‘I want to go back one last time’: Students discuss return to in-person learning

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Anna Yuan

With MCPS’ transition to in-person learning in progress, students are both excited and worried to return to the school building.

By Christian Larson

Whitman students are looking forward to the opportunity to return to the school building for the first time in nearly a year, but many remain concerned about the coronavirus-related health risks which accompany in-person learning.

MCPS began phasing students back into in-person learning on March 1, with special education programs as well as career and technical programs entering the hybrid learning model. MCPS will next allow seniors to return to the school building by April 6, freshman and juniors by April 19 and sophomores no later than April 26.

In an informal Black & White survey of 52 students across grade levels, 28 respondents said they are returning to school in April, while 38 noted they had a mediocre or negative experience with online learning.

“Online learning has been really difficult since it is so easy to get distracted in class,” senior Zach Ludwig said. “I’ve fallen behind in some of my classes because of it.”

A number of students said they are excited to return to school after having spent more than 11 months outside a live classroom. Senior Kaelan Wilfred, who has chosen to return to in-person learning in April, is especially thrilled to see his teachers this year for the first time outside Zoom, he said.

“I know teaching without social interaction takes a lot of joy out of the job,” Wilfred said. “I owe it to myself to return to the building at least once this year.”

In the same survey, however, 87% of the participants said they are concerned about contracting COVID-19 in the building even after MCPS’ precautionary efforts, which include upgrading HVAC systems, frequently cleaning buildings and providing safety training for students and faculty.

Some students are especially worried by the unsafe activities of their classmates whose actions off campus may put others’ health at risk.

“Members of my family are in the at-risk population who have not been vaccinated,” senior Josh Harkins said. “I do not trust my peers; my peers who don’t wear masks correctly in public; my peers who feel it is necessary to be maskless in large groups, and then post about on social media.”

But for many, contracting the virus in the building is a risk they’re willing to take.

“I want to go back to high school one last time before I leave for college,” senior Tait Mundell said.