Head to Head: Students choose virtual or in-person learning
March 28, 2021
Return to hybrid learning began on March with the return of some freshman and seniors. Sophomores and junior returned on March 9. Most students who chose hybrid learning came to school two days a week and were online the other days.
Staying virtual amid hybrid learning
While Fairfax County has already begun to implement hybrid in-person learning, most students remain virtual. Since the number of students allowed in the school building is limited, students who initially chose virtual school could not switch to in-person learning later in the year.
“I actually kind of wanted to go back,” junior Ayham Elayan said. “At the beginning of the year, my family signed up for virtual [learning] but I didn’t know. So later I emailed to ask if I could go in person, but it was too late because they have a limit [of the number of students allowed in the building].”
We’ve been online for over a year now so I feel very accustomed to digital learning and want to keep it for the rest of the year” — junior Yukta Ramanan
We’ve been online for over a year now so I feel very accustomed to digital learning and want to keep it for the rest of the year”
— junior Yukta Ramanan
To help students adjust to hybrid learning, teachers try to make classes interactive by encouraging online students to use their microphones to include in-person students in class discussions. However, since virtual learning has remained largely the same, the lack of face-to-face interaction during class continues to affect student academic performance.
“You can’t see anyone, and it can make you sad if you’re constantly seeing the computer screen,” Elayan said. “It’s definitely nice [that] people in person get to interact with others, even though there’s not that many people going.”
However, many decided to continue virtual learning because it became habitual. According to Ellevate Network the choice between two comfortable routines can often be the most anxiety-inducing, which can lead many to opt-out of transitioning all together.
“I think being online is just going to be a cycle of what we’re used to, which is also part of the reason I decided to stay home is that I was already so used to it,” junior Yukta Ramanan said. “We’ve been online for over a year now so I feel very accustomed to digital learning and want to keep it for the rest of the year.”
Some students have voiced their concerns about returning to school because of the virus. However, according to The New York Times, in the last month, there has been a steady decrease in average weekly COVID-19 cases in Virginia. Additionally, as forecasted by the Center of Disease Control, as of March 10, in the next four weeks the number of newly reported cases should decrease nationwide.
“I don’t want to put myself or my family at risk until we’re all really safe and vaccinated,” Ramanan said. “That was just the main concern. I would have returned to school in a heartbeat otherwise. I did [consider going back], but ultimately, your health comes first.”
Without the need to travel to school, those staying at home have more time to relax and are more likely to remain motivated, according to the University College London.
“I have a lot more time to spend with my family at home and my dog,” Ramanan said. “Although [online school] can seem overwhelming with all the media consumption, there’s a greater capacity to multitask or at least do things with less lag time.”
Thalia Sabit is a senior in her fourth year writing for The Purple Tide. She enjoys reading, staying outdoors and caring for her gecko.
Transitioning to in-person school
Though students taking career-prep classes and students with disabilities began in-person school on Feb. 16, other students who have chosen in-person school began returning on March 2. Despite encountering numerous delays, FCPS started sending students for a gradual return to in-person school. I learn better in- person with face-to-face interactions, and I really wanted to have that.” — junior Manisha Chaudhary
I learn better in- person with face-to-face interactions, and I really wanted to have that.”
— junior Manisha Chaudhary
To enact their hybrid learning plan, FCPS categorized students into groups with eighth, ninth and 12th graders returning March 2, followed by seventh, 10th and 11th graders returning on March 9.
For some students, a driving factor to switch to in-person learning is the technical difficulties that online school presents.
“Since everything is on Blackboard Collaborate, there aren’t many interactions between students other than breakout rooms,” junior Manisha Chaudhary said. “I learn better in- person with face-to-face interactions, and I really wanted to have that.”
Furthermore, a number of students have known from the beginning that they preferred in-person school. Students may favor in-person school because of the technical difficulties that virtual learning presents or the lack of student-teacher interaction.
“I decided to go back as soon as we were allowed to go back,” freshman Colt Craddock said. “I want to focus on my classes more and actually go into the school.”
Some academy classes have had students coming in to pick up materials needed for class, but now that more students are returning to school, classes like Stem Engineering, Auto Technology and Exploring Health Science will be fully hands-on.
“The main reason I’m going back is because I’m excited for my Exploring Health Sciences class,” Chaudhary said. “There are a lot of interactive activities that can’t be done virtually.”
However, despite the benefits of in-person learning, some students still feel apprehensive due to health reasons. According to Fairfaxcounty.gov, Fairfax County is currently at 68,932 COVID-19 cases, with 3,628 hospitalized due to the virus. The school will be implementing social distancing and student traffic patterns in the hallway to direct students to maintain the recommended six foot distancing around the premises.
“I am still not sure if [in-person] was the best decision,” Chaudhary said. “There are not many people I know going back, and of course there is the risk of getting COVID-19, [which puts] the health of my family and myself at risk.”
Since grades cannot be impacted due to connectivity issues when in-person, students hope that in-person learning will provide a better alternative. Currently, 800 students have returned to in-person school, with 240 freshmen, 182 sophomores, 197 juniors, and 154 seniors.
“My thoughts going into in-person is that it will be fun,” Craddock said. “In the smaller class sizes, I will hopefully get to know others better and get better grades.”
Students alternate the days in which they attend school based on their last name. Those with last names from A-K attending school on Tuesday and Wednesday and L-Z on Thursday and Friday days to keep the building occupancy low.
“I hope all CDC guidelines are properly followed and everything is safe for students and staff,” Chaudhary said.
Anagha Gummadivalli is a senior and copy editor for The Purple Tide, who is in her fourth year of journalism. In her free time, she enjoys reading mystery...