The Reopening of Schools and It’s Implications

Kristy Nguyen, Staff Writer

For this entire school year, we have done everything online. From projects to discussions, we have done it all over zoom. But has this been effective for students’ learning? Not so much. Besides the fact that this classroom style has been hard to adjust for both teachers and students, it has had detrimental effects on the youth. Jay Inslee, the Governor of Washington, has stated that through reviewing medical evidence regarding the condition of students, there is “unfortunately, undeniably, a mental healthcare crisis” among the youth (Dornfeld), and to combat it, there is a push to reopen schools. This topic has left many to wonder if it is worth it to open schools during a pandemic for the sake of children’s mental health. As of right now, Inslee has planned to open all Washington schools on April 19, though some schools have already opened. For Issaquah High School, the plan to reopen for hybrid learning is dated on April 15. To get insight on how students actually feel about the plan, Issaquah High School students across all grades have given their feedback.

While the deteriorating mental health of students is one encouraging factor for Washington schools to reopen, it is also a part of Joe Biden’s executive order to reopen schools across the country. A big part of Biden’s presidential campaign was to ensure that citizens will receive aid throughout the pandemic, whether through vaccination or reopening schools. The top priorities for reopening schools has been to create safe learning environments and addressing social, emotional, and academic issues for students and teachers.

Many students will agree that this new form of learning has been interesting. Things like discussions and projects need attention in the classroom, but trying to simulate this in an online setting has been quite difficult. While I would not doubt that students are trying their best during these times, it is also hard to follow along when everything feels optional. Though some students find that the structure that has come from this new schedule has helped out many students. Junior Aidan Ruppert expresses that while last year’s remote learning style was not effective, he admits that it has “improved this year with teachers now knowing what they are doing.” Sites like Canvas have made online school easier to navigate, and Zoom enabled the possibility for teachers and students to connect. While it is not perfect, it has made ends meet and made online school more bearable and organized for students. 

Yet there are still things that online remote learning are lacking in. To anyone who has been in a Zoom call for school, they will quickly realize that it is a husk of what the classroom experience is. Teachers sit talking to themselves as students sit with cameras off and muted. The few that do participate in class over Zoom will find themselves quickly discouraged. It is truly just miserable. This has had a great stress on students like senior Aoife Buckley who are expected to take the AP exams in May. Buckley has taken many AP tests within her four years as a high school student. While experienced with AP classes, she admits that she feels “incredibly overwhelmed and underprepared.” She even acknowledged that while the teachers are trying their best, institutions like the College Board have made little to no effort to accommodate students’ wellbeing and care more about making profits. Besides mental health reasons, opening up schools may alleviate some stress students are having.

Even though opening up schools would be beneficial for some, it is difficult to decide whether it is worth opening it or not. While yes, as stated before, it may help students with educational needs and alleviate stress that may come from online learning, there are more nuances to it than just opening up schools and all problems are solved. For example, reopening schools impact low income families differently from affluent families. While affluent families can afford to send their kids to schools, low income families have to choose between risking their childrens to be exposed to COVID-19 for better education, or continue to quarantine their children for safety, but get lower quality education. However, hybrid learning is not a lost cause for low income students. It may help families be able to focus on work without the stress of watching over their children. Anyways, assuming that schools are reopened, you would have to consider whether students and teachers are willing to put the rules into practice. Mia Sato experienced in covering COVID-19 related issues, talks about in an MIT Technology Review about how putting safety precautions into practice are much more difficult than just staying six feet apart from each other. Classrooms do not even have the room to meet the six feet distance requirement. Sophomore Justin Lee stated that he hopes people do stick with the regulations, but he acknowledges that there is definitely a proportion of students who “don’t care about [the pandemic]” and therefore, probably will not put much thought into following restrictions. While Washington does have a mask mandate, states like Iowa go against CDC requirements. Iowa does not require masks for citizens and schools have been open full time, leaving students and teachers at risk.

Even though high school is a chaotic time for every teenager, some may agree that high school is pivotal to not just your academic growth, but social and emotional growth. By now, Issaquah High has been closed off from in-person learning for a year, for a lot of people, it feels like a part of their own high school experience was stolen. Freshman Tempest Chase  has a firm stance against reopening schools, but she admits that she feels like she is missing out since she cannot experience the traditional events high schoolers go through when they first start off as freshmen.

While learning has been tough in quarantine, some teachers have made it bearable. Noticeably, the math department has done a great job at making sure students keep up with notes. Buckley praises math teacher Vale. Crain in particular for having lots of resources for students in her AP Calc classes, such as having pre-recorded videos and other review materials. There are also teachers like Ms. Matlick and Ms. Sandlin from the social studies department who provide mental health check-ins and allow students to communicate their difficulties during this time. While we are separated, teachers have done a great job at reminding us that there is community at Issaquah and they will always be here for us.

For the most part, many students still remain cautious over the pandemic and are against the reopening of school. Though, they understand the reasoning on why the administration is doing it. The good news is that many teachers are getting vaccinated which ensures the safety of staff and students. Hopefully with schools reopening in a safe fashion, this will have progress for both students’ academic and emotional growth, and that this was all worth it in the end.