Across the country, schools have been struggling with integrating students back into school in a post-coronavirus world, and this is no exception at Perkiomen Valley High School.
For the first month of the new school year, all students, with the exception of some special education students, went back to school online. However, this wasn’t an ideal long-term scenario. As a way of transitioning back into the classroom, the high school began allowing small groups of students to resume face-to-face instruction for the past few weeks. The high school has organized students in each grade into three separate groups depending on the first letter of their last name; each group attends school on different letter days according to their group.
For some freshmen, this was their first time in the high school alone, having to navigate their schedules in a quiet building usually bustling with activity.
“I’ve been to the high school before, but only to see concerts and performances. It was a little difficult to navigate through the halls at first,” said freshman Natalie Klob.
With the system the school has set up, many students have found themselves in class alone, or with only a few other classmates who they have to stay socially distanced from. Meanwhile, the majority of students are still learning through a laptop screen, meaning the teachers have to split their attention between both groups.
“It was really awkward to be alone in a classroom with only a few other students and have those pauses during the lesson where the teacher would check in with their virtual kids. It was dead silent in the room most of the day,” said freshman Jaedyn Moreno.
To help freshmen adjust, PV’s Link Crew, gave tours of the building for each group’s first day of school. The club gives upperclassmen the opportunity to help guide the incoming freshman and give them some advice.
“They were really nice and showed each of us our classes and where they were, and they also showed us some of our teachers,” said freshman MaryKate Bricker.
The school has also tried to ensure that students return to a building that is as clean and safe as possible.
“Before every class we would use hand sanitizer with a foot pump so no one would touch it. There was also tape, separating each direction of a hallway, so no one would really come into close contact…and the desks in the classroom are separated,” explained freshman Chase Bailey.
For some students, the in-person experience was a much-needed improvement from the struggles of online learning.
“I prefer in person learning because there’s less distractions,” Klob said.
However, other students still feel uncomfortable with the in-person learning environment, and would rather continue online for the time being.
“I feel more comfortable with virtual right now. In-person school is about socializing and working in a group environment, and with the groups that we have set up, it’s really hard to do that. The learning today didn’t seem any more hands on or social than virtual,” continued Moreno.
No matter how PV decides to proceed with balancing in-person and virtual learning, student life will look different. Most of what will happen in the upcoming year will depend on whether or not COVID-19 cases begin rising again, or not. What is certain though, is that the students will have to continue learning, whether through a computer screen, or in a socially-distanced classroom.