After many months and changed decisions by the FCPS school board, students finally returned to in-person school. Freshmen and seniors with last names that started with A to K returned on March 2, freshmen and seniors with last names L to Z returned on March 4, sophomores and juniors with last names A to K returned on March 9 and sophomores and juniors with last names L to Z returned on March 11.
Jaber was one of the first students to enter the building on March 2. She was assigned Tuesdays and Wednesdays and has done in-person on those days ever since.
“I was really looking forward to going in and I was not disappointed by the experience I had!” Jaber said. “I find it a lot easier to focus and engage. I definitely prefer in-person over virtual.”
The environment of just being in the school has had positive impacts on both teachers and students. Not staring at screens for hours on end and being able to ask teachers questions benefits many.
“[Being in school] forces me to have a sense of responsibility,” Le said. “I always feel like slacking off at home, and I’ve been able to be much more productive compared to being at home.”
Before returning to the school, many who chose in-person were trepidatious. While some people now seem happy about it, others have decided to switch back to virtual.
“Unfortunately, a lot of students that were supposed to go back have decided to go all virtual again so numbers have dropped,” Wax said. “I lost three students that were supposed to come back in one class, so that’s quite a bit. [But] the most exciting part is that I’ve been able to see the students’ faces.”
Although everyone’s faces are covered by face masks, people are still happy to be in the presence of others. Many students have been able to see their friends and teachers have been able to see their colleagues.
“It’s a lot easier to talk to people in school than it is virtual,” Le said. “I found myself having a lot of conversations that I haven’t had in ages. It was surprisingly easy to talk to people and be friends with them.”
One of the most social times of the day, lunch, has been a direct contrast of what it used to be. Music plays over a room made much quieter by the fact that everyone is spaced out and faces one direction for safety.
“Lunch is… a very interesting setting,” Jaber said. “We’re all sitting pretty far apart for obvious reasons, but I’ve never seen a cafeteria so quiet. And it’s peaceful in an eerie kind of way. You’re still able to talk to somebody if you’d like to, there’s just the fact that a lot of people might hear your conversation if you talk at a normal volume.”
Even with so many safety protocols in place, students and teachers are still expected to follow all of them to stay safe.
“[It’s been] surprisingly fantastic,” Le said. “Everyone’s been perfectly social distancing [and] also wearing the mask constantly if not all the time, except for lunch.”
Concurrent learning and group work has been a struggle for many teachers, since it can be hard for them to find an equilibrium teaching two groups at once.
“It’s a balancing act. Making sure I’m not ignoring one group and not the other or giving too much attention to one group. It’s gonna take more practice and more students,” Wax said.
There have been both struggles and successes for students and teachers in the building, and everyone anticipates the future of in-person learning.
“I think the rest of the year is going to go well,” Jaber said. “I wasn’t having trouble with virtual school, but I, just now seeing how cool it is to be back in-person, I’m really excited to keep the hybrid plan, and hopefully next year back to five days a week!”