This school year has been a year like no other. With coronavirus taking the world by storm, the education system needed adjustments to adapt to our new socially-distanced lifestyle. Parkway high schools were virtual, with the exception of two hybrid weeks, until January 19, 2021. At that point, students were able to choose between going back to school four days a week or staying virtually. I believe that going back to school in-person was and still is the best option.
Being at school allows you to be more social, which is necessary for teenagers and their mental health. Personally, when I was virtual in the fall, I felt myself becoming more isolated from my friends, only getting to see them when I had time on the weekend. Though teenagers do spend a lot of time on their phones, it is hard to build or hold meaningful relationships for long periods of time while only communicating over Snapchat or Instagram. When kids go to school, instead of being virtual, they are able to interact with their friends at lunch, in the hallways, and in the classroom. Although we have to be socially distanced and masked to stay safe, being in school allows you to communicate with your classmates better than you otherwise would on Zoom meetings, making the learning environment better, and helping people feel less isolated.
Not only can you be social at school, but you can also be more productive. At home, there are many distractions and things to do instead of paying attention in class or doing your work. When I was at home it was hard not to turn off my Zoom camera and sleep during my first period, or go downstairs and eat lunch early during my second period. Though this all sounds very nice, kids’ grades are suffering because of it. Last semester, missing assignments were the topic of discussion in most Zoom meetings due to people being distracted or on their phones and not doing their work. When you’re in school, most distractions are eliminated and it is easier to be productive.
Lastly, when it comes to receiving help from a teacher or another resource, being in the building makes this more efficient. When I was doing virtual I felt scared to speak up and ask for help because it is harder to explain what you need help with without the teacher being there. You would have to go to a private chat room with the teacher, then share your screen, and then try to show them how they can help you. Attending school in-person, you can just raise your hand or walk over to your teacher’s desk and show them what you need help with and they can explain it to you. At school, you also have access to resources such as counselors, administrators, and school resource officers if you needed them.
The main reason why students choose to stay virtual is that they feel safer in their home, away from the numerous germ-carrying teenagers. However, at press time, there are only 27 positive student cases in the entire Parkway School District, consisting of 17,000+ in-person students. Also, learning alone at home can be hard on teen’s mental health, so by trying to protect themselves physically, they are affecting themselves mentally.
Overall, in-person school is the better option due to the positive social aspects and fewer distractions. Students can thrive in their classes when at school and it is better for their mental health. I strongly encourage kids who are struggling with their grades or mental health to attend in-person school next year, so that they may receive all of the benefits.