Virtual School vs. Hybrid: How are Students & Teachers Adjusting?

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed every aspect of life, especially education. In-person school came to a halt worldwide in March of 2020. Schools became fully virtual, and many teachers and students faced the challenges of not having the right resources and learning how to use different technologies, like Zoom and Google Classroom. Amid the panic, it was hard for many students to complete their assignment and learn. Now, over six months later, students are back at school… kind of. In August, Gina Raimondo announced a school reopening plan, allowing schools to open back up, except for Central Falls, Pawtucket, and Providence, where cases were still high. People have mixed feelings and hesitations about going back to school. Some think it’s too risky, while others think it’s riskier not to go to school in person. Recently, Mr. Mezzanotte announced that 2 students at LHS tested positive for COVID-19, begging the question if going to school is actually safe. At Lincoln High School, about a third of students are fully-virtual, while the rest follow a hybrid model, where they come to school two days a week and learn remotely for the other three. Students and teachers all have different perspectives on what they think about the new ways of learning. LHS students have different reasons for choosing either model. LHS junior, Hanna Odrasek is doing full virtual school this year, because her “parents are older and have underlying health conditions, so if [she] passed COVID to them, they have a chance of not surviving”. Many students have faced challenges with online school. “I don’t learn the same as if I were in the classroom,” she said. “I don’t retain information as well. I’ve had to find sources where I am able to teach myself the things we’re learning, which can be difficult.” Fully online LHS student, Lohith Chatragadda states that he doesn’t “feel that the situation has improved enough to be attending school two days a week., especially because respiratory diseases can spread rapidly in indoor environments despite strict, but periodic sanitation methods.” There are many critics of reopening schools, as cases are on the rise in Rhode Island. Chatragadda claims that he hasn’t “had to adjust that much, especially because AP classes are relatively independent anyway, so [he doesn’t] think [he’s] missing anything content-wise.” “I like it (online school),” he said, “ but wouldn’t prefer it in regular circumstances. I do, however, enjoy eating a hot lunch every day.” LHS junior, Aisha Sarr, is following the hybrid model, where students go to school twice a week and learn from home three times a week. “I chose to do hybrid classes because I personally love seeing people and my teachers at school, and I learn better when I have a teacher around me. I really like the hybrid model because it … reduces my chances of getting COVID… I feel like when we were fully virtual, I didn’t learn as much because it’s harder to teach kids through a screen rather than in person.” LHS sophomore Gracie Mumma chose the hybrid program because “the social aspect of school is very important, not just the academics.” She adds, “For me, the end of last year was hard with virtual learning, and I am more of an interactive learner.” Like many other students, Gracie has had to adjust to the new schedule at LHS. “With the new school buildings and modifications due to COVID-19, it is very hard for students to get organized and feel prepared for the upcoming year. I think that virtual learning is different depending on the person, as some could be very successful, and others may lag behind.” In-person teachers have had to adjust to teaching students both in school and virtual at the same time. They have to deal with the troubles of Zoom and Google Meet while still making sure their in-person students are engaged and understanding the material. “I feel that is better than full virtual, I like being back in school and I think it is important for students and teachers alike to be back in some sort of school environment,” said Mrs. Hope Evanoff, an LHS French teacher. She, like many of her colleagues, has had to learn about how to use technology in the classroom. “The fact that everything is virtual and/or electronic is tough. Documents that you could easily make copies of – PDFs, for example – and hand out to students present a huge challenge now, electronically speaking. There is a lot of searching for new materials and resources that are usable in this format.” Many teachers found resources that worked for them before the pandemic, but now they are left to find what best works for them in the new reality. Not all LHS teachers are here everyday. Several teachers, like Mrs. Grace Small, are teaching completely from home. She says, “I love teaching my students, so I just view teaching virtually as just another mode of communication. However, I prefer teaching my students face-to-face because I like to see students grow through our mutual interactions in the classroom and engage in fun activities. There’s definitely a lot missing from virtual education as it is not the same as in-person learning but it is the best we can do in these circumstances.” She chose to work completely from home because she is caring for her elderly mother, as the elderly are more susceptible to the virus. Substitute teachers have also had to adjust to a new way of doing things . Mrs. Cecilia Lynch has been a substitute at LHS for almost four years. She, and other substitutes, have also had to adjust to the new way of learning. “I’m still trying to adjust. I like the fact that there are fewer students in the classroom, but I don’t like having to wear a mask. I miss seeing students’ faces, and it’s been harder to recognize them. The school is a lot quieter, and sometimes that’s good, but I also miss hearing the students.” Substitute teachers haven’t had any formal training or orientation on the new school or how to use different technologies in the classroom. “Students are always on computers. I’m not a very technological person, so I’ve had to learn how to use Zoom and other technology on a daily basis,” she said. School looks very different now, for everyone involved. From teachers, to students to substitutes, everyone has had to learn a new way of doing their jobs. Teachers have had to find new resources and learn to teach both virtually and in-person at the same time. Students have had to adjust to virtual learning, and many feel like they don’t learn as well on a computer. This year has presented many challenges, but the LHS community is working hard to support each other in these unprecedented circumstances.