hybrid is not going to improve Webster’s social life.

Expectations are too high.

How will schools pull this off? There’s so much work and planning that goes into our return to school.

Students don’t realize the hundreds of decisions each school makes per week: how to distribute materials, how to organizing classrooms to be covid-safe, how to move through the halls and when to use the restroom.

School counselor, Jessica McDonald has been able to see and help with this preparation.

“Our custodial staff has worked hard to prepare classrooms–installing hand sanitizer units by each entryway and also removing desks and making sure those left in the classroom are spaced 6 feet apart,” said McDonald.

She also discussed what to expect in this new school environment.

“Lunch tables have been removed and have replaced with individual desks. They’re set 6 feet apart and are all facing the same direction. The decision on how many students are permitted in each classroom was made by measuring the room and determining how many desks could fit while adhering to all social distancing guidelines–so the limit varies in each room,” said McDonald.

What is expected from students?

“Everyone will be required to wear their mask at all times in the building, and hallways have been marked with directional arrows (students will not be permitted to congregate in the hallways–they will report directly to their first block when they arrive and move directly from one class to the next during transition time)” McDonald said.

Ella Webster’s mother, Candice, thinks about the problem from a parent’s perspective.

I am concerned about my children’s safety if they return to school. I am concerned about the spread of the virus and my concern for children who have suffered severe depression due to this virus and lockdown and how they will act out when placed back in school,” said Mrs. Webster.

LHS parent and grandparent has two generations to worry about.

“As a parent, it’s hard because for us. We are my grandson’s babysitters, so not knowing when the students will go back makes it difficult to schedule,” said Mrs. Bremer.

And if students are in the building, how long will they stay?

The waiting game 

Even with the firm February date to return, uncertainty creates a lot of issues at home that FCPS can’t address. Students and parents have duties and responsibilities that are put at risk.

Melissa Bremer also has to worry about her responsibilities as a teacher’s aide in Montgomery County.

The key to life is flexibility”

— Mrs. Jessica McDonald

“As a teacher, not knowing is the same way, but also not knowing who we can see because we keep a closed ‘covid bubble.’ And trying to decide whether it’s right to get vaccinated is hard. Also to see if it is worth it to be vaccinated, since we are unsure if vaccinated people could still be carriers,” said Bremer.

“I believe we should remain at home even though I want my children in school. Our world is crazy right now. We as parents need to understand that our teachers can be very vulnerable to this virus along with our children,” said Mrs. Webster. “What is the point of sending them back, just to send them back home again when another wave hits?”

Jessica McDonald doesn’t have answers, but she can offer some perspective.

McDonald said, ” ‘The key to life is flexibility’ is definitely a quote that I would use to describe this school year (and 2020 in general)!”