The Last Word: Is full-time, face-to-face instruction safe?

No, it isn’t

by Olivia Ryba

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our everyday lives, reopening schools five days a week with all students and staff members in the building is not a safe idea at the moment. Cases continue to rise, and even though vaccines have been made available, they have not been made available to everyone, and are currently only available to health care workers and the eldery. Until the vaccine is available to more people, sending everyone back to school is not the safest option at this time.

Of course, it is a known fact that children and teens are at the lowest risk of contracting the coronavirus. Even if children do contract the virus, statistics show that they do not get as sick as those with preexisting conditions, or the elderly. 

However, even though the risk is low, a loss of one child is one too many, and even though very few children have died because of the virus, we have lost some.  Every single child’s safety is a priority, and this virus is barely a year old, meaning there is still new information that we do not know yet.  Until we understand more about the virus and who and how it affects children, it simply is not worth the risk of sending them back to school 5 days a week with all of their peers and teachers in the building.

It is currently also flu season. Children die from the flu each and every single year, and even with an annual flu vaccination, children still manage to get the flu.  That means that even if we currently had a vaccine available to everyone, there is a really good chance that it wouldn’t be very effective to everyone, considering the flu vaccine has been around for years and children still contract, and some even die from the flu.  Also, there is currently not much information on how the flu will mix with the coronavirus, so it could be very dangerous sending everyone back to school with the annual influenza virus and the new coronavirus.

Even though children do not contract the virus as easily as adults, the biggest concern is that they could pass the virus onto adults, or even their grandparents. By reopening schools, there are chances that children could contract the virus, be completely asymptomatic, and then pass the virus on to the more vulnerable, like the elderly or those with preexisting conditions.  Children could even pass the virus onto their teachers. Teachers should not have to live in fear by going to school with hundreds and thousands of other individuals who could potentially have the virus.

As of right now, sending children back to school 5 days a week is not the safest option.  However, with social distancing of six feet at all times, wearing masks, and handwashing, getting some students in school a couple times a week is definitely achievable and gives hope that even though right now may not be the best time to have everyone in the classroom, we can look forward to hopefully seeing more students in school soon.


Yes, it is

by Eve Ramsey

Memories are made from human interaction. Friends are made through activities or spending time together. In traditional schooling, the twenty-five students in each class make friends with their peers that are sitting closest to them. They connect by helping each other or discussing their experiences. Without the small conversations in the classroom, many friendships would not be possible. Taking kids out of a traditional schooling lifestyle and putting them in virtual classrooms stunts their learning, negatively affects their social skills, and creates many distractions.

According to News12 in Texas,  54% of visual learners are failing at least two classes. Virtual schooling has a 26% failure rate compared to a 5% failure rate in traditional classrooms. This may be due to the fact that there are distractions at home. While teachers can easily remove distractions like phones in traditional classrooms, a student can easily go on their phone during virtual learning. If a student’s camera is off, it is even easier to be distracted without any interruption and a teacher would not even know that their students aren’t paying attention. More parents like the idea of traditional school rather than virtual learning. In some families where both parents work, virtual learning is a struggle since no one is home to supervise the students, and parents may not feel comfortable leaving their children home, unattended. Traditional schooling and busing services are an essential part of school life, and a simple way to assist parents’ work life. 

One local newspaper expressed concerns about virtual learning, “With no paper handouts, it also affects the student’s ability to memorize content. Typing and writing something down on a piece of paper are two very different things. A person can’t learn how to spell by just looking at a dictionary, they have to put in the work, memorize and practice.” When learning in-person, a student can easily ask questions and write on paper, consequently, creating a deeper understanding of the material that will stay with them. When learning virtually, a student may or may not be paying attention on their side of the grayed-out screen and will probably be typing out notes or taking none at all. 

Virtual projects and assignments are more independent-based. When an assignment or project is group-based, students are put into breakout rooms. There is little communication, especially if the students aren’t comfortable or familiar with their partners. In traditional learning, students sit with their partners and learn together with ease since they can simply converse , instead of trying to explain math into words or share their screen. 

Students are more prepared, social, receptive, and focused when they learn via the traditional model. Virtual schooling may work for some students, but for others, who need to be in a room with no distractions and full of human interaction, it is vital that these students participate in traditional schooling rather than virtual learning.

Sources: www.kusd