Amid omicron surges why are we turning our backs on distance learning?

“Well, it looks like half of the class is not here again” has been a repeated phrase for a while now. With a good amount of students gone from school due to the new COVID-19 quarantine guidelines and the increasing number of cases due to the new variants, classrooms have never felt more empty in Glen A. Wilson High School. These new guidelines, such as requiring both students and teachers to wear medical-grade masks, were set by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health. However, these new guidelines had caused numerous absences throughout the past school days. Students soon began to miss multiple lessons as many teachers were unable to fully accommodate both online and in-person students. With that being said, why not transition back to online school? 

  One major reason likely stems from the California governor, Gavin Newsom, who pledged to keep schools open for the time being despite the increasing worries about coronavirus variant cases. Although it would be nice to keep schools open, it would be too risky even if schools attempt to take more caution. With more than 65,000 students and teachers testing positive for the coronavirus in the Los Angeles Unified School District, other students and teachers are also capable of contracting the virus. As some more students and teachers were testing positive, students needed to report their close contacts, and these close contacts also needed to quarantine until they received their test to confirm they tested negative. However, for those students who tested positive, they needed to be quarantined for two weeks and then tested again to see if they were still positive or not. Within this time period, these students are unable to come to school. For those students how would they manage to keep up with school since most teachers have yet to transition to hybrid learning? In addition, just like students, teachers are also missing out in school as they may have tested positive or come into contact with someone who tested positive. This led to the issue of staff shortage throughout schools. As a result, it would make sense for students and teachers to just transition their learning and teaching online as it is much more efficient and students will not fall behind on their learning. Yet, here we are still in school in person.

  Talking about the new COVID-19 guidelines, there have been many questions raised about the new guidelines in Glen A. Wilson High School. If students were to become close contact with another student who had tested positive if they had not taken the booster shot they were to be quarantined for ten days until they tested negative. However, these guidelines may have confused some students as some were coming back to school without receiving their test results. This misunderstanding only increased the chances of other students and teachers contracting the virus. In addition, many other students who were under 16 were unable to receive the booster shot. To accommodate for that, the new guidelines have stated that those who were unable to receive the booster still count as fully vaccinated. Yet, the school does not truly know who is fully vaccinated or unvaccinated. Therefore, the school will not know who is at higher risk as some students have not even received the first vaccination shot yet. This could lead to major problems as some of those students could very well be asymptomatic and could carry the virus to other students who may not be so fortunate. Moreover, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing results nowadays take more than one day to receive as there has been an influx of people who have come to test. This also delays students’ attendance at school as well since the guidelines state they should not be coming back to school until they receive their results. 

  Fortunately, the school has started rapid testing every two days, but this testing only applies to in-season athletes such as basketball and water polo. In addition, rapid testing is not as accurate as PCR testing so there are still chances of the tests being inaccurate and a student could have actually contracted the virus but the rapid test was not able to pick it up. Other students would have to wait after school in order to take the test. Additionally,  they would have to wait much longer as these tests are available to more than just students. Luckily, the Biden administration vowed to provide schools around the nation with 10 million COVID-19 tests for students to bring home to help keep schools open. 

  Some may argue that returning to distance learning would affect the learning of students as there would be more distractions.. However, the new COVID-19 guidelines and the increasing number of cases add to the number of absences which also affect the learning of students. The absent students would have a harder time catching up on the material because as said previously, many teachers have not been able to convert to hybrid teaching. Although there have been some teachers who have been able to do so, it is obvious it is hard to control both environments at the same time. 

  Moreover, it has not only been students who have been missing out on school but teachers as well. Without substitutes, many other teachers from other classes had to help substitute as replacements. Even with these teachers replacing these substitutes, students will not be learning all the necessary materials they should be as many of these teachers are not experts in that specific class. Such as an English teacher teaching a calculus class does not really make sense.  As a result, it would be more beneficial to move everything online rather than trying to do hybrid as it makes it hard on both students and teachers. 

  Overall, it might be best to contemplate the option of going online for the safety of both students and teachers as well as their families. Not only does it save the extra money the government needs to spend on extra items such as testing kits, but teachers will also not have to worry about what works for both online and in-person environments. Furthermore, students would not have to worry about missing out on school and important lessons because of the virus. Therefore, for the time being, it would be a better choice to turn to distance learning as more COVID-19 cases emerge amongst the student body.

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