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.
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.