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Return to in-person learning revitalizes the student body

Forced out of the deep caves of quarantine and distance learning, students eagerly meander back into some form of normalcy.

Students have finally returned to Glen A. Wilson High School for the first time since that fateful day in March 2020 when the whole world seemingly shut down.

With the massive time frame stretching from March 2020 to August 2021, it was imminent that students and teachers would return to in-person learning and a long time to come. As for students themselves, a refreshing and in-depth learning experience was sorely needed. Even though students understood the harsh circumstances teachers were put under when constructing plans for the 2020-2021 school year, individuals still saw the rips and tears of distance learning. They realized that in-person learning reigns far superior as it creates a much better learning environment.

For starters, the obvious reason why in-person learning is superior to distance learning is the former’s charm: interaction! Interaction between staff and student, administration and staff, student and student, etc. make the school what we all know it to be. Spirit week filling up the school with energy is something that simply cannot be replicated by any other means. The day-to-day chatter amongst students about whatever comes to mind is unmatched and irreplaceable by applications like Discord and Instagram.

Student and teacher interactions have been sorely missed as well! Teachers playing the role of mentor and friend to students is possible over a Zoom meeting but is hard to come across due to the simple fact that face-to-face interactions make for easier personal connections.

Of course, these interactions are not all school is about. At the end of the day, school is meant to educate the youth of America. However, luckily for proponents of the stance that in-person learning is superior to distance learning, these personal connections break down barriers that lead to a better overall learning experience.

Personally, navigating through a tough junior year during a pandemic while still having to face the typical struggles of any high school term, led to my realization that face-to-face interaction was the missing ingredient throughout the nine months. A lack of social interaction takes a toll on anyone who is adjusting to the “normal” pre-pandemic schedule. “Normal” is a very subjective term, of course; our positions on normality change based on our material conditions. After all, throughout 2020, all we heard was about the “new normal.”

The new normal shifted into full effect as students were placed in four-hour work days that felt more like a cruel prank than commerce of education. This is in no way to critique the district; there was not much that could have been done to avoid this, as it was simply a negative barrage on COVID-19 itself. The effects this virus has on our lives remain unparalleled. The day-to-day grind of rolling out of bed straight into a Zoom classroom was surreal in retrospect. Living through each day feeling the exact same was grueling: waking up on a Wednesday and wondering whether or not it was a Friday was an experience like no other.

One teacher’s perspective seems to be close to the consensus of the overall student body. Civics and social science teacher Donna Zertuche elaborates, “I am a better teacher in person since students pay better attention when they are in the same room with me.”

Obviously for all students and staff, paying attention and staying on task is a challenge when online school is the only option available. Of course, as with most people involved in the process of re-acclimation, Zertuche has her hesitations about how normal a school year during COVID will be. Speaking on these hesitations, Zertuche said, “It is weird to hear about people being quarantined and having confirmed cases.”

Throughout the interview, one could feel her reserved excitement of being back on campus as she will be able to do her job (almost) like how she did it 18 months ago. Zertuche was the embodiment of the tone the student body had over the past couple of weeks — trying to balance safety and the joy of returning to in-person learning.

Of course, counterarguments against in-person learning must be heard. Critics claim that school has been rushed back from a pandemic that is still very much wreaking havoc across the nation. Some say that HLPUSD has not done enough to justify the return of regular class schedules. However, some are just self-proclaimed introverts that simply do not want to come back to deal with the day-by-day banter found at the average American public high school. Rightfully so, everyone is entitled to their own opinions. It is understandable that some feel the district is not qualified to hold 20,000 kids in a space that is not exactly the best spot for disease control.

The district and state may be forced to change protocols soon. COVID continues to rip through America with a new variant setting fire to emergency rooms and urgent cares. Many of us have had family members and loved ones with a scary experience with COVID. Protocols can only protect us so much. It is not much of a hot take to not want to return to the pre-March 13th. To these people, I say: wear a mask, get vaccinated and get ready for the ride.

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