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Head to Head: In-Person or Virtual

As schools across the country open, and now with Hebrew Academy high school's upcoming in-person return, safety concerns are at an all-time high. Two students discuss their opinions on Hebrew Academy's reopening below.


The Schools Should Not Return to In-Person Classes

By: Yosef Fruhman (12th Grade)

While I can’t wait until we can stop living our lives through screens, I think rushing to reopen school will make our experience worse than it would be if we just stayed virtual. The new system will feel unnatural and create rifts between different groups of students. The school will be incapable of actually maintaining an isolated bubble, and the possibility of exposure will cause us to close down again.

Although the school is touting the fact that students have the choice to remain virtual or go back to school, I think that this hybrid model will offer neither the benefits of in-person schooling, nor the safety of a virtual model. Think of all the tools that we have been missing in school for the last seven months: hands-on projects, in person activities, personal attention from our teachers, and the social element of face-to-face student interaction. Now try to picture how the school could provide any of those while also catering to the students who chose to remain home. Unless we plan on having drop-offs throughout the year, I can’t think of any way that activities like science labs could be done both in person and at home. Group projects would be out of the picture, because any group partnered with someone at home would be at an immediate disadvantage. A system for teachers to give students personal attention, even while online, is already in place: the AP Study Lab period after school. Finally, in regards to social interaction, students’ peer groups will be limited to those who are within their classrooms, meaning that established friend groups will be fractured. Even for those who share classes with friends, they will still have to be masked, socially spaced, and confined to specific areas. For students whose friends are staying home, their social interactions will boil down to yelling at a TV in the back of the classroom, which is barely better than nothing.

There is also the fact that there is no way for the school to ensure that COVID-19 doesn’t affect the student body. While I obviously hope that no one in our school ever gets sick, speaking frankly as a student, many of us have been getting together throughout this quarantine. While many students have maintained their social distance and worn masks during these gatherings, some have not, and using the honor code to enforce compliance out of school is laughable. Just look at Park Trails, MAST, Chapel Trail, and G. Holmes Braddock Senior High, all of which have reopened this year and have had positives among the students and/or staff. While I trust that our school has done everything within their power to ensure our safety, at this point, I don’t think it is enough. 

Reopening now will create a fractured student body that is no longer protected and gains little by returning in person. Despite new safety measures, the school will still be very susceptible to COVID-19, and unfortunately, I think it is very likely that we will have to close within the first few weeks. Although I am apprehensive, I hope that I will be proven wrong, and that the school will be able to buck the trends and open in a safe and secure way.


The Schools Should Return to In-Person Classes

By: Hadassah Reich (11th Grade)

Reopening the school will be extremely beneficial for students and teachers. For students, being in-person provides a much more comfortable environment, and will be much more conducive for learning. Sitting at a desk amongst my peers is much better than being at home, even with the six feet restrictions. At home, there are countless distractions - like parents and other siblings on Zoom calls - and this makes it nearly impossible to truly focus. Even though technology has advanced, there are still side-effects with the online learning platforms, such as strained eyes and a shorter attention span. The longer schools stay online, the more difficult it will be for students in the future. Although it’s nerve wracking to return to real-life school after being online for so long, I know it will enable me to gain more from my classes. Furthermore, being in the building would allow more social interaction for students. This is vital for a student’s mental well being which in turn affects their school work. Being able to learn with other people raises everyone's spirits and makes school more enjoyable. Students will be able to feel a stronger sense of community in the building rather than being online. 

Additionally, reopening the building would also be better for teachers and faculty. When school is in person it is much easier for teachers to get in contact and talk with their students. Meeting face to face builds trust easily, whereas online there can be a feeling of disconnect. Some students have not even met their teachers because all the classes have been online. The teacher-student relationship on Zoom can become extremely awkward, and returning to in-person schooling would eliminate most of that. 

As for the students who are choosing to remain online, I understand their decisions, but feel they will be at a disadvantage. I still understand the concerns and risks of the Coronavirus, and know the school will do its best. Neither option will guarantee a 100 percent safe outcome, and I completely respect others’ decisions to stay home. However, taking those concerns into account, I believe that the building should reopen, under the condition that the required Coronavirus protective precautions are met. The normalcy that can be returned to students when return to the High School Building is a huge step, and I look forward to finally attending school on Monday.

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